Mercer's 2013 Cost of Living Rankings

Mercer's 2013 Cost of Living Rankings

Mercer's 2013 Cost of Living Rankings

  • 24-July-2013
  • India, New Delhi

African, European, and Asian cities dominate the top 10 most expensive locations for expatriates, according to Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey

  • Luanda, Angola is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates
  • Mumbai is the most expensive city in India  
  • A cup of coffee in Moscow can cost $8.29 compared to $1.54 in Managua, Nicaragua
  • A fast food hamburger meal in Caracas can cost $13.49  compared to $3.62 in Kolkata

Although more European cities dominate the world’s top costliest locations for expatriates, according to Mercer’s latest Cost of Living Survey, several cities in Asia are among the top 10 while Luanda holds the number one position (see Figure 1).

Mercer's 2013 Cost of Living 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 is used as the base city, and all cities are compared against it. Currency movements are measured against the US dollar.

The survey covers 214 cities across five continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment.

The difference in cost for these items can be dramatic. For example the cost of a cup of coffee in Managua, Nicaragua is $1.54 compared to $8.29 in Moscow; a fast food hamburger meal is $3.62 in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, versus $13.49 in Caracas, and a cinema ticket is $5.91 in Johannesburg compared to $20.10 in London. These are but a few examples of the thousands of comparisons to be found in Mercer’s full report that aid employers in setting cost of living and other expatriate allowances.

Mercer produces individual cost of living and rental accommodation cost reports for each city surveyed. For details or to purchase the full list of city rankings, please visit www.mercer.com/col.

The cost of expatriate housing is typically the biggest expense for employers, and it plays an important part in determining the rankings. The Russian capital of Moscow follows Luanda as the second most expensive city because of high costs for rental accommodation and imported goods and services commonly purchased by expatriates commanding a premium. A luxury two bedroom unfurnished apartment rental for one month in Moscow is $4,600 a month or 14 times as much than Karachi. Rounding out the top five most expensive cities for expatriate living, which also have pricey rental accommodations, are Tokyo, the Chad city Ndjamena, and Singapore.

“Recent world events, including economic and political upheavals, which resulted in currency fluctuations, cost inflation for goods and services, and volatility in accommodation prices have impacted these cities making them expensive,” said Barb Marder, Senior Partner and Mercer’s Global Mobility Practice Leader. “Despite being one of Africa’s major oil producers, Angola is a relatively poor country yet expensive for expatriates since imported goods can be costly. In addition, finding secure living accommodations that meet the standards of expatriates can be challenging and quite costly."

The other cities appearing in Mercer’s list of top 10 costliest cities for expatriates are Hong Kong, Geneva, Bern and Zurich.

According to Ms. Marder, “A recent Mercer global mobility survey shows that all different types of international assignments are on the rise. Given the increasing numbers of business travelers, global ‘commuters’ and longer-term expatriates, companies are keeping a close eye on the cost of living for international assignees in different cities around the world. Organizations need to evaluate the impact of currency fluctuations, inflation, and political instability when sending employees on overseas assignments while ensuring they can facilitate the moves they need to drive the business results by offering fair and competitive compensation packages.”

Currency fluctuations and the impact of inflation on goods and services have affected the cost of expatriate programs as well as the city rankings.

In India Mumbai is the most expensive city for expatriates and ranks 118 in the Index. In the Americas, cities in South America are the most expensive locations for expatriates with São Paolo (19) ranked as the costliest city. San Jose, Costa Rica (126) and Mexico City (138) are the most expensive cities in Central America and Mexico. Vancouver (64) is the highest ranking Canadian city.

Among the cities in South America, some dropped in the ranking as a result of local currencies weakening against the US dollar such as Brazilian cities, while others jumped as a result of high inflation on goods and services and rentals. New York, the base city for Mercer’s Cost of Living ranking, is the most expensive city in the United States.

“Overall, US cities either remained stable in the ranking or have slightly decreased due to the movement of the US dollar against the majority of currencies worldwide,” explained Ms. Constantin-Métral. ”Yet several cities, including New York, moved up in the ranking due to a rise in the rental accommodation market.”

Canadian cities generally moved down in the ranking this year as a result of a slight decrease of the Canadian dollar against the US dollar, and because the prices of goods and services increased at a lower pace than in New York. 

Four European cities are among the top 10 most expensive despite moderate price increases in most European countries. Switzerland remains one of the costliest locations for expatriates despite decreasing or stable accommodation costs and a robust Swiss franc. 

