Mercer’s 25th annual Cost of Living Survey finds cities in Asia most expensive locations for employees working abroad
Multinationals’ focus on mobility as a workforce strategy supports career growth and global competitiveness
• Kuala Lumpur rises from 145 to 141
• Hong Kong remains the world’s costliest city
• Eight of the world’s top 10 most expensive cities are in Asia
Eight of the world’s top 10 most expensive cities are located in Asia as a result of the region’s high costs for consumer goods and a dynamic housing market, with Kuala Lumpur (141) rising four places, according to Mercer’s 25th annual 2019 Cost of Living Survey.
Hong Kong tops the list as the world’s costliest city for the second consecutive year with the local housing market increasingly out of reach for many. Other cities appearing in the top 10 are Tokyo (2), Singapore (3), Seoul (4), Zurich (5), Shanghai (6), Ashgabat (7), Beijing (8), New York City (9), and Shenzhen (10). Ashgabat in Turkmenistan saw the biggest rise in rankings, jumping an astonishing 36 places from 43rd in 2018, as a result of the country’s shortage of currency and imported goods driving up prices.
While Kuala Lumpur didn’t experience a rise in prices, currency fluctuations saw the Malaysian ringgit lose four per cent to the US dollar. Despite this, Kuala Lumpur rose slightly due to the movement of other cities.
Mario Ferraro, Mercer’s Global Mobility Practice Leader for Asia, Middle East and Africa, said Asia continued to be a major engine of global economic growth.
“Despite the relatively high cost of living, many organizations still see a strong business rationale for moving talent into and within the region. At the same time, cost considerations are still an issue, and we are seeing an increased focus on having a clear business case for the assignment, as well as measuring the return on investment,” he said.
This year’s ranking includes 209 cities across five continents and measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment.
Of the world’s major cities, the costs of movie tickets, coffee, property rental and petrol in Hong Kong were the most expensive, with Beijing topping the list for a price of milk at USD $4.45 in comparison to just USD $1.21 in New York.
Mercer’s widely recognized 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 City is used as the base city for all comparisons, and currency movements are measured against the US dollar.
“In a skill-focused economy driven by digital disruption and the need for a globally connected workforce, deploying expatriate employees is an increasingly important aspect of a competitive business strategy for global companies,” said Ilya Bonic, President of Mercer’s Career business.
“There are numerous personal and organizational advantages for sending employees overseas, including career development, global experience, new skillsets, and re-allocation of resources. By offering fair and competitive compensation packages, organizations can facilitate moves that drive business results.”