Mercer’s 25th annual Cost of Living Survey finds cities in Asia most expensive locations for employees working abroad

Mercer’s 25th annual Cost of Living Survey finds cities in Asia most expensive locations for employees working abroad

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  • Mercer’s 25th annual Cost of Living Survey finds cities in Asia most expensive locations for employees working abroad

    • June 26, 2019
    • United States , New York

    Multinationals’ focus on mobility as a workforce strategy supports career growth and global competitiveness

    In a rapidly changing world, mobility programs have become a core component of multinational organizations’ global talent strategy. Organizations realize that to thrive they must embrace change, adapt to new technologies, and build emerging skills to attract, motivate, and enhance talent. According to Mercer's 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 65% of employers across all industries and countries are using mobility programs to enhance their workforce strategies. As a result, multinational organizations are carefully assessing the cost of expatriate packages for their international assignees. Mercer’s 25th annual Cost of Living Survey finds that a number of factors, including currency fluctuations, cost of inflation for goods and services, and volatility in accommodation prices, contribute to the overall cost of expatriate packages for employees on international assignments.

    “In a skill-focused economy driven by digital disruption and the need for a globally connected workforce, deploying expatriate employees is an increasingly important aspect of a competitive business strategy for global companies,” said Ilya Bonic, President of Mercer’s Career business. “There are numerous personal and organizational advantages for sending employees overseas, including career development, global experience, new skillsets, and re-allocation of resources. By offering fair and competitive compensation packages, organizations can facilitate moves that drive business results.”

     

    Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living Survey finds that eight out of the top ten of the world’s most expensive cities for expatriates are Asian cities, resulting from high costs for expatriate consumer goods and a dynamic housing market. Tokyo (2), Singapore (3) and Seoul (4) top the list, while the costliest city in the world for the second consecutive year is Hong Kong (1). Other cities appearing in the top ten are Zurich (5), Shanghai (6), Ashgabat (7), Beijing (8), New York City (9), and Shenzhen (10). The world’s least expensive cities for expatriates are Tunis (209), Tashkent (208), and Karachi (207).                                                                                                                    Mercer's widely recognized survey is one of the world’s most comprehensive, and is designed to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees. New York City is used as the base city for all comparisons, and currency movements are measured against the US dollar. The survey includes over 500 cities throughout the world; this year’s ranking includes 209 cities across five continents and measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment.

    “Cost of living is an important component of a city’s attractiveness for businesses,” said Yvonne Traber, Global Mobility Product Solutions Leader at Mercer. “Decision makers increasingly acknowledge that globalization is challenging cities to inform, innovate, and compete to foster the kind of satisfaction that attracts both people and investment – the keys to a city’s future.”

    Decision-makers and compete to foster the kind of citizen satisfaction that attracts both people The Americas

    Cities in the United States climbed in the ranking due to the strength of the US dollar against other major currencies as well as the significant drop of cities in other regions. New York jumped four places to rank 9, the highest-ranked city in the region. San Francisco (16) and Los Angeles (18) climbed twelve and seventeen places, respectively, while Chicago (37) jumped fourteen places. Among other major US cities, Washington, DC (42) is up fourteen places, Miami (44) is up sixteen places and Boston (49) is up twenty-one spots. Portland (107) and Winston Salem, North Carolina (138) remain the least expensive US cities surveyed for expatriates.

    In South America, Montevideo, Uruguay (70) ranked as the costliest city followed by San Juan (72), which jumped twenty-three spots. Other cities in South America that climbed on the list of costliest cities for expatriates include Panama City (93), San Jose  (131), and Havana  (133) rising twenty-one, ten, and twenty-two spots, respectively. Cities that fell in the ranking despite price increases on goods and services and accommodation costs include Brazil and Argentina. In particular, São Paolo (86) dropped twenty-eight spots. Rio de Janeiro (121) dropped twenty-two places, while Buenos Aires (133) fell fifty-seven places. Managua (200) is the least expensive city in South America.

