List of most expensive cities for expatriate employees

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These are lists of the world's most expensive cities for expatriate employees (not residents), according to the Mercer,[1] ECA International[2] and [3] cost-of-living surveys. Other surveys from online collaborative indices, such as Numbeo,[4] Expatistan[5] or Eardex[6] are not covered by this article.

Various factors enter into a city's cost-of-living for expatriate employees, such as monetary value, consumer confidence, investment, interest rates, exchange rates of the country's currency, and housing costs. This list does not account for cost-of-living savings accrued to local citizens through government-subsidized housing, health care, and education, differences in taxation, and many other factors irrelevant to expatriates. Cost of living may be much higher for expatriates than for local residents in a developing country, especially if expatriates expect a standard of living similar to a developed country.


Mercer's Cost of Living surveys are taken in March of each year.

The survey covers 207 cities around the world and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. It 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 other cities are compared against New York. The cost of housing plays an important part in determining where cities are ranked.

Two main factors determine a city’s ranking in Mercer’s survey - the relative strength of the relevant currency against the US dollar over the prior 12 months and price movements over the prior 12 months compared to those in New York City as the base.

Top ten locations surveyed (2015)[7]
Rank City Country Region
1 Luanda  Angola Africa
2 Hong Kong  China Asia Pacific
3 Zurich   Switzerland Europe
4 Singapore  Singapore Asia Pacific
5 Geneva   Switzerland Europe
6 Shanghai  China Asia Pacific
7 Beijing  China Asia Pacific
8 Seoul  South Korea Asia Pacific
9 Bern   Switzerland Europe
10 N’Djamena  Chad Africa

ECA International[edit]

Every March and September, ECA International calculates the cost of living for expatriates in almost 400 cities around the world. The survey does not include certain living costs such as accommodation, utilities (electricity, gas, water costs), car purchase and school fees. These are usually compensated for separately in expatriate packages from cost of living allowances.

Top 20 cities surveyed (2015)[2]
Ranking City Country
1 Juba  South Sudan
2 Luanda  Angola
3 Zürich   Switzerland
4 Geneva   Switzerland
5 Bern   Switzerland
6 Basel   Switzerland
7 Kinshasa  Democratic Republic of the Congo
8 Shanghai  China
9 Beijing  China
10 Seoul  South Korea
11 Oslo  Norway
12 Hong Kong  China
13 Stavanger  Norway
14 Guangzhou  China
15 Busan  South Korea
16 Tokyo  Japan
17 Conakry  Guinea
18 Shenzhen  China
19 Singapore  Singapore
20 Manhattan  United States

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mercer's 2013 Cost of Living Survey City Rankings – Global Overview". Mercer. July 23, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Singapore is among world’s top 20 most expensive cities for expatriates". ECA International. June 11, 2015. Retrieved October 17, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Cost of Living Rankings for 2014". Xpatulator. Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Cost of Living Index for 2012". Numbeo. Retrieved January 25, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Expatistan Cost of Living Index". Expatistan. Retrieved January 25, 2013. 
  6. ^ Eardex. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
  7. ^ "Mercer's 2015 Cost of Living - City Rankings". Mercer. Retrieved October 17, 2015.