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Singapore Ranks Fifth Among the Most Expensive Cities To Be an Expat

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Singaporeans may complain about how Singapore feels like the most expensive city in the world, with the high cost of living seemingly draining our pockets here.

But a recent cost of living survey released by Mercer shows that this is not the case. Instead, the city of Hong Kong snagged the top spot as the most expensive destination for expatriates in Asia and globally.

Singapore eventually came in fifth, down two places in the ranking from last year. It was even overtaken by Turkenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, which came in second in a relatively surprising turn of events.

The top 10 list was largely dominated by Asian cities this time round, with Tokyo in third, Shanghai in seventh and Beijing coming in at tenth.

The Switzerland cities of Zurich (4th), Bern (8th) and Geneva (9th) represented Europe in the top 10.

New York City was the only city from the United states in the top 10, coming in sixth.

On the flip side, cities such as Tunis and Windhoek were ranked the least and second least expensive cities for expatriates.

Top 10 expensive cities for expatriates:

  1. Hong Kong, China
  2. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
  3. Tokyo, Japan
  4. Zurich, Switzerland
  5. Singapore
  6. New York, United States
  7. Shanghai, China
  8. Bern, Switzerland
  9. Geneva, Switzerland
  10. Beijing, China

Mercer’s 2020 Cost of Living Survey

The survey was conducted in March 2020 and included over 400 cities throughout the globe. The ranking this year includes 209 cities, spanning across 5 continents.

Comparative costs of more than 200 items are taken into consideration for each location including transportation, housing, food, clothing, entertainment and household goods. New York City is used as the base city for all comparisons and the movement of currencies is measured against the US dollar.

Ultimately, the survey aims to aid governments and multinational companies to determine the appropriate pay for their expatriate employees.

This survey does so by taking into account factors that are deemed essential in order to determine the cost of expatriate packages for overseas assignments. Such factors include currency fluctuations, cost inflation for goods and services, and instability of accommodation prices.

The future of international relocation 

While the survey was conducted just as the COVID-19 pandemic began gripping the world, the shaking up of the rankings reveals just how great the effects of the pandemic has been.

As the world economy reels from the impact of the pandemic, the international relocation industry will undergo some major changes as well during these uncertain times.

Both the insights revealed by Mercer’s 2020 Cost of Living Survey and current travel restrictions against the backdrop of COVID-19 will impact the flow and distribution of manpower of the relocation industries. Companies will need to undergo paradigm shifts in their allocation of manpower by utilizing new working arrangements such as telecommuting as well as alternative arrangements of international assignments.

Leveraging on technology in the relocation industry has become even more pertinent in order to reduce as much cost as possible during these international moves. Processes such as the digitisation of data, like property preferences and personal information of customers, will help make the relocation process smoother and ensure that moving costs remain reasonable.

Read more about the Mercer’s 2020 Cost of Living Survey here.

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