    Although most Canadian cities remained stable in the ranking, the country’s highest-ranked city, Vancouver (112), dropped three places. Toronto (115) dropped six spots, while Montreal (139) climbed eight spots. Calgary (153) and Ottawa (161) remained stable.

    Europe, the Middle East, and Africa

    Only one European city is among the top ten list of most expensive cities, which is Zurich at number five, followed by Bern (12). Geneva (13) is down two places. Eastern and Central European cities, including Moscow (27), St. Petersburg (75), Prague (97), and Warsaw (173), dropped ten, twenty-six, fourteen, and nineteen spots, respectively.

    Cities in Western Europe, including Milan (45), Paris (47), Oslo (61), and Madrid (82), fell in the ranking as well, by twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and eighteen spots, respectively. The German city Stuttgart (126) dropped significantly as did Berlin (81) and Dusseldorf (92). Cities in the United Kingdom saw modest drops, including Birmingham (135), which fell seven places, Belfast (158) six spots, and London (23) four spots.

    “Despite moderate price increases in most of the European cities, European currencies have weakened against the US dollar, which pushed most cities down in the ranking,” explained Ms. Traber, “Additionally, other factors like recent security issues and concern about the economic outlook, have impacted the region.”

    Tel Aviv (15) continues to be the most expensive city in the Middle East for expatriates, followed by Dubai (21), Abu Dhabi (33), and Riyadh (35). Cairo (166) remains the least expensive city in the region. “Many currencies in the Middle East are pegged to the US dollar, which pushed cities up in the ranking, as well as steep increases for expatriate rental accommodations,” said Ms. Traber.

    Despite dropping from the top ten most expensive cities for expatriates, N’Djamena (11) remains the highest-ranking city in Africa. Following are Victoria (14) rising seven places, and Kinshasa (22) rising fifteen spots. Libreville (24) dropped six places. Dropping one spot, Tunis (209) in Tunisia ranks as the least expensive city in the region and globally.

    Asia Pacific

    Eight of the top ten cities in this year’s ranking are in Asia due in part to a strong housing market. Hong Kong (1) remains the most expensive city for expatriates both in Asia and globally as a result of the housing market and currency being pegged to the US dollar, driving up the cost of living locally. This global financial center is followed by Tokyo (2), Singapore (3), Seoul (4), Shanghai (6), and Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (7).

    Mumbai (67) is India’s most expensive city, followed by New Delhi (118) and Chennai (154). Bengaluru (179) and Kolkata (189) are the least expensive Indian cities ranked. Elsewhere in Asia, Bangkok (40) jumped twelve places from last year. Hanoi (112) and Jakarta (105) also rose in the ranking, up twenty-five and twelve spots, respectively. Bishkek (206) and Tashkent (208) remain the region’s least expensive cities for expatriates.

    Australian cities have continued to fall in the ranking due to the depreciation of the local currency against the US dollar. Sydney (50), Australia’s most expensive ranked city for expatriates, dropped twenty-one places. Melbourne (79) and Perth (87) dropped twenty-one and twenty-six spots, respectively.

    Mercer produces individual cost of living and rental accommodation cost reports for each city surveyed. For more information on city rankings, visit https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/cost-of-living-rankings. To purchase copies of individual city reports, visit https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/multinational-approach-cost-of-living-data or call Mercer Client Services at +48 22 434 5383.

    Notes for editors

    The figures for Mercer’s cost of living and rental accommodation cost comparisons are derived from a survey conducted in March 2019. Exchange rates from that time and Mercer’s international basket of goods and services from its Cost of Living Survey have been used as base measurements.

    Governments and major companies use data from this survey to protect the purchasing power of their employees when transferred abroad; rental accommodation costs data is used to assess local expatriate housing allowances. The choice of cities surveyed is based on demand for data.

