Research highlights expensive locations for expatriates in Asia.

Hong Kong expense.

The latest Cost of Living survey published by ECA International has found Hong Kong to be the third most expensive location in Asia for expatriate workers to live, and sixth most expensive in the world.

“Hong Kong’s place in the rankings has remained stable this year with the city continuing to be the sixth most expensive location in the world for expatriates” said Lee Quane, regional director – Asia for ECA International. “Despite the ongoing socio-political upheavals and the fact that the economy is in recession, we have yet to see a real impact in the cost of living in the city. Indeed, Hong Kong has only been overtaken by Tokyo due to the strong performance of the Japanese yen throughout 2019, which has moved many Japanese cities up the rankings. Furthermore, we expect prices in Japan to increase further owing to the recent increase in consumption tax while next year’s Olympics in Tokyo are likely to have further inflationary effects. As such, we expect Tokyo to remain above Hong Kong into 2020.”

ECA International has been conducting research into cost of living for more than 45 years. It carries out two main surveys per year to help companies calculate cost of living allowances so that their employees’ spending power is protected while on international assignment. The surveys compare a basket of like-for-like consumer goods and services commonly purchased by assignees in over 480 locations worldwide. Certain living costs, such as accommodation rental, utilities, car purchases and school fees are usually covered by separate allowances. Data for these costs are collected separately and are not included in ECA’s cost of living basket.

In spite of the impact of Swine Flu on pork prices, many Chinese cities surveyed by ECA have fallen slightly in the rankings. This is mainly due to weakness of the yuan against major currencies in the past 12 months, “While rising pork prices have pushed up costs for many Chinese households in the past 12 months, the impact on cost of living for expatriates in Chinese cities versus their peers elsewhere has been limited as pork tends to be less popular among most expatriates and because of the weakness of the currency” advises Quane.

Macau has bucked the trend in the greater China region as it continues to move up the rankings from 25 last year to 18, whilst Taipei, Taiwan’s most expensive city, has remained static at 31. Thai cities continue to be among the biggest risers in the cost of living rankings, with Bangkok rising 43 places and entering the top 50 most expensive locations for the first time at 47th place.

Quane said “Bangkok, long seen as a cheap destination for holidaymakers and expatriates alike, has seen a huge jump in its rankings, moving the most out of all Asian cities surveyed. this is largely the consequence of a strong Thai baht. We have seen Thai cities moving significantly up the rankings over the past few years; Bangkok has moved up 75 places in the last two years alone and Chiang Mai has moved up 56 places in the same period.”


With the Singapore dollar continuing to perform strongly, Singapore has risen in the rankings for a second year running, moving up 5 places to become the 13th most expensive location in the world.

“Despite low inflation and weakening global trade growth Singapore has risen five places to be the 13th most expensive city in the world thanks to the continued strength of the Singapore dollar. Singapore is now more expensive for expatriates than Seoul and Shanghai,” explained Quane.


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