Singapore climbs 2 spots to become 7th most expensive city in Asia for expats; Hong Kong at No. 3

The results were published by ECA International and assessed cost of living in cities for non-local employees based on a basket of consumer goods and services. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - The Republic climbed five spots to become the 13th most expensive city in the world for expatriates. It also rose two places in Asian rankings to become the seventh most costly location in the continent.

Taking the No. 1 spot globally was Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, which also topped the Asian charts.

Other Asian countries in the top 10 of the global rankings were Tokyo (No. 2), Hong Kong (No. 6), Yokohama (No. 8) and Nagoya (No. 10). Seoul was placed 16th, Macau 18th and Shanghai 22nd.

The latest survey results were published by ECA International on Tuesday (Dec 10), which assessed cost of living in cities for non-local employees based on a basket of consumer goods and services such as groceries, clothing and leisure activities.

However, house rents, cars and school fees are not included in calculations as they are usually paid for by employers. This means they are unrelated to expats' spending power.

Hong Kong, which has been rocked by large-scale protests since June, remained at No. 6 on the global rankings, and slipped a spot to be the third-most expensive city in Asia.

Regional director for Asia of ECA International Lee Quane said Hong Kong's cost of living had yet to be impacted by its economic recession caused in part by "ongoing socio-political upheavals".

"Inflation (there) remains high relative to many other locations that occupy the upper reaches of our rankings," he said.

Singapore rose above Seoul and Shanghai in this year's ranking "despite relatively low rates of low inflation and weakening global trade growth", Mr Quane added, "thanks to the continued strength of the Singapore dollar".

ECA International said its surveys seek to help companies calculate cost of living allowances so that "their employees' spending power is protected while on international assignment".

Ashgabat came first globally for the second year running, after it rocketed up the rankings from 146th place in 2017.

This was due to high inflation and a black market currency rate that was much weaker than the official exchange rate, ECA International said.

"This makes purchases particularly expensive for expatriates in their home currency unless they can access the illegal black market exchange rate," ECA International explained.

The firm added that Ashgabat's pole position likely will not last, citing Luanda in Angola which topped the global rankings in 2017 and has since dropped to 92nd place.

Countries like Angola have official exchange rates that are not backed up by economic performance, often leading to rapid devaluation of their local currencies in the long run. This increases the purchasing power of expats, ECA International said.

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