SINGAPORE – Singapore remains in the top 20 most expensive locations in the world for expatriates to live in, despite the impact of COVID-19. This was one of the findings of the latest Cost of Living survey published by ECA International.
Singapore is now the 14th most expensive location in the world – down two places from last year. However, the cost of living has remained largely steady in the country.
“Although Singapore has dropped very slightly in the global rankings while three Japanese cities have edged above it, Singapore remains an expensive location for overseas workers to be based in.
“The Singapore dollar has remained strong in recent years, and the country sits below only Hong Kong and Japanese cities in terms of the most expensive Asian locations for expatriates,” said Lee Quane, Regional Director, Asia at ECA International.
The survey showed that Hong Kong has dropped slightly in the rankings after falling behind the Swiss cities of Basel and Bern, and now sits outside of the top five most expensive locations globally.
“Despite experiencing political and social unrest over the course of 2019, and more recently the impact of the COVID-19 which has led to the reluctance of people moving to the city, Hong Kong has only seen a small drop in the global rankings amid the uncertainties,” Quane noted.
Chinese cities have all dropped in the most recent cost of living rankings this year. This includes Beijing and Shanghai, which both fell nine places – coming in at 24th and 19th place respectively.
“Chinese cities have all fallen across the board in our latest rankings due to signs of a weakening economy and poorly performing currency. One of the key contributing factors was undoubtedly the outbreak of COVID-19.
“However, it is important to note that the yuan was performing poorly before this period too, with the outbreak of the coronavirus exacerbating the relative weakness of the Chinese currency against other major currencies,” Quane said.
Similarly, the cost of living in the Republic of Korea has been hit by COVID-19 as well, with Seoul falling from 8th place to 17th place in the global rankings, and Busan dropping out of the top 20 entirely.
Quane said that South Korea’s quick lockdown, coupled with the high rates of infection that its cities saw towards the end of February, meant that confidence in the South Korean won had faltered which in turn makes the cost of living cheaper for expatriates living in the country.
Many European cities saw a drop in the cost of living as the value of the euro weakened slightly from the last survey. Major European cities such as Berlin, Madrid and Rome have continued to fall in the rankings and remain outside of the top 100 most expensive cities for overseas workers.
Australian cities experienced some of the biggest falls in the rankings this year, with every Australian city seeing a drop of over 20 places. The survey showed that this is due to the weakened Australian dollar in the past year and concerns over the reliance of the Australian economy on China, which has been showing some signs of slowing growth, even before the COVID-19 outbreak.
The survey revealed that Ashgabat is still the most expensive location in the world for expatriates as prices increased by 30% in the year to March. However, it should be noted that while the manat is still officially pegged to the U.S. dollar, there is an illegal but active black-market exchange rate in the city.
ECA International’s cost of living surveys are carried out in March and September using a basket of day-to-day goods and services commonly purchased by assignees. The data used refers to year-on-year movements between ECA’s March 2019 and March 2020 surveys.