Tokyo Becomes World's Most Expensive City For Expats: Survey

by VR Sreeraman on Jul 10 2009 1:08 PM

Tokyo has replaced Moscow as the world's most expensive city for expatriates, and Beijing has moved into the top 10, according to a global survey released Tuesday by consultants Mercer.

Asian and European cities again dominated the top ranks of the world's costliest cities for foreigners, but currency swings including a stronger dollar have reshuffled the global rankings, the firm said.

Cities in the United States, China and the Middle East surged from last year. New York jumped from 22nd to eight place, Beijing is now ninth, up from 20th, while Dubai has climbed 32 places to number 20.

London dropped 13 places from last year to be the 16th most expensive city in the world, while Paris slipped one spot to 13th, according to Mercer's annual Cost of Living survey of 143 cities.

"As a direct impact of the economic downturn over the last year we have observed significant fluctuations in most of the world's currencies, which have had a profound impact on this year?s ranking," said Nathalie Constantin-Metral, senior researcher at the consulting and investment services company.

"Many currencies, including the euro and British pound, have weakened considerably against a strong US dollar, causing a number of European cities to plummet in the rankings," she said in a statement.

The survey uses New York as the base city with an index of 100 points when comparing the cost of 200 items, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.

Tokyo scores 143.7 points and is nearly three times as costly as the cheapest city, Johannesburg, which has an index score of 49.6.

Osaka was in second place -- making Japan the only country with two cities in the top 10 -- followed by Moscow in third, Geneva at four and Hong Kong fifth.

Due to the strengthening dollar, all US cities became more expensive. Los Angeles gained 32 places to 23rd and Washington is up 41 places to 66th.

Most European cities became cheaper for expats, with Warsaw experiencing the most dramatic change, plummeting from 35th to 113th place.

Glasgow fell 60 places to 129th, German and Spanish cities all fell by between eight and 11 places, and cities in Sweden, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary dropped between 36 and 48 places.

Expat life also became cheaper in Australia, New Zealand and India. Sydney has dropped from 15th to 66th and Mumbai has slipped from 48th to 66th place.

Chinese cities gained as the yuan strengthened somewhat against most other currencies, said Mercer. Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou moved up to 12th, 22nd and 23rd respectively.