SINGAPORE - Singapore has climbed one rung from fifth place last year to become the fourth most expensive city in the world for expatriates, according to a report by research firm Mercer.
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Here is an excerpt from Mercer's report released on July 10:
2014 Cost of Living Rankings
Two African cities top the list of most expensive cities for expatriates according to Mercer's 2014 Cost of Living Survey. Although not typically recognised as wealthy cities compared to others, Luanda in Angola is the world's most expensive city for the second year in a row followed by N'Djamena, Chad. European and Asian cities also continue to dominate as the costliest cities with Hong Kong in third place, followed by Singapore. Zurch jumped three places to rank fifth, followed by Geneva in sixth. Tokyo dropped four spots to rank seventh.
Mercer's authoritative 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 is used as the base city, and all cities are compared against it. Currency movements are measured against the US dollar.
The survey covers 211 cities across five continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment.
"Rankings in many regions were affected by recent world events, including economic and political upheavals, which resulted in currency fluctuations, cost inflation for goods and services, and volatility in accommodation prices," said Ed Hannibal, Partner and Global Leader for Mercer's Mobility practice. While Luanda and N'Djamena are relatively inexpensive cities, they are quite costly for expatriates since imported goods come at a premium. In addition, finding secure living accommodations that meet the standards of expatriates can be challenging and quite costly as well. This is generally why some African cities rank high in our survey."
Other cities appearing in the top 10 of Mercer's costliest cities for expatriates are Bern, Moscow, and Shanghai. Karachi, ranked 211, is the world's least expensive city for expatriates, and the survey found that Luanda is more than three times as costly as Karachi.
According to Mr. Hannibal, "While multinationals continue to recognise the importance of having a global workforce and corporate assignments remain prevalent, they must be able to monitor and balance the cost of their expatriate programs. Employers need to evaluate the impact of currency fluctuations, inflation, and political instability when sending employees on overseas assignments while ensuring they retain talented employees by offering competitive compensation packages."
Currency fluctuations and the impact of inflation on goods and services have influenced the cost of expatriate programs as well as the city rankings. Nathalie Constantin-Métral, Principal at Mercer with responsibility for compiling the survey ranking, said, "Interestingly, several cities jumped up the list this year following large increases in both accommodation cost and demand, coupled with strong local currencies. Dhaka and Nairobi (both 117) and Dubai (67) soared thirty seven, thirty and twenty-three spots, respectively."
Four of the top 10 cities in this year's ranking are in Asia. The most expensive city, Hong Kong (3), jumped three places from last year. Singapore (4) is the next most expensive city in the region, gaining one position from last year, followed by Tokyo, which ranked 7 dropping four places this year. Jumping four spots since last year, Shanghai (10) is the next Asian city on the list, followed by Beijing (11), Seoul (14), and Shenzhen (17).
"Japanese cities have dropped in the ranking this year as a result of the yen's weakening against the US dollar," said Ms. Constantin-Métral. "However, Chinese cities jumped in the ranking, including Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen, due to the strengthening of the Chinese yuan."
Australian cities have witnessed some of the most dramatic falls in the ranking this year as the local currency has depreciated against the US dollar. Sydney (26), Australia's most expensive ranked city for expatriates, and Melbourne (33) dropped seventeen places while Perth (37) fell nineteen spots.
Mumbai (140) is India's most expensive city, followed by New Delhi (157) and Chennai (185). Bangalore (196) and Kolkata (205) are the least expensive Indian cities ranked. Elsewhere in Asia, Bangkok (88) dropped twenty-two places from last year. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, ranks 115, followed by Indonesia's Jakarta which ranked 119, falling forty-eight places from 2013. Hanoi jumped three spots to rank 131. Karachi, Pakistan (211) remains the region's least expensive city for expatriates.