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Moscow is the most expensive city int he world for expatriates

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Moscow is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates for the third consecutive year, according to the latest Cost of Living Survey from Mercer. Tokyo is in second position climbing two places since last year, whereas London drops one place to rank third. Oslo climbs six places to 4th place and is followed by Seoul in 5th. Asunción in Paraguay is the least expensive city in the ranking for the sixth year running.

With New York as the base city scoring 100 points, Moscow scores 142.4 and is close to three times costlier than Asunción which has an index of 52.5. Contrary to the trend observed last year the gap between the world’s most and least expensive cities now seems to be widening. 

Mercer’s survey covers 143 cities across six continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. It is the world’s most comprehensive cost of living survey and is used to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees. 

London is the next European city in the ranking at 3rd place (score 125), down one from last year, while Oslo has jumped six places to rank 4th with a score of 118.3. “Norwegian property prices were at an all-time high towards the end of last year after a 50% increase in the last five years. Coupled with the continuous strengthening of the Norwegian krone this has created a substantial increase in living costs for expatriates in Oslo. 

Several European cities have experienced a significant rise in the rankings this year, mainly as a result of local currency strengthening against the US dollar. For example, Prague has jumped from 49th to 29th place (score 96) and Warsaw is up to 35th place (score 95) compared to 67th in 2007. Istanbul has climbed 15 places to rank 23 (score 99.4) reflecting the Turkish lira’s significant appreciation against the US dollar as well as general price increases, especially for accommodation. 

The only North American city to feature in this year’s top 50 is New York in 22nd place (score 100), dropping seven places in one year. All other US cities have also experienced a significant decline in the rankings. For example, Los Angeles has moved from 42nd to 55th place (score 87.5), Miami from 51st to 75th place (score 82) and Washington, DC, from 85th to 107th place (score 74.6). 

Whilst the five top-scoring cities in Asia remain relatively stable in the ranking there have been significant changes further down the list. In India, Mumbai moves up four places to reach 48 (score 90.3), whereas New Delhi climbs 13 places to 55 (score 87.5) due to the strengthening of the India rupee against the US dollar. Although India has experienced relatively high inflation, this has increased at similar pace to New York and has therefore had a reduced impact on its cities’ rise in the rankings. Manila rises a total of 27 places, ranking 110th with a score of 73.4, mainly as a result of price increases for international-standard accommodation. 

In contrast, certain cities in this region have experienced significant falls in the ranking. Some examples are Jakarta falling from 55th to 82nd place (score 80.5) and Bangkok dropping from 95th to 105th place with a score of 75.1. Sydney continues to be the most expensive city for expatriates in this region, moving up six places in the overall ranking to reach 15th place (score 104.1). Melbourne follows in 36th place (score 94.2), jumping 28 places and Perth climbs 31 places to reach ranking number 53 (score 88.5).  

Yvonne Traber, a principal and research manager at Mercer, commented: “Current market conditions have led to the further weakening of the US dollar which, coupled with the strengthening of the Euro and many other currencies, has caused significant changes in this year’s rankings. 

“Our research confirms the global trend in price increases for certain foodstuffs and petrol, though the rise is not consistent in all locations. This is partly balanced by decreasing prices for certain commodities such as electronic and electrical goods. We attribute this to cheaper imports from developing countries, especially China , and to advances in technology.  


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