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Most expensive cities for expats: Singapore rises to 8th place, Kuala Lumpur moves down to 167th

Most expensive cities for expats: Singapore rises to 8th place, Kuala Lumpur moves down to 167th


Meanwhile, Hong Kong has moved down one place to now stand as the second most expensive location in the world for expats, behind New York.

Singapore has moved up four spots to become the eighth most expensive location in the world for expats, according to ECA International's latest Cost of Living research. At the same time, Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur has moved into the 167th spot, down five places from the same period in 2021.

According to Lee Quane, Regional Director - Asia, ECA International, Singapore's rise in the rankings is largely attributed to the double-digit increase in rental costs in 2022. " The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the supply of accommodation coming to market, and the resurgent demand has increased significantly with the city reopening its borders once again. This may be a short-term shock, but it has nevertheless been responsible for Singapore’s current position as one of the ten most expensive cities worldwide," he explained.

Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur's drop comes following the ringgit's weakness against the US dollar, which offset the impact of inflation in the city. In Asia, it stands in the 32nd spot.

The research also noted a change in Hong Kong's rankings this year – while the city stood in first place in 2020 and 2021, it moved down one spot to second place this year. This, it was highlighted, comes as the demand for rental accommodation in the city has weakened on account of its "ongoing sub-par economic performance", causing rents to fall.

With the above in mind, here are the top 10 most expensive cities in the world for expats:

  1. New York (2021: 4th place)
  2. Hong Kong (2021: 1st place)
  3. Geneva (2021: 2nd place)
  4. Tel Aviv (2021: 5th place)
  5. London (2021: 6th place)
  6. San Francisco (2021: 13th place)
  7. Zurich (2021: 7th place)
  8. Singapore (2021: 12th place)
  9. Seoul (2021: 8th place)
  10. Moscow (2021: 52nd place)

Within Asia, the top 10 most expensive cities for expats are:

  1. Hong Kong (2021: 1st place)
  2. Singapore (2021: 12th place)
  3. Seoul (2021: 8th place)
  4. Shanghai (2021: 9th place)
  5. Tokyo (2021: 3rd place)
  6. Guangzhou (2021: 10th place)
  7. Shenzhen (2021: 11th place)
  8. Beijing (2021: 15th place)
  9. Taipei (2021: 19th place)
  10. Yokohama (2021: 16th place)

How various cities within Southeast Asia, Asia as a whole, and the world have fared this year

Among Southeast Asian cities studied this year, cities across Thailand and the Philippines have all seen drops in this year’s rankings. Bangkok fell 12 places to 63rd, continuing its move away from the global top 50, while Manila fell 10 places to 67th and Cebu City dropped 14 places to 169th globally. Laos, in particular, saw the largest fall in rankings among Southeast Asian locations, with Vientiane dropping 29 places to 193rd in the world as a result of the Kip weakening against the US dollar by 38%.

Within Asia, with China's yuan weakening against the US dollar and amidst relatively low inflation rates, Chinese cities found themselves further down the rankings compared to last year, with Guangzhou and Shanghai dropping out of the global top 10.

Meanwhile, Japan, which has typically been regarded as a country with a relatively high cost of living, saw a significant departure from the norm this year. The depreciation of the Japanese yen by 20% year-on-year against the US dollar led to big falls in the rankings for all Japanese cities surveyed – Tokyo, which ranked third globally last year, has fallen out of the top 10 this year, while Nagoya fell 49 places to 87th.

Finally, looking at the global standing, New York has been named the most expensive location in the world, owing to the strength of the US dollar and high inflation. These factors have also led to all other US cities moving up in this year’s rankings, with San Francisco now in sixth spot and Los Angeles entering the global top 20.

In contrast, most locations in Europe have seen drops in their positions despite high inflation rates driven by rising fuel and food costs. This, the research found, was primarily spurred by a weakened euro and British pound, which has made expenses in regional cities cheaper in comparison to other cities around the world.

Over in Turkey, inflation rates were observed to have surged beyond 100%, making the country more expensive for expats and tourists alike despite the plunging value of the lira. In specific, Istanbul rose 27 places to 150th, while Ankara moved out of last place to 205th.

Image / ECA International

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