Hong Kong has maintained its position as the most expensive location in the world for overseas workers, supported by higher prices and a stronger currency in 2021, according to new research. The second and third positions were taken by New York and Geneva, respectively.

While London and Tokyo were ranked as the fourth and fifth most expensive cities for expats, none of the major cities in the Middle East was featured in the top 20 positions.

“Although, Hong Kong has been impacted by rising global inflation less than other regional and global locations in the past year, it nonetheless remains the most expensive location in the world” said Lee Quane, Regional Director Asia at ECA International, which did the survey on the latest cost of living.

Most locations within the EU have dropped in the rankings after an unsteady period for the euro, with Paris falling out of the global top 30 and cities such as Madrid, Brussels and Rome all falling too, the survey noted.

Meanwhile, many mainland Chinese cities have continued to rise in the rankings, with four cities now included in the 15 most expensive cities globally while Shanghai is also now the third most expensive city in Asia after Hong Kong and Tokyo.

According to the ECA survey, the location which has seen the fastest rate of price growth in the past year has been Colombo in Sri Lanka, causing it to rise 23 places in ECA’s rankings to 149 globally.

“Shortages of supplies for some essential items prompted by lack of foreign currency have resulted in price increases of more than 15 percent at the time of the survey when compared to the previous year,” said Quane.

Taiwan also rose in the rankings. However, Singapore’s ranking remained unchanged in 2022 despite significant price rises in the past 12 months, with housing rental costs, utilities and petrol prices seeing particular growth.

Here are the world’s top 20 most expensive places for expats:

  1. Hong Kong
  2. New York, US
  3. Geneva, Switzerland
  4. London, UK
  5. Tokyo, Japan
  6. Tel Aviv, Israel
  7. Zurich, Switzerland
  8. Shanghai, China
  9. Guangzhou, China
  10. Seoul, South Korea
  11. San Francisco, US
  12. Shenzhen, China
  13. Singapore
  14. Beijing, China
  15. Jerusalem, Israel
  16. Bern, Switzerland
  17. Yokohama, Japan
  18. Copenhagen, Denmark
  19. Oslo, Norway
  20. Taipei, Taiwan

The ECA International carries out two main surveys per year to help companies calculate cost of living allowances so that their employees' spending power is protected while on an international assignment. The surveys compare a basket of like-for-like consumer goods and services commonly purchased by assignees in over 490 locations worldwide.

(Writing by Seban Scaria; editing by Brinda Darasha)