Paris, Hong Kong and Singapore are most expensive cities to live in: Poll

First time in over 30 years that three cities are sharing top spot, says Economist Intelligence Unit

TBILISI • Paris and Hong Kong for the first time have joined Singapore as the world's most expensive cities to live in, a study revealed yesterday, with utilities and transport driving up the cost of living.

Zurich, Geneva and Osaka trailed closely, with emerging-market cities like Istanbul and Moscow plummeting down the ranking due to high inflation and currency depreciation, said the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) bi-annual survey of 133 cities.

It is the first time in more than 30 years that three cities are sharing the top spot, a sign that pricey global cities are growing more alike, said the report's author, Ms Roxana Slavcheva.

"Converging costs in traditionally more expensive cities ... is a testament to globalisation and the similarity of tastes and shopping patterns," she said in a statement.

"Even in locations where shopping for groceries may be relatively cheaper, utilities or transportation prices drive up overall cost of living," she added.

Rising costs in cities are often driven by a vibrant job market attracting skilled workers with high wages, said Mr Anthony Breach, an analyst with British think-tank Centre for Cities, which was not involved in the study.

Urban planners need to plan ahead and build more housing to keep prices affordable and overall costs down, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

For the EIU survey, researchers compared the cost of more than 150 items such as cars, food, rent, transport and clothing.


Converging costs in traditionally more expensive cities ... is a testament to globalisation and the similarity of tastes and shopping patterns.

MS ROXANA SLAVCHEVA, author of the report on the EIU's survey of 133 cities.

A woman's haircut was about US$15 (S$20.25) in Bangalore, India, compared with US$210 in New York, for example, while a bottle of beer was about half a greenback in Lagos, Nigeria, and more than US$3 in Zurich.

British cities recovered a few positions a year after reaching the cheapest level in more than two decades due to Brexit uncertainty, with London ranking 22nd and Manchester 51st, up eight and five spots respectively.

Political turmoil in Venezuela plummeted Caracas to the bottom of the ranking, followed by Damascus, Syria, with Karachi, Pakistan; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and New Delhi, India also featuring among the 10 cheapest cities.

But a city's drop in the index does not necessarily mean daily life automatically gets cheaper for people living there, as prices adjust to inflation often quicker than wages, said Ms Gunes Cansiz of the World Resources Institute (WRI), a think-tank.

"The cost of living in Istanbul, for example, might seem to have decreased, but since household expenses have increased, this has no positive reflection on the daily life of Istanbulites," said Ms Cansiz, director at WRI's Turkey Sustainable Cities programme.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2019, with the headline 'Paris, HK and S'pore are most expensive cities to live in: Poll'. Subscribe