Asian cities now account for eight of the 10 most expensive places for expatriates to live, according to new research, up from seven in 2018. The only cities outside Asia to make the top 10 are Zurich and New York.
Hong Kong topped the annual Worldwide Cost of Living ranking by human resources consultancy Mercer for the second year in a row, followed by Japan’s capital Tokyo.
The ranking calculates living costs for foreign workers, using the price of housing and day-to-day goods and services such as food, entertainment and transport.
Singapore and Seoul were third and fourth respectively, with fifth-placed Zurich the priciest European city. New York ranked ninth, up from 13th in 2018, made more expensive in part by the strength of the US dollar.
Meanwhile in central Asia, Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, rose to seventh place, up from 43rd. This was in part the result of foreign currency shortages and the high cost of imported goods.
Chad’s capital N’Djamena, Tel Aviv in Israel and Montevideo in Uruguay were the costliest cities in Africa, the Middle East and South America respectively. Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia in the south Pacific, was the priciest place to live in Oceania.
“Major Asian cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore have been towards the top of Mercer’s Cost of Living ranking for many years, largely due to the high cost of expatriate housing,” says Kate Fitzpatrick, Mercer’s global mobility practice leader for the UK and Ireland.
“These cities remain popular as international business centres and with a globally mobile workforce. However, other cities in the region have jumped up the rankings this year (for example, Manila, up 29 places to 109th; Bangkok, up 12 places to 40th; and Jakarta, up 12 places to 105th).
“For multinational organisations looking to expand outside the traditional expatriate hubs, it is important they have an objective understanding of the availability and cost of expatriate-level housing, goods and services, as this will impact not only their cost base, but also the attractiveness of a location to attract the workforce they require.”
An accompanying ranking by Mercer of living costs in select cities found Hong Kong as the most expensive city to rent an unfurnished two-bedroom apartment (80-120 sq m), requiring an average monthly payment of £6,859.80 (see table).
The data also suggested film buffs might find life pricy in London, which ranked 23rd overall: a cinema ticket in the UK capital would cost £17.79.
Sydney, while a relatively wallet-friendly 50th overall, offered the costliest beer, at £2.36 for 0.33 litres.
Expats on a budget might consider Tunisia’s capital Tunis, which rounded off the ranking in 209th place.
Worldwide Cost of Living ranking
1 Hong Kong
9 New York
Monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment (selected cities)
Hong Kong £6,859.80
New York £4,383.64
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