Hong Kong remains at the top of an annual global survey of the world’s most expensive cities for expats, according to a report published last week.
Asian cities made up six of the top 10, the survey found. A surprise entry was Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, in 2nd place, ahead of Tokyo at number 3 and Singapore at 5, down from 3 in last year’s survey.
Other Asian cities appearing in the top 10 of Mercer’s costliest cities for expatriates are Shanghai (7) and Beijing (10). Border closings, flight interruptions, mandatory confinements, and other short-term disruptions have affected not only the cost of goods and services, but also the quality of living of assignees.”
In Europe, Zurich was number 4 in the list, with two other Swiss cities making the top 10: Bern (8) and Geneva (9). London rose three places to 19th place on a weakened pound.
By contrast, the world’s least expensive cities for expatriates, according to Mercer’s survey, are Tunis (209), Windhoek (208), Tashkent and Bishkek, which tied to rank 206.
This year’s survey found that Tel Aviv (12) continues to be the most expensive city in the Middle East for expatriates, followed by Dubai (23), Riyadh (31), and Abu Dhabi (39). Cairo (126) remains the least expensive city in the region despite rising 40 places.
Mercer’s widely recognized survey is one of the world’s most comprehensive, and is designed to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation strategies for their expatriate employees.
Mercer explained that New York City is used as the base city for all comparisons and currency movements are measured against the US dollar. The survey comprises over 400 cities around 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.
Ilya Bonic, career president and head of strategy at Mercer, said: “Border closings, flight interruptions, mandatory confinements, and other short-term disruptions have affected not only the cost of goods and services, but also the quality of living of assignees.”
“Climate change, issues related to environmental footprint, and health system challenges have pushed multinationals to consider how a city’s efforts around sustainability can impact the living conditions for their expatriate workers. Cities with a strong sustainability focus can greatly improve living standards, which can in turn improve employee well-being and engagement.”
Properly vetting locations and compensating employees on international assignments is as important as it can be costly. Mercer’s survey shows that costs of goods and services shift with inflation and currency volatility making overseas assignment costs sometimes greater and sometimes smaller.
“Sudden changes to exchange rates has been mainly driven by the impact covid-19 is having on the global economy,” added Yvonne Traber, global mobility product solutions leader at Mercer.
“This volatility can affect mobile employees in a variety of ways, from shortages and price adjustments for goods and services, to supply chain disruptions or when employees are paid in home country currency and need to exchange funds into the host country for local purchases.”
Here is the top 50 from the Mercer cost of living survey 2020:
|Rank as of March||City||Country/Region|
|1||1||Hong Kong||Hong Kong|
|9||6||New York City||United States|
|16||16||San Francisco||United States|
|18||17||Los Angeles||United States|
|22||24||Kinshasa||Democratic Rebublic of Congo|
|56||48||White Plains||United States|
|54||49||Bangui||Central African Republic|