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Business trends

Asian cities climb up the ranks as most expensive for expats

China rises due to stronger monetary regulation and flourishing economy

Hong Kong took the top spot as most expensive city for expats in 2018.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Asian cities moved up the ranks of world’s most expensive for expatriates, with four cities placing in the top five, according to the latest cost of living survey by international human resources consulting firm Mercer.

Hong Kong topped the list, surpassing last year’s most expensive city Luanda, Angola, which fell to sixth place. These two locations frequently top the list for high-priced accommodations, but Luanda’s housing market has seen a downtrend.

Mercer compiles its comparisons on living and housing expenses for employees working abroad every year.

The other Asian cities in this year's top five were Tokyo, Singapore and Seoul, all moving up one notch from last year.

Chinese cities also rose because of China's stronger monetary regulation, its flourishing economy and a push to have the yuan used as an international currency, said Yvonne Traber, who works for Mercer on international assignment management issues.

Shanghai ranked seventh and Beijing ninth, both up from the previous year. Guangzhou rose three spots to 15th, while Nanjing gained seven places to 25th.

Overall rankings in the Asia Pacific region were affected by changes in other regions, rather than by significant inflation in Asia, Mercer said.

Australian cities fell in the rankings, with Brisbane and Perth falling 13 and 11 places to 84th and 61st, respectively. Sydney, the highest ranked Australian city, came in 29th.

“In general, cities that fall in the middle of the ranking are at greater risk of experiencing significant changes in their positions due to the movement of other cities,” Traber said.

Bangkok jumped 15 places to 52nd, while Kuala Lumpur moved up 20 places to 145th.

Costs are calculated in U.S. dollars and are affected by exchange rates. An economic recovery in Europe and a falling dollar against other major currencies led to rises in the rankings of European cities. German cities surged the most, with Frankfurt and Berlin moving up 49 spots to 68th and 71st, respectively.

New York dropped four places to 13th, while San Francisco and Los Angeles fell seven and 12 places to 28th and 35th respectively.

In the Middle East, a decline in the cost of rental accommodations resulted in lower rankings. The most expensive city was Tel Aviv in 16th place.

The survey included over 209 cities across five continents, and measured the comparative costs of more than 200 items, including transportation, food, housing and clothing.

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