Tokyo is most expensive city for expats, survey shows

by Ray Clancy on December 9, 2011

ECA International survey reports on most expensive locations for expats

Tokyo is the most expensive place for expats to live in the world followed by Oslo and Geneva, according to a new survey by consultancy ECA International.

It also shows that Singapore has leapfrogged rival regional financial centre Hong Kong for the first time as one of the most expensive places for expats. It is now the sixth costliest city in Asia, up two notches from a year ago.

Hong Kong, in contrast, fell to ninth from sixth and now ranks behind Beijing and Shanghai in terms of cost.

‘While such increases are unlikely to deter companies from relocating staff to Singapore, it does mean that costs of sending staff to Singapore will rise,’ said ECA regional director Lee Quane.

‘This may erode some of the cost advantages that Singapore previously had over other destinations in the region in terms of the cost of relocating an employee,’ he added.

For the third year running, Oslo is the most expensive location in Europe while globally, the Norwegian capital has risen from sixth to second place.

Oslo is followed by Geneva and Zurich in Switzerland. Despite the value of the Swiss franc falling against major currencies in the aftermath of the Swiss National Bank’s move to set a minimum exchange rate against the euro, Swiss locations remain in the top ten most expensive locations globally.

Despite much turmoil in the eurozone, the euro has strengthened on average against other major currencies over the last year. As a result, locations in the zone have risen in the ranking, while those in the US, for example, and in locations where the currency is pegged to the US dollar, such as Hong Kong, have typically fallen.

Within Europe, Turkish locations have fallen furthest in the ranking. The capital Ankara fell 99 places between surveys, a result of a much weakened Turkish lira against major currencies.

Caracas continues to be the most expensive location in the Americas at 17 in the global ranking. The Venezuelan capital is followed by Rio de Janeiro, placed 22 globally, and Sao Paolo in 29th position.

Vancouver, placed 43rd globally, is the most costly location in North America. New York’s Manhattan is in 46th position, down from last year’s 28th place. Locations across the United States have seen some of the biggest falls in the global ranking, largely due to the depreciation of the US dollar against many major currencies.

Having fallen from most expensive location globally to 2nd place last year, Angola’s capital, Luanda, continues to fall down the ranking. It is currently in 11th position but remains the most expensive location in Africa. Many items typically purchased by assignees in Luanda have to be imported into a country where the infrastructure remains severely damaged after years of war and as a consequence are very expensive. Alexandria in Egypt, ranked 235th, is the least expensive.

Overall, locations across the Middle East have fallen in the ranking. Israeli locations are by far the most expensive locations for expatriates in the region. Tel Aviv is in 32nd place globally, down 14 places from a year ago. In contrast, Dubai is ranked 180th while Jeddah, in 232nd position, is the least costly location surveyed in the region.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

stevenxp December 5, 2012 at 7:05 am

The Xpatulator Cost of Living Ranking for October 2012 now shows the following :

Tokyo is the most expensive location in the world overall taking all elements of the cost of living into account. What makes Tokyo the most expensive place for expatriates is that it is particularly expensive for the items that consume the largest portion of an expatriates living costs. Household accommodation, which accounts for approximately 30% of a typical expatriate's budget is the 4th highest in the world in Tokyo (Hong Kong is still most expensive for housing).
In Tokyo the benchmark rental for a secure upmarket unfurnished apartment (3 bedrooms) is $6,293 in a central location, and $3,209 in a suburban location, per month, excluding utilities. The second most costly basket in Tokyo is groceries, which accounts for 16.5% of a typical expatriates budget, and ranks 5th most expensive in the world. Benchmark prices in a major international retail store in Tokyo for 1 kg apples is $7.08, 1 kg oranges $4.80, 1 kg potatoes $4.92, 1 kg boneless, skinless, chicken breast $11.91, 1 kg cheddar cheese $18.22, and 1 L full cream milk $2.73.

If the housing, education, medical and transport baskets are excluded from the cost of living calculation, then Luanda ranks first with Zurich and Geneva, in second and third, placing Tokyo as the fifth most expensive place to live and Hong Kong 108th. Tokyo drops dramatically in ranking when the most expensive basket group – housing is removed, making it overall a much cheaper expatriate prospect when housing is provided by the employer. Luanda is particularly expensive for clothing, groceries, recreation and culture, and restaurants and meals out. A pair of branded men’s jeans costs approximately $113, a 1L full cream milk $2.93, a cinema ticket for 1 adult $13.17, a cappuccino $4.37 and a burger meal from an international franchise is $13.82.

The Americas:
Most expensive countries for expatriates to live in are: Venezuela; Bermuda; Brazil; and Cayman Islands
The most expensive cities for expatriates to live in are: Caracas (Seventh most expensive in the world); New York (Manhattan); Hamilton; Sao Paulo; and Rio de Janeiro
The cheapest city for expatriates to live in is: Managua in Nicaragua (756 most expensive in the world)

Africa:
Most expensive countries for expatriates to live in are: Angola; Nigeria; Democratic Republic of Congo; Mozambique; and Sudan
The most expensive cities for expatriates to live in are: Luanda (Fourth most expensive in the world); Abuja; Kinshasa; Lagos; and Kano
The cheapest city for expatriates to live in is: Tunis in Tunisia (776 most expensive in the world)

Asia-Pacific:
Most expensive countries for expatriates to live in are: Japan; Papua New Guinea; Singapore; Australia, China
The most expensive cities for expatriates to live in are: Tokyo (the most expensive in the world); Hong Kong; Yokohama; Osaka; and Nagoya
The cheapest city for expatriates to live in is: Dushanbe in Tajikistan (766 most expensive in the world)

Europe:
Most expensive countries for expatriates to live in are: Switzerland; Monaco; United Kingdom; Norway; and Liechtenstein
The most expensive cities for expatriates to live in are: Zurich (Second most expensive in the world); Geneva; Monaco; London; and Oslo
The cheapest city for expatriates to live in is: Bucharest in Romania (764 most expensive in the world)

The Middle East:
Most expensive countries for expatriates to live in are: Qatar; United Arab Emirates; Israel; Iran; and Lebanon.
The most expensive cities for expatriates to live in are: Doha (122 most expensive in the world); Abu Dhabi; Dubai; Jerusalem; and Tehran
The cheapest city for expatriates to live in is: Sanaa in Yemen (711 most expensive in the world)

South Asia:
Most expensive countries for expatriates to live in are: Maldives; Sri Lanka; India; Bangladesh; and Pakistan.
The most expensive cities for expatriates to live in are: Colombo (519 most expensive in the world); Mumbai; New Delhi; Kanpur; and Surat.
The cheapest city for expatriates to live in is: Thimphu in Bhutan (778 most expensive in the world).

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