S'pore drops to 8th place on Asia's most expensive for expats

PHOTO: S'pore drops to 8th place on Asia's most expensive for expats

SINGAPORE - Singapore has been ranked the eighth most expensive place for expats to live in in Asia. This is two spots lower than its ranking on the list compiled by ECA International from its Cost of Living survey.

Despite the drop, Singapore has maintained its 31st spot in the global ranking.

Other Asian cities like Beijing and Shanghai have seen increases in cost of living, becoming more expensive than Singapore for expats to  live in.

More details are available in the press release below:

Singapore has dropped two places to become the region's 8th most expensive location for expatriates, while retaining 31st position globally.

This is according to the latest Cost of Living survey from ECA International, the world's leader in the development and provision of solutions for the management and assignment of employees around the world. This survey compared the year-on-year movement between September 2012 and September 2011 data.

While Singapore has dropped down the regional ranking, globally it has maintained its position due to the movements of other locations worldwide. For example, while Beijing (22nd globally) and Shanghai (26th), are now more expensive than Singapore.

Paris (42nd) and Rio de Janeiro (64th) are now cheaper - largely a result of the weakening of their currencies against other major currencies. Hong Kong has also leapt up the global rankings and is now just below Singapore. Tokyo retains its position as the most expensive location in Asia and the world.

Lee Quane, Regional Director, Asia, ECA International said, "While the cost of ECA's representative basket of goods and services in Singapore increased by 2.7 per cent over the past 12 months, this rate is well below the regional average of 6.5 per cent. It is also significantly lower than the 5 per cent increase we've witnessed in China over the year.

"This, together with the fact that the Renminbi has strengthened against many currencies, including the Singapore dollar, in the same period is making Chinese locations increasingly expensive. This could be stripping them of the competitive edge they once had over other locations in Asia as companies looking to set up in the region might think twice, now, about posting staff to China."

Living costs for assignees are affected by inflation, availability of goods and exchange rates, all of which can have a significant impact on assignee remuneration packages. To help multinational companies calculate assignment salaries, ECA carries out two Cost of Living Surveys per year, comparing a basket of consumer goods and services commonly purchased by assignees in more than 400 locations worldwide.

"Certain living costs such as accommodation rental, utilities charges, car purchases and school fees are not included in this survey. Although such items can have a significant effect on overall cost of living, they are usually compensated for separately in expatriate packages so this data is researched and published separately," explained Quane.

Hong Kong catching up with Singapore While there has been no movement in the global ranking for Singapore, Hong Kong has jumped 26 places up the list of most expensive cities. The Special Administrative Region is now the 32nd most costly location for international assignees - just one position below Singapore.

A year ago items in ECA's cost of living basket cost 8 per cent more in Singapore than in Hong Kong. Today, the prices in Singapore are only 0.4 per cent more expensive.

"This year we have seen the cost of items in ECA's shopping basket in Hong Kong increase 6.7 per cent - much higher than the price inflation observed in Singapore and higher than the regional average increase" said Quane. "This, along with the Hong Kong dollar's peg to a stronger US dollar is making the SAR more expensive for many companies sending employees there on assignment."

Asia region highlights

Over the past three years, Asian locations have climbed up the global ranking. Nine Asian locations now feature in the top 50 most costly locations for international assignees worldwide. In 2009, only four did, none of which were Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai or Seoul.

Tokyo is still the most expensive location in Asia and globally - despite Japan being the only location in Asia to experience price falls this year. On average, prices of items in ECA's Cost of Living basket for Asia have increased by 6.5 per cent - significantly less than last year's average increase of 8.2 per cent.

While Hong Kong and mainland Chinese locations have seen some of the biggest leaps up the Asian ranking this year, some of the region's biggest falls have been witnessed in Indonesia. The weakening of the Rupiah against major currencies has contributed to Jakarta falling 32 places, to become the world's 123rd most expensive location for expatriates.

In Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur has risen from 186th to 179th in the global ranking and 29th in the region while Georgetown is in 215th globally, just above Mumbai (216th globally) and Ho Chi Minh City (217th).

Karachi in Pakistan remains the least expensive Asian location in the ranking.

Australasia - Australian locations remain among the most expensive in the world All Australian locations surveyed now rank in the world's top 30 most expensive locations. Sydney is the most costly, in 16th position globally, followed by Canberra (18th), Adelaide (21st), Melbourne (24th), Perth (25th), Darwin (27th) and Brisbane (28th).

"Just three years ago, none of the Australian locations in our survey featured in the top 60, and all were cheaper than Hong Kong. Since then, the Australian dollar has gone from strength to strength and remains high today. This makes Australia an expensive place to live: the cost of goods and services in Sydney, for example, is now 12 per cent higher than the cost of the equivalent goods and services in Hong Kong," said Quane.

Auckland (41st globally) is the most expensive of the New Zealand locations surveyed. Christchurch has also risen 12 places over the year, and now sits in 55th position.

Europe - locations across the region fall in the global ranking Many locations across the region fell in the global ranking as the euro and other European currencies weakened against the US dollar while prices increased at a slower rate in Europe on average than other regions over the year.

The Norwegian locations of Oslo and Stavanger, ranked 3rd and 8th in the world respectively, are the region's most expensive locations. The free-floating Norwegian krone has been strong for much of the last two years, reflecting the country's relative economic success. They are followed by the Swiss cities of Zurich (9th), Geneva (10th) and Bern (11th).

The on-going financial crisis in Greece and Spain has seen Athens fall 47 positions in 12 months to 109th spot in the global ranking, while Madrid dropped 44 places to 105th.

One of the biggest falls down the global ranking has been witnessed in Portugal - another country hit by the sovereign debt crisis. Lisbon fell from 98th to 158th position over the year. London and locations surveyed in Russia, Turkey and Ukraine have proved to be more resilient.

London gained 11 places and now sits in 58th position globally. Istanbul rose 21 places to 34th while the Turkish capital, Ankara, rose 31 positions to 121st globally - one of the biggest rises in this survey. The lira has strengthened against major currencies in the past twelve months. In addition, prices in ECA's cost of living basket in Turkey have increased at a faster rate this year than last.

The Moldovan capital of Chisinau remains the least expensive European city surveyed.

Americas - Vancouver most costly North American location, while Brazilian cities fall The Canadian city of Vancouver is North America's most expensive location for the second year in a row. The city ranks 35th globally and is followed by Manhattan (36th). The strengthening of the US dollar against major currencies has led to all of the US locations surveyed moving up the ranking in the past 12 months - despite the cost of items in the cost of living basket increasing at a slower rate than many other parts of the world.

In South America, the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, sitting in 7th position globally, is the most expensive city followed by Argentina's Buenos Aires (47th globally). The Brazilian locations of Rio de Janeiro (64th) and Sao Paulo (69th) follow. However, both have fallen more than 40 places in the ranking in the past 12 months - largely a result of the weakening of the Brazilian real against the US dollar and other major currencies.

Africa and Middle East - Angolan city of Luanda most expensive in Africa Africa's most expensive location is the Angolan capital, Luanda. Globally, the city is back in the top 10 most expensive locations having moved up from last year's 11th position into 4th. It is followed by South Sudan capital of Juba (14th) and the Democratic Republic of Congo's Kinshasa (19th).

The Egyptian capital, Cairo has risen 15 places to 219th while South African locations continue to fall down the ranking. Johannesburg is currently in 222nd spot - down from last year's 204th position.

Despite falling 13 positions globally, the most expensive Middle Eastern location surveyed remains Tel Aviv, ranking 45th overall. Dubai has risen 14 places to 173rd worldwide while Jeddah, at 224th, is the least expensive location surveyed in the region.