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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.


“There have been some significant changes in the rankings since last year. These are primarily due to exchange rate fluctuations - in particular, the weakening of the US Dollar and strengthening of the Euro,” said Rebecca Powers, a principal and senior consultant at Mercer.


Europe, Middle East and Africa

Moscow is the most expensive city in Europe and in the rest of the world, for the second year running, with a score of 134.4 (compared with 123.9 in 2006). “The appreciation of the Rouble against the US Dollar, combined with ever-increasing accommodation charges, has driven up costs for expatriates in Moscow,” said Yvonne Traber, research manager and senior associate at Mercer.


London has climbed three positions to second place in the ranking (score 126.3). “Steep property rental costs, together with the strengthening of the British Pound compared to the US Dollar, have contributed to the city’s high ranking,” commented Ms Yvonne Traber.


Other costly European cities include Copenhagen in 6th place (110.2), Geneva in 7th (109.8) and Zurich in 9th (107.6). Oslo remains in 10th place with a score of 105.8 while Milan climbs two places to position 11 (104.4). Sofia in Bulgaria is Europe’s least expensive city in 108th place with a score of 72.5.


The strengthening of the Euro has resulted in a number of European cities moving significantly up the ranking this year. For example, Stockholm has moved up from 36th position to reach 23rd place (score 93.1) while Amsterdam has climbed from 41st position to 25th (92.2). Cities in Spain, Greece, Germany and the UK also rank notably higher this year.


Ms Yvonne Traber commented: “The relative strength of the Euro and other European currencies, including the Swiss Franc and the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian Krone, has pushed up the living costs faced by expatriates in many European countries.”


Tel Aviv is the costliest city in the Middle East. The Israeli city ranks in 17th place and scores 97.7. Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates have moved down in the ranking this year. The main reason for this drop is that the UAE Dirham is pegged to the US Dollar. The majority of African cities covered by the survey come in the bottom half of the ranking.


The Americas

New York remains the most expensive city in North America but drops five places to position 15 (score 100). Other North American cities have dropped more steeply and only New York and Los Angeles (position 42, score 87.1) rank in the top 50 cities.


“The decline of most US cities in the ranking can be attributed to the depreciation of the US dollar against the Euro and other major currencies worldwide. The change reflects a reversal of the situation experienced this time last year, when the majority of US cities climbed the ranking due to the strength of the dollar,” said Ms Powers.


Toronto, the most expensive city in Canada, has dropped 35 places to position 82 (score 78.8). Calgary and Vancouver have also tumbled down the rankings, sliding from 71st place to 92nd and 56th to 89th respectively. Ottawa remains the cheapest Canadian city in 109th position scoring 72.3. Canadian cities have traditionally rated favourably in the worldwide ranking. The new scores reflect a low rate of inflation and stable housing prices. In addition, while it has appreciated slightly against the US Dollar, the Canadian Dollar has depreciated nearly 13% against the Euro since last year’s survey.


Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have dropped significantly in the ranking, but remain the most expensive cities in Latin America. Sao Paulo is now placed 62nd, compared with 34th in 2006, and is followed by Rio de Janeiro in 64th place (position 40 in 2006). Although the Brazilian Real has remained stable against the US Dollar over the last 12 months, the Brazilian cities surveyed have been pushed down the ranking as they give way to European cities that are ascending due to the buoyancy of the Euro.


Globally, the least costly city is Asuncion in Paraguay for the fifth consecutive year (score 50). Other low-ranking cities include Karachi, Quito and Montevideo in 142nd (score 56.1), 141st (56.3) and 140th place (58.4) respectively.



Four of the world’s top 10 costliest cities for expatriates are in Asia. Seoul ranks in 3rd place (score 122.4), Tokyo in 4th (122.1) and Hong Kong in 5th (119.4) – all have been pushed down one place this year.


Chinese cities have moved down the ranking this year. Beijing ranks 20th and scores 95.9, while Shanghai is in 26th place with a score of 92.1. Over the past 12 months, the value of the Chinese Yuan has decreased by around 6% against the Euro. This factor, together with a low inflation rate and stable property rental prices, has kept the major Chinese cities from moving up the ranking. Accommodation costs have not escalated because, while demand is increasing, the availability of high-quality rentals in these cities is also good.


In contrast, elsewhere in Asia, the cost of international-standard accommodation has pushed some cities up the ranking. For example, sharp increases in house prices have contributed to Singapore climbing from 17th to 14th position. Rising property prices have also caused Indian cities to move up the ranking – for example, Mumbai has jumped from position 68 to 52 (score 84.9).



Wellington is the least costly city in this region in 111th place with a score of 71.8. Auckland climbs one place to rank 99th (score 73.9). Expatriates in Australia continue to face higher living costs than their counterparts in New Zealand. Sydney remains the most expensive city in Australia at position 21 with a score of 94.9. Melbourne occupies position 60, up 14 places from last year, and scores 82.5. Adelaide is in 96th place (score 74.7).


(Coutesy of City Mayors)


Top 50


Edited by jesseps
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  • 4 years later...
The Americas


Up 11 and 17 places in the ranking respectively, São Paolo (10) and Rio de Janeiro (12) are now the most expensive locations for expatriates in both North and South America. In South America, Brasilia (33) is the third most expensive city, up 37 places since last year’s ranking. High inflation on goods and services means Caracas in Venezuela has also shot up in the rankings, to rank 51 from 100 in 2010. Bolivia’s La Paz (212) and Nicaragua’s Managua (213) were the least expensive cities in South America.


“Inflation pressures continue to be the main impact on the cost of goods and services in Argentina and Venezuela, causing their cities to jump in the ranking. Overall, exchange rates in South America remain relatively stable, with the exception of local currencies in Brazil, Chile and Costa Rica which have all strengthened significantly against the US dollar, causing the region's cities to rise in the ranking.” according to Ms Constantin-Métral.


At rank 32, New York is the most expensive city in the United States. Los Angeles (77) and Chicago (108) have dropped significantly in the rankings (22 and 17 places respectively) as price increases on goods and services have been moderate compared to New York. Washington, however, also at ranking 108, has climbed three places, as rental accommodation prices have increased significantly. Ms Constantin-Métral said: “Generally speaking rental prices increased slightly in most US cities as the economy is recovering and demand for housing is catching up.”


Portland (186) and Winston-Salem (197) are the least expensive cities in the United States. Up 17 places, Toronto (59) has overtaken Vancouver (65) to become the most expensive Canadian city in the ranking, followed by Montreal (79) and Calgary (96). Ranking 114, Ottawa is the least expensive city in Canada.


(Courtesy of Mercer)

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  • 6 years later...

An annual cost of living survey shows Toronto and Vancouver are Canada’s most expensive cities.

Mercer’s survey ranks more than 375 cities around the world and considers factors like the cost of housing, transportation, food, clothing and other expenses compared to New York City as the base.

In this year’s ranking Toronto advanced 10 spots to the 109th spot and Vancouver fell two spots to tie with Toronto.

Mercer says most Canadian cities fell in this year’s ranking, including Montreal — down 18 spots to 147 — and Calgary — down 11 spots to 154.

Mercer says the drop comes due to relatively stable market conditions.

The survey says Hong Kong, Tokyo, Zurich, Singapore and Seoul are the top five most expensive cities in the world.

(Courtesy of The Montreal Gazette)

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