Singapore drops in global cost of living rankings for expats: ECA International report

Singapore has dropped by one place to be in the 13th position in the global cost of living rankings, but remains in the top 10 most expensive locations for expatriates to live and work in Asia, stated the latest Cost of Living research published by management and survey firm ECA International.

carries out two main surveys per year to help companies calculate cost of living allowances
ECA International carries out two main surveys per year to help companies calculate cost of living allowances. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@skathpalia

Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia at ECA International said that the changes in the costs for expatriates living and working in various countries were largely dependent on currency changes.

"Consequently, as the Singapore dollar has been weaker than the yuan in the last 12 months, this has caused Singapore to fall behind Shenzhen and Guangzhou in our global rankings,” he added.

Hong Kong retained its spot as the most expensive location for expatriates globally, while Chinese cities made a strong showing as the country’s economy rebounded post-COVID, with Guangzhou and Shanghai both among the global top ten.

“Despite falling rental prices and the Hong Kong dollar weakening against currencies such as the Euro and Yuan, the city has retained its spot as the most expensive location in the world for expatriates. While New York was a strong competitor to Hong Kong – having placed second in last year’s global rankings – the struggling US dollar allowed Hong Kong to retain its top spot among the global rankings, while bumping New York to fourth place,” Quane said.

Meanwhile, the majority of Chinese cities rose in the latest rankings, with Guangzhou joining Shanghai in the global top ten for the first time. Shenzhen and Beijing are also placed among the top ten most expensive cities in Asia, and the top 20 globally.

US locations fell in the global rankings after a tough spell for the dollar, with San Francisco falling out of the global top ten to be in 15th place, and New York dropping two places to be in fourth place.

In contrast, Australian locations all performed significantly better in the latest rankings, as the country recovered strongly from a series of major COVID-19 lockdowns in some states.

"However, with the country still shut off to most overseas visitors, it has not been possible for many expat workers to experience these benefits,” said Quane.

Similarly, the vast majority of cities in the Eurozone and the UK moved up the global rankings amidst low levels of inflation, owing to strong currencies.

Vienna and Munich moved into the global top 50, while London climbed by one place to enter the top five most expensive locations for expatriates.

On the other hand, Rio de Janeiro saw the biggest plunge in this year’s rankings – dropping 52 places to 163rd place, despite rising inflation levels. This can be attributed to the continued weakening of the Brazilian real amidst high COVID-19 rates in the country, as well as its historically low interest rates.

ECA International has been conducting research into cost of living for 50 years. It carries out two main surveys per year to help companies calculate cost of living allowances so that their employees' spending power is protected while on international assignment.