World’s most expensive cities for expats in 2019 revealed

Hoping to pack up your life and work abroad?

You might want to give certain parts of Asia a miss — a new survey shows that the continent’s cities are still some of the most expensive places in the world for expats to live.

For the second year running, Hong Kong has topped the league, emerging as the most expensive city for overseas workers, according to Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey.

Other Asian cities are not far behind, with the continent claiming eight of the top 10 places in the table. Once again Tokyo comes second in the human resources consulting firm’s list, while Singapore has shifted up a rank to poach the third spot from Zurich.

Seoul has also moved up a spot, now ranking fourth, with Zurich right behind. The only other non-Asian city in the top 10 is New York, which has risen to ninth place this year from 13th in 2018.

China is not immune to the high cost of living, with Shanghai snatching sixth place (from up seventh last year), Beijing at eight (it was ninth in 2018) and the southern city of Shenzhen moving up two places to the 10th spot.

A surprise entry to the top 10 is Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, which saw a massive rise from 43 last year to seventh this year. The consulting company didn’t give a reason for Ashgabat’s surge, but the International Monetary Fund forecasts Turkmen consumer price inflation to hit 9% in 2019.

At the other end of the table, the cheapest cities are the Tunisian capital, Tunis (209), Tashkent in Uzbekistan (208) and Karachi in Pakistan (207).

Various factors, including currency fluctuations, cost of inflation for goods and services and accommodation prices, contribute to the cost of expatriate packages for employees on international assignments, Mercer said.

The well-respected survey aims to help governments and multinational companies set pay for employees who move overseas for work.

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.

“Cost of living is an important component of a city’s attractiveness for businesses,” said Yvonne Traber, Mercer’s global mobility product solutions leader. “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.”

2019 cost of living city ranking

1. Hong Kong (China)

2. Tokyo (Japan)

3. Singapore

4. Seoul (South Korea)

5. Zurich (Switzerland)

6. Shanghai (China)

7. Ashgabat (Turkmenistan)

8. Beijing (China)

9. New York City (USA)

10. Shenzhen (China)