Singapore among top 10 expensive locations for expats in Asia, Shanghai tops the list

The island nation, however, maintained its 9th spot in the Asia Pacific region where Shanghai took the top spot. -- ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
The island nation, however, maintained its 9th spot in the Asia Pacific region where Shanghai took the top spot. -- ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Singapore has jumped 12 places in March 2015 from a year ago to become the 19th most expensive location for expatriates globally in a list of 30 topped by South Sudan capital of Juba.

The island nation, however, maintained its 9th spot in the Asia Pacific region where Shanghai took the top spot.

The list by ECA International is part of the bi-annual Cost of Living Survey carried out in March and September using a basket of day-to-day goods and services commonly purchased by assignees in over 440 locations worldwide.

It attributed Singapore's leap on the list to "a strong currency", a release issued on Thursday said.

"Although, like many currencies, the Singapore dollar has weakened against the US dollar between annual surveys, it strengthened against a number of other major currencies," said Lee Quane, Asia region director of ECA International. "Assignees having been relocated from one of these locations into Singapore are likely to require a higher cost of living allowance in order to maintain their spending power."

The allowance is part of pay packages to ensure that an employee's spending power is maintained when they are sent on international assignment. It is affected by differences in inflation levels as well as exchange rate movements between an employee's home and host country.

Shanghai has become Asia Pacific's most expensive location for expatriates for the first time. Globally, the Chinese city has moved into the top 10 to 8th position - up from last year's 18th spot - just ahead of Beijing (9th globally) and Seoul (10th).

Tokyo ranked two spots above Singapore in the region, as the goods and services in ECA's shopping basket were just over 2 per cent dearer in the Japanese capital than Singapore as opposed to 14 per cent a year ago. It ranked 16th globally.

Seoul, the region's second highest location a year ago has slipped to the third spot.

Hong Kong is Asia Pacific's 4th most expensive location for expatriates and is now more expensive than Tokyo. Globally, Hong Kong has entered the top 15 leaping up from last year's 29th position to 12th place. Prices of items in ECA's basket rose more than 3 per cent in Hong Kong over the year between surveys. However, it is exchange rate movements that have had the biggest impact on cost of living for expatriates in Hong Kong.

"With the US dollar, to which the HK dollar is pegged, strengthening against a number of currencies over the past year, (Hong Kong) has become more expensive for many businesses sending assignees there," said Mr Quane.

Australian locations continue to fall down the ranking - a reflection of the weakened Australian dollar as growth there slows. Sydney is 30th most expensive location ranked in Asia Pacific and 57th globally.

The United States cities of Manhattan, New York and Honolulu stood 20th, 29th and 30th in the global ranking.

rupsk@sph.com.sg