Each year, Mercer conducts a survey on the cost of living around the world. Its goal is to enable governments and multinationals to set the amount for expatriate allowances and premiums for employees that are internationally mobile. Overview of the major trends of 2013.
The survey screened 214 cities on five continents against 200 elements among the various budget accounts including rental housing, transport, food, clothing, household appliances and recreation. As a form of ranking, Mercer uses New York as the base city and therefore defines currency fluctuations against the U.S. dollar.
Although the winners of the 10 most expensive cities is nearly the same in 2013 as it was in 2012, two Japanese cities, Osaka and Nagoya, are off the list while Bern (Switzerland) and Sydney (Australia) have been included. Luanda (Angola) has overtaken Tokyo (Japan) to return to the first place it had in 2010 and 2011. Moscow (Russia) rose from fourth to second place on the podium. Switzerland now has three cities in the Top 10 with Bern being joined by Geneva and Zurich. So included this year are: 1. Luanda (Angola), 2. Moscow (Russia), 3. Tokyo (Japan), 4. N'Djamena (Chad), 5. Singapore, 6. Hong Kong, 7. Geneva (Switzerland), 8. Zurich (Switzerland), 9. Bern (Switzerland), 10. Sydney (Australia).
Housing: 1st expense item
Housing is generally the largest expense burden to employers for their foreign posted employees. Its role is therefore a determining factor in setting the ranking. A furnished apartment with two rooms, meeting international quality standards, has an average monthly costs of $7,091.74 USD in Hong Kong, $6,500 USD in Luanda and $4,600 USD in Moscow.
Goods imported and services purchased are also expense items that weigh heavily in expatriates’ budget and influence ranking. To this is added exchange rate fluctuations and the impact of inflation on goods and services.
The survey’s results reveal significant differences in the cost of living around the world. For example, a cup of coffee in Moscow can cost as much as $8.29 USD compared to $1.54 USD in Managua in Nicaragua, a fast food meal $25.51 USD in D’Jamena compared to $3.62 USD in Calcutta in India, a movie at a cinema $20.66 USD in Zurich compared to $5.91 USD in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Vancouver, the most expensive city in Canada
In the American continents, the cities of South America are found to be the most expensive for expatriate workers. Some cities in Brazil have dropped in the ranking due to a weakening of the Real compared to the US Dollar, while other South American cities have risen due to inflation. This is particularly the case with Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Caracas (Venezuela). Other cities, such as Mexico City (Mexico), have found themselves facing an inventory of rental real estate at especially high prices.
In the United States, New York City is ranked as the most expensive city. In Canada, this spot is reserved for Vancouver, which takes 64th place in world ranking. Most Canadian cities lost a few places in the ranking. The phenomenon is explained by Luc Lalonde, Mercer’s Senior Canadian Advisor, as due to a slight reduction in the value of the Canadian dollar compared to the American dollar and a slower rise in the price of goods and services in Canada that in New York.