    About Mercer

    Mercer delivers advice and technology-driven solutions that help organizations meet the health, wealth and career needs of a changing workforce. Mercer’s more than 23,000 employees are based in 44 countries and the firm operates in over 130 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), the leading global professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With 75,000 colleagues and annualized revenue approaching $17 billion through its market-leading companies including Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh & McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit www.mercer.com. Follow Mercer on Twitter @Mercer.

    Mercer also provides advice and market data on international and expatriate compensation management, and works with multinational companies and governments worldwide. It maintains one of the most comprehensive databases on international assignment policies; compensation practices; and data on worldwide cost of living, housing, and hardship allowances. Its annual global mobility conferences and other events provide companies with the latest trends and research on mobility issues. Visit https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/ for details. Follow Mercer’s mobility news on Twitter @Mercer.

    Mercer Cost of Living Survey – Worldwide Rankings 2019

    (Mercer international basket, including rental accommodation costs)

    Rank as of March

    City

    Country/Region

    2018

    2019

    1

    1

    HONG KONG

    Hong Kong (SAR)

    2

    2

    TOKYO

    Japan

    4

    3

    SINGAPORE

    Singapore

    5

    4

    SEOUL

    South Korea

    3

    5

    ZURICH

    Switzerland

    7

    6

    SHANGHAI

    China

    43

    7

    ASHGABAT

    Turkmenistan

    9

    8

    BEIJING

    China

    13

    9

    NEW YORK CITY

    United States

    12

    10

    SHENZHEN

    China

    8

    11

    NDJAMENA

    Chad

    10

    12

    BERN

    Switzerland

    11

    13

    GENEVA

    Switzerland

    21

    14

    VICTORIA

    Seychelles

    16

    15

    TEL AVIV

    Israel

    28

    16

    SAN FRANCISCO

    United States

    15

    17

    GUANGZHOU

    China

    35

    18

    LOS ANGELES

    United States

    23

    19

    OSAKA

    Japan

    14

    20

    COPENHAGEN

    Denmark

    26

    21

    DUBAI

    United Arab Emirates

    37

    22

    KINSHASA

    Dem. Rep. of the Congo

    19

    23

    LONDON

    United Kingdom

    18

    24

    LIBREVILLE

    Gabon

    42

    25

    LAGOS

    Nigeria

    6

    26

    LUANDA

    Angola

    17

    27

    MOSCOW

    Russia

    25

    27

    NANJING

    China

    22

    29

    NOUMEA

    New Caledonia

    24

    30

    ABIDJAN

    Côte d'Ivoire

    31

    30

    CHENGDU

    China

    29

    32

    TIANJIN

    China

    40

    33

    ABU DHABI

    United Arab Emirates

    41

    33

    NAGOYA

    Japan

    27

    35

    TAIPEI

    Taiwan

    45

    35

    RIYADH

    Saudi Arabia

    51

    37

    CHICAGO

    United States

    54

    38

    HONOLULU

    United States

    19

    39

    BRAZZAVILLE

    Congo

    52

    40

    BANGKOK

    Thailand

    36

    41

    QINGDAO

    China

    56

    42

    WASHINGTON

    United States

    32

    43

    DUBLIN

    Ireland

    60

    44

    MIAMI

    United States

    33

    45

    MILAN

    Italy

    38

    45

    SHENYANG

    China

    34

    47

    PARIS

    France

    66

    47

    DHAKA

    Bangladesh

    70

    49

    BOSTON

    United States

    29

    50

    SYDNEY

    Australia

    39