“The cost of living in cities across parts of Europe have generally gone up in the ranking as a result of the slight strengthening of local currencies against the US dollar, whereas in Asia about half of the cities went down in the ranking – Japan especially –due to local currencies’ weakening against the US dollar,” said Nathalie Constantin-Métral, Principal at Mercer with responsibility for compiling the survey ranking.

Some African cities rank high in Mercer’s 2013 survey, reflecting high living costs for expatriate employees.

-Ends-

Notes for editors

Important: The top 10 cities ranked may be reproduced in a table. The figures for Mercer’s cost of living and rental accommodation costs comparisons are derived from a survey conducted in March 2013. March 2013 exchange rates and Mercer’s international basket of goods and services have been used as base measurements.

Governments and major companies use this data to protect the purchasing power of their employees when transferred abroad; rental accommodation costs data is used to assess local expatriate housing allowances. The choice of cities surveyed is based on the demand for data.

 

About Mercer
Mercer is a global consulting leader in talent, health, retirement, and investments. Mercer helps clients around the world advance the health, wealth, and performance of their most vital asset — their people. Mercer's more than 20,000 employees are based in 42 countries, and the firm operates in over 130 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), a global team of professional services companies offering clients advice and solutions in the areas of risk, strategy, and human capital. With 53,000 employees worldwide and annual revenue exceeding $10 billion, Marsh & McLennan Companies is also the parent company of Marsh, a global leader in insurance broking and risk management; Guy Carpenter, a global leader in providing risk and reinsurance intermediary services; and Oliver Wyman, a global leader in management consulting. For more information, visit www.mercer.com. Follow Mercer on Twitter @MercerInsights.

 

Mercer also provides advice and market data on international and expatriate compensation management, and works with multinational companies and governments worldwide. It maintains one of the most comprehensive databases on international assignment policies, compensation practices, and data on worldwide cost of living, housing, and hardship allowances. Its annual global mobility forums provide companies with the latest trends and research on mobility issues. Follow Mercer’s mobility activities on Twitter @MercerMobility.

Figure 1: Top 10 Costliest Cities for Expatriates

Rank as of March 2013

City

Country

1

LUANDA

Angola

2

MOSCOW

Russia

3

TOKYO

Japan

4

NDJAMENA

Chad

5

SINGAPORE

Singapore

6

HONG KONG

Hong Kong

7

GENEVA

Switzerland

8

ZURICH

Switzerland

9

BERN

Switzerland

9

SYDNEY

Australia

Source: Mercer’s 2013 Cost of Living Survey

Figure 2: Cost of living comparisons – 2013 select cities worldwide – USD
(NB purchases at medium-priced establishments)

 

LUANDA

MOSCOW

TOKYO

NDJAMENA

SINGAPORE

HONGKONG

GENEVA

ZURICH

BERN

SYDNEY

Rent of a luxury two bedroom unfurnished apartment (per month)

6500.00

4600.00

4513.34

NA

3794.94

7091.69

4349.74

3914.77

2686.51

2551.42

Rent of a luxury three bedroom unfurnished House (per month)

15000.00

8000.00

7199.86

2244.62

7266.91

13538.68

7068.33

5980.89

NA

5163.64

Cinema, international release, 1 seat

10.42

11.60

19.34

NA

9.28

11.60

18.48

20.66

18.95

19.62

Pair of Blue jeans

204.41

169.13

135.40

NA

129.11

115.92

141.26

141.26

138.00

113.55

1 issue of international daily newspaper

5.42

9.95

5.37

6.94

3.63

3.87

4.35

4.35

4.35

6.20

1 cup of coffee, including service

3.88

8.29

6.98

3.06

4.84

5.67

6.52

5.98

4.68

5.16

Fast food hamburger meal

20.06*

6.47

7.31

25.51*

5.61

3.54

12.51

12.51

12.51

9.24

One liter of gasoline, unleaded 95 octane

0.63

1.04

1.74

0.98

1.76

2.23

2.02

2.02

2.02

1.51

Milk, pasteurized whole milk, above 2.5% fat (1lt / 33.8 oz)

3.18

7.59

3.05

2.75

2.62

3.12

1.74

1.74

1.74

2.67

1 liter of soda

2.14

1.77

1.92

1.63

1.13

1.02

1.60

1.60

1.60

2.15

*In Luanda, and Ndjamena this category was replaced by a club sandwich and soda meal in the absence of any comparable fast food outlets.
Source: Mercer’s 2013 Cost of Living Survey

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