Asia’s cities are now some of the most expensive destinations for expats, according to a 2018 survey published by international consulting firm Mercer.
Top of that list is Hong Kong, which reclaimed the title it last held in 2016 by bumping Angolan capital Luanda off the top spot. Not surprising for a city where even a parking space can cost $760,000.
Of the top 10 cities ranked by Mercer, there were seven Asian destinations, with Tokyo at number two, Singapore at four, Seoul at five, Shanghai at seven, Beijing at nine. Zurich came in at three, Luanda at six, N’Djamena in Chad at eight and Bern, Switzerland at 10.
Yvonne Traber, Mercer’s global mobility product solutions leader, says Asia’s strong showing is partly down to economic performance. “Stronger Chinese monetary regulation, a flourishing economy and a push to have the Chinese yuan as an international currency pushed Chinese cities up the ranking,” she says. “However significant surges in other locations worldwide caused Japanese cities, Osaka and Nagoya in particular, to fall in this year’s ranking.”
Mercer’s ranking of 209 global destinations is based on a ‘basket’ of 200 ticket items that reflect the cost of living for expatriates. Accommodation fees, the price of a cup of coffee and even cinema tickets are tallied up.
The list is offered as a benchmark to help multinational companies calculate compensation packages for employees taking up foreign postings.
The 2018 list shows US cities dropping in rank due to a decline in the US dollar against other worldwide currencies. New York City – the highest placed – fell four spots to 13, followed by San Francisco at 28 and Los Angeles at 35.
European cities were largely climbing the ranks, says Mercer, due to strong local currencies. Paris jumped 28 places to 34, Rome was up 34 places to 46 and Madrid climbed to 64.
Numerous Middle East destinations fell down the ranking due, says Traber, to decreases on rental costs. The highest city in the region was Tel Aviv at number 16.
So where’s that expat salary going to go the furthest? Mercer’s least expensive city was Tashkent in Uzbekistan, followed by Tunis in Tunisia, Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, Banjul in Gambia and Karachi in Pakistan.
2018 cost of living city ranking
1. Hong Kong (China) 2. Tokyo (Japan) 3. Zurich (Switzerland) 4. Singapore 5. Seoul (South Korea) 6. Luanda (Angola) 7. Shanghai (China) 8. N’Djamena (Chad) 9. Beijing (China) 10. Bern (Switzerland) 11. Geneva (Switzerland) 12. Shenzhen (China) 13. New York City 14. Copenhagen (Denmark) 15. Guangzhou (China) 16. Tel Aviv (Israel) 17. Moscow (Russia) 18. Libreville (Gabon) =19. Brazzaville (Republic of the Congo) =19. London (UK)