This is the world’s most expensive city for overseas workers

most expensive city

Uprooting your life and moving to another side of the world for work isn’t always a walk in the park.

For many expats, the cost of living is a major factor in deciding where to go. And guess what? Hong Kong has once again claimed the title of the most expensive city in the world for overseas workers, according to the 2024 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, released Monday.

This bustling Asian metropolis, which topped the list in both 2022 and 2023, is followed closely by Singapore. The two cities have long been known as global financial hubs, with the former in particular being home to a number of British and French nationals who work in finance.

Swiss cities dominate much of the rest of the top 10, with Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern taking third, fourth, fifth and sixth place respectively.

The Mercer report, which examined 226 cities, compared the cost of more than 200 items including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.

New York was the highest-ranking US city, coming in seventh. London, which was 17th last year, made a surprising jump to eighth place. Nassau, Bahamas secured ninth, with Los Angeles rounding out the top 10.

“The cost of housing is a major factor in the Cost of Living City Ranking,” the study notes, highlighting that employees who spend a large chunk of their income on rent or mortgages have “less disposable income for other expenses.”

Between 2023 and 2024, rental prices varied significantly across cities. Additionally, inflation and exchange-rate fluctuations directly impacted the pay and savings of international workers.

Toronto was ranked as the most expensive city in Canada for international employees at 92, followed by Vancouver at 101. Some cities saw significant jumps, like Mexico City’s leap up 46 places to 33, and Monterrey climbing 40 places to 115.

1. Hong Kong
2. Singapore
3. Zurich, Switzerland
4. Geneva, Switzerland
5. Basel, Switzerland
6. Bern, Switzerland
7. New York City
8. London, United Kingdom
9. Nassau, Bahamas
10. Los Angeles

The cost of living in the US remains a significant issue, with seven American cities in the top 20.

Vince Cordova, partner and mobility advisory leader at Mercer US, suggests in an interview with CNN that inflationary pressures might give some foreign nationals pause before accepting positions in high-cost US cities. He advises employers to be transparent about cost of living and net pay information to help prospective staff make informed decisions.

At the other end of the spectrum, Pakistan’s Islamabad and Nigeria’s Lagos and Abuja were the least expensive cities, partly due to currency depreciations. Among the 200 products considered in the rankings, olive oil saw the most notable price hike.

“Cost-of-living challenges have had a significant impact on multinational organizations and their employees,” Yvonne Traber, Mercer’s global mobility leader, told the outlet.

“It is important for organizations to stay informed about cost-of-living trends and inflation rates and seek input from employees on these issues to effectively manage their effects.”

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