    51

    VIENNA

    Austria

    43

    52

    YAOUNDE

    Cameroon

    65

    53

    BEIRUT

    Lebanon

    48

    54

    BANGUI

    Central African Republic

    46

    55

    ROME

    Italy

    79

    56

    WHITE PLAINS

    United States

    77

    57

    MANAMA

    Bahrain

    50

    58

    AMSTERDAM

    Netherlands

    73

    59

    DJIBOUTI

    Djibouti

    86

    59

    HOUSTON

    United States

    47

    61

    OSLO

    Norway

    85

    62

    DALLAS

    United States

    63

    63

    ACCRA

    Ghana

    90

    64

    SEATTLE

    United States

    53

    65

    HELSINKI

    Finland

    73

    66

    DOUALA

    Cameroon

    55

    67

    MUMBAI

    India

    57

    67

    MUNICH

    Germany

    95

    69

    ATLANTA

    United States

    75

    70

    MONTEVIDEO

    Uruguay

    97

    70

    MORRISTOWN

    United States

    62

    72

    DAKAR

    Senegal

    95

    72

    SAN JUAN

    Puerto Rico

    68

    74

    FRANKFURT

    Germany

    49

    75

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Russia

    94

    75

    AMMAN

    Jordan

    67

    77

    BRUSSELS

    Belgium

    102

    78

    MINNEAPOLIS

    United States

    58

    79

    MELBOURNE

    Australia

    69

    79

    SANTIAGO

    Chile

    71

    81

    BERLIN

    Germany

    64

    82

    MADRID

    Spain

    97

    83

    PORT OF SPAIN

    Trinidad & Tobago

    71

    84

    LUXEMBOURG

    Luxembourg

    99

    85

    ABUJA

    Nigeria

    58

    86

    SAO PAULO

    Brazil

    61

    87

    PERTH

    Australia

    106

    88

    CONAKRY

    Guinea

    81

    89

    AUCKLAND

    New Zealand

    116

    90

    DETROIT

    United States

    79

    91

    BARCELONA

    Spain

    82

    92

    DUSSELDORF

    Germany

    114

    93

    PANAMA CITY

    Panama

    122

    94

    ST. LOUIS

    United States

    93

    95

    LISBON

    Portugal

    77

    96

    CANBERRA

    Australia

    83

    97

    PRAGUE

    Czech Republic

    123

    97

    NAIROBI

    Kenya

    125

    97

    PITTSBURGH

    United States

    88

    100

    HAMBURG

    Germany

    117

    100

    JEDDAH

    Saudi Arabia

    106

    102

    BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

    Brunei

    84

    103

    BRISBANE

    Australia

    117

    103

    MUSCAT

    Oman

    117

    105

    JAKARTA

    Indonesia

    125

    106

    CLEVELAND

    United States

    130

    107

    PORTLAND

    United States

    142

    108

    PHNOM PENH

    Cambodia

    87

    109

    ADELAIDE

    Australia

    138

    109

    MANILA

    Philippines

    92

    111

    RIGA

    Latvia

    109

    112

    VANCOUVER

    Canada

    137

    112

    HANOI

    Vietnam

    101

    114

    WELLINGTON

    New Zealand

    109

    115

    TORONTO

    Canada

    115

    115

    DOHA

    Qatar

    91

    117

    YANGON

    Myanmar

    103

    118

    NEW DELHI

    India

    121

    119

    KUWAIT CITY

    Kuwait

    124

    120

    HO CHI MINH CITY

    Vietnam

    99

    121

    RIO DE JANEIRO

    Brazil

    132

    121

    LIMA

    Peru

    105

    123

    LYON

    France

    120

    124

    BAMAKO

    Mali

    104

    125

    POINTE A PITRE

    Guadeloupe

    108

    126

    STUTTGART

    Germany

    89

    127

    STOCKHOLM

    Sweden

    111

    128

    COTONOU

    Benin

    112

    128

    ATHENS

    Greece

    128

    128

    CASABLANCA

    Morocco

    113

    131

    BRATISLAVA

    Slovakia

    141

