SINGAPORE (June 13): Singapore is now the 12th most expensive location in the world for expatriates, according to the latest cost of living survey published by ECA International.

The annual study, which compares a basket of like-for-like consumer goods and services in 482 locations worldwide, also places Singapore as the 6th most expensive location in Asia Pacific.

“Singapore’s rise in our rankings is largely due to another strong year for the Singapore dollar,” says Lee Quane, regional director for Asia at ECA International. “While increases in prices have been small over the past year, the strength of the Singapore dollar relative to other currencies makes Singapore the 12th most expensive location in the world and the sixth in Asia, overtaking Beijing, Busan and Yokohama from a year ago.”

Singapore has risen 18 places since 2014, when it was 30th in the global rankings. Last year, the city-state was ranked as the 20th most expensive location for expatriates.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong is now the fourth most expensive location for expatriates – up from 11th last year – and the second most expensive location in Asia.

Hong Kong trails behind Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, and Zurich and Geneva in Switzerland.

“Hong Kong is now one of the top five most expensive locations for expatriates, primarily due to the continued strength of the Hong Kong dollar and relatively higher rates of inflation witnessed in the Special Administrative Region in the past 12 months. Prices in Hong Kong rose at a faster rate in the past 12 months compared to Tokyo, Shanghai and Seoul – all of which were ranked higher in our previous survey,” explains Quane.

The location with the highest cost of living in the world was Ashgabat, which rose a staggering 110 places from last year.

“Although the rise of Ashgabat in the rankings may be a surprise to some, those familiar with the economic and currency issues experienced by Turkmenistan over the past few years may have seen this coming. Ever-escalating levels of inflation, coupled with a prominent illegal black market for foreign currencies have pushed up the cost of imports. This implies that the costs for visitors in Ashgabat, at the official exchange rate, have increased enormously – putting it firmly at the top of the rankings,” says Quane.

One of the biggest jumpers in Asia is Bangkok, rising 36 places to now the 63rd most expensive location. The city is now significantly more expensive than regional capitals including Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Manila.

Despite several advancements in many China cities, most of the cities included in the rankings remained rather static. Shanghai was the only Chinese city to be featured in the global top 10, staying at the same spot from a year ago. All 14 Chinese cities featured in the rankings are in the global top 50.

The Chinese yuan has remained stable compared to other currencies during the survey period, while inflation in tier one cities have moderated compared to other Asian cities. However, tier-two Chinese cities have seen prices rising at a faster rate, resulting in a narrowing gap in living costs for expatriate workers in tier one and tier two cities in the past year.

Meanwhile, with the Euro seeing mixed performance over the past 12 months, all Eurozone cities experienced a fall in their rankings compared to last year. The only European locations that bucked this trend were cities in the United Kingdom which were fairly static, and a few Eastern European locations that were unaffected by the poor performance of the Euro.

In the US, several cities saw big rises in the cost of living rankings, as the USD strengthened.

“The strong US dollar has resulted in dramatic rises in the rankings for all locations in the US, implying that expatriates and overseas visitors to the US will now find that they need more of their home currency to buy the same goods and services as they did just one year ago. However, there are no US cities featured in the global top 20 and the vast majority still sits outside of the global top 50. As such, the US still remains generally cheaper than many places in the world,” says Quane.

ECA’s survey helps companies to ensure employees’ spending power is maintained when they are sent overseas on assignments. Certain living costs, such as rent, utilities and school fees, are not included.

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