Singapore drops two spots to become 14th most expensive city globally for expats, despite Covid-19 impact

Singapore remains a costly location due to the strong Singdollar. PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Singapore fell two places over the past 12 months to be the 14th most expensive city in the world for expatriates and the seventh priciest in Asia, according to a recent survey.

While the Republic has been overtaken by the Japanese cities of Yokohama (at No. 10), Osaka (12) and Nagoya (13), living costs have remained largely steady and it is still a costly location due to the strong Singapore dollar.

Hong Kong dropped out of the top five on the list to the sixth place in the survey compiled by ECA International.

Mr Lee Quane, its director for Asia, noted that for Hong Kong, there was only a "small drop in the global rankings amid the uncertainty" despite its political and social unrest over the course of 2019 and the "impact of Covid-19, which has led to the reluctance of people moving to the city".

The world's costliest city is Ashgabat in Turkmenistan. It also topped last year's league table.

The biannual survey assesses the 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.

Take a cup of coffee in a cafe: It's about US$4.44 here compared with US$5.01 in Hong Kong and US$2.87 in Hanoi.

House rents, cars and school fees are not included in calculations as they are usually paid for by employers and so are unrelated to an expatriate's spending power.

China's two powerhouses both dropped nine places, with Shanghai at 19th and Beijing at 24th.

Mr Quane said: "Chinese cities have all fallen ... due to signs of a weakening economy and poorly performing currency.

"One of the key contributing factors was undoubtedly the outbreak of Covid-19. However, it is important to note that the yuan was performing poorly before this period too, with the outbreak of the coronavirus exacerbating the relative weakness of the Chinese currency against other major currencies."

Similarly, the cost of living in South Korea has fallen due to the pandemic, with Seoul dropping from No. 8 place to No. 17, while Busan slipped out of the top 20 entirely.

Mr Quane noted: "A quick lockdown, coupled with the high rates of infection that Korean cities saw towards the end of February, meant that confidence in the South Korean won had faltered." This in turns makes the cost of living cheaper for expatriates.

On the other hand, Thai and Vietnamese cities have once again moved up the rankings, with Bangkok rising 64 places in five years and Hanoi up 25 over the same period.

Mr Quane attributed Thailand's steady rise as a result of continued economic growth and the attraction of foreign investment from overseas businesses, which help to strengthen the baht.

"However, this trend has slowed over the past year, partly in response to government attempts to weaken the keep the country competitive," he said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.