    131

    SAN JOSE

    Costa Rica

    76

    133

    BUENOS AIRES

    Argentina

    165

    133

    HAVANA

    Cuba

    128

    135

    BIRMINGHAM

    United Kingdom

    130

    136

    GUATEMALA CITY

    Guatemala

    134

    137

    ABERDEEN

    United Kingdom

    161

    138

    WINSTON SALEM

    United States

    147

    139

    MONTREAL

    Canada

    140

    140

    TALLINN

    Estonia

    145

    141

    KUALA LUMPUR

    Malaysia

    132

    142

    LJUBLJANA

    Slovenia

    138

    143

    ZAGREB

    Croatia

    157

    144

    MEXICO CITY

    Mexico

    134

    145

    LOME

    Togo

    134

    145

    OUAGADOUGOU

    Burkina Faso

    148

    145

    GLASGOW

    United Kingdom

    156

    148

    QUITO

    Ecuador

    143

    149

    NIAMEY

    Niger

    173

    150

    KIEV

    Ukraine

    145

    151

    NUREMBERG

    Germany

    148

    152

    VILNIUS

    Lithuania

    154

    153

    CALGARY

    Canada

    144

    154

    CHENNAI

    India

    163

    154

    ISTANBUL

    Turkey

    150

    156

    LEIPZIG

    Germany

    164

    157

    KINGSTON

    Jamaica

    152

    158

    BELFAST

    United Kingdom

    179

    159

    MAPUTO

    Mozambique

    165

    160

    RABAT

    Morocco

    153

    161

    LIMASSOL

    Cyprus

    160

    161

    OTTAWA

    Canada

    161

    161

    PORT LOUIS

    Mauritius

    151

    164

    BUDAPEST

    Hungary

    125

    165

    PORT AU PRINCE

    Haiti

    172

    166

    TIRANA

    Albania

    174

    166

    SAN SALVADOR

    El Salvador

    188

    166

    CAIRO

    Egypt

    178

    169

    SANTO DOMINGO

    Dominican Republic

    168

    170

    BOGOTA

    Colombia

    180

    171

    DAR ES SALAAM

    Tanzania

    183

    171

    ADDIS ABABA

    Ethiopia

    154

    173

    WARSAW

    Poland

    158

    174

    BRASILIA

    Brazil

    169

    175

    KIGALI

    Rwanda

    176

    176

    BUCHAREST

    Romania

    175

    177

    SOFIA

    Bulgaria

    186

    178

    BAKU

    Azerbaijan

    170

    179

    BENGALURU

    India

    170

    180

    CAPE TOWN

    South Africa

    181

    181

    BELGRADE

    Serbia

    158

    182

    COLOMBO

    Sri Lanka

    192

    183

    KAMPALA

    Uganda

    195

    184

    ALGIERS

    Algeria

    177

    185

    JOHANNESBURG

    South Africa

    183

    186

    ASUNCION

    Paraguay

    193

    187

    MONTERREY

    Mexico

    165

    188

    HARARE

    Zimbabwe

    182

    189

    KOLKATA

    India

    189

    189

    GABORONE

    Botswana

    187

    191

    ALMATY

    Kazakhstan

    194

    192

    NOUAKCHOTT

    Mauritania

    204

    193

    BLANTYRE

    Malawi

    191

    194

    SARAJEVO

    Bosnia and Herzegovina

    199

    195

    LA PAZ

    Bolivia

    185

    196

    LUSAKA

    Zambia

    198

    197

    YEREVAN

    Armenia

    202

    198

    MINSK

    Belarus

    201

    199

    TEGUCIGALPA

    Honduras

    200

    200

    MANAGUA

    Nicaragua

    197

    201

    SKOPJE

    Macedonia

    203

    202

    TBILISI

    Georgia

    190

    203

    ISLAMABAD

    Pakistan

    196

    204

    WINDHOEK

    Namibia

    206

    204

    BANJUL

    Gambia

    207

    206

    BISHKEK

    Kyrgyzstan

    205

    207

    KARACHI

    Pakistan

    209

    208

    TASHKENT

    Uzbekistan

    208

    209

    TUNIS

    Tunisia

    Source: Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living Survey

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