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Singapore, Hong Kong drop two places in list of expensive locations for expats

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KUALA LUMPUR (July 2): Ashgabat in Turkmenistan remains the most expensive location in the world for expatriates to live in as prices increased by 30% in the year to March, according to a cost of living survey released today.

Ashgabat was followed by four European cities, namely Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern, the survey compiled by research data firm ECA International showed.

The survey is carried out using a basket of day-to-day goods and services commonly purchased by assignees, ECA International said in a statement.

In sixth place was Hong Kong, which had been placed fourth in the 2019 survey. Also dropping two spots was Singapore at the 14th place.

“Although Singapore has dropped very slightly in the global rankings while three Japanese cities (Yokohama, Osaka and Nagoya) have edged above it, Singapore remains an expensive location for overseas workers to be based in,” said Lee Quane, regional director for Asia at ECA International.

“The Singapore dollar has remained strong in recent years, and the country sits below only Hong Kong and Japanese cities in terms of the most expensive Asian locations for expatriates,” he noted.

ECA International said Chinese cities have all dropped in the most recent cost of living rankings this year, including Beijing and Shanghai, which both fell nine places — coming in at 24th and 19th place respectively.

Similarly, the cost of living in South Korea has been hit by Covid-19 as well, with Seoul falling from 8th place to 17th place in the rankings, and Busan dropping out of the top 20 entirely.

Meanwhile, Thai and Vietnamese cities once again moved up the rankings, with Bangkok rising 64 places in five years and Hanoi up 25 places over the same period.

Quane explained, “Thailand’s steady rise up our rankings has been a constant feature of our surveys in recent years as its economy has continued to grow and attract increasing investment from overseas businesses.

“This means that the baht has strengthened considerably — making the country more expensive for expatriates and tourists. However, this trend has slowed over the past year, partly in response to government attempts to weaken the baht in order to keep the country competitive.”

The rankings provided by ECA International did not include Malaysian cities.

Globally, the vast majority of US cities saw a rise in the rankings as the US dollar continued to perform well against other major currencies.

Many European cities saw a drop in the cost of living as the value of the euro weakened slightly from the last survey. Major European cities such as Berlin, Madrid and Rome have continued to fall in the rankings and remain outside of the top 100 most expensive cities for overseas workers, said ECA International.

Australian cities have also experienced some of the biggest falls in the rankings this year, with every Australian city seeing a drop of over 20 places. Sydney is now the only Australian city in the top 100 most expensive locations, the survey showed.


This blog post was originally published in The Edge Market on 2 July 2020.

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