Urban Transformation

The most expensive cities for expats – and there's a new one at the top of the ranking

A man walks in front of the (L-R) Bank of China Tower, Cheung Kong Center, HSBC bank and Standard Chartered bank at the financial central district in Hong Kong, China June 24, 2016.    REUTERS/Bobby Yip - RTX2HX4H

Hong Kong has the least affordable housing in the world, as well as high rental costs Image: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Emma Luxton
Senior Writer , Forum Agenda
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Hong Kong has come in first as the city with the highest cost of living for expatriates, knocking Africa’s most expensive city, Luanda, off the top spot.

With the least affordable housing in the world, as well as high rental costs, it is perhaps unsurprising that Hong Kong has taken the lead.

Mercer’s annual Cost of Living Survey ranks cities across the world on the affordability of living for expats.

Although global financial centres in Europe and the United States are often considered some of the costliest places to live, this top 10 ranking, with the exception of Zurich and Geneva, is dominated by Asian and African cities.

 Highest and lowest ranked cities globally for cost of living

Beijing and Shanghai both feature in the list, although both cities have moved down the list since 2015. Tokyo, has jumped six places, coming in fifth, just behind Singapore, which has maintained its ranking since last year.

Making its debut in the top 10, Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo takes sixth place.

There are only two European cities – Zurich in third place and Geneva in eighth – in the top 10. London is much further down the list in 17th place, while Paris is in 44th place.

The highest-ranking city in the United States is New York, which just misses out on the top 10, coming 11th.

The survey gives organizations an idea of how expensive cities can be for employees living abroad. Accommodation, basic goods and services are all taken into consideration in the ranking.

The difference can be seen in the cost of renting an apartment or in the price of a cup of coffee.

In Hong Kong a two-bedroom apartment costs almost $7,000, compared to just over $5,000 in New York and just over $4,500 in London.

A cup of coffee would set you back over $7 in Hong Kong, compared to just over $4 in London and less than $2.50 in New York.

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