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Posted on on July 26th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Americas in the Mercer Ranking of 143 world cities in regard to cost of living for expatriates with New York City as a benchmark at 100 points.

The only North American city to feature in this year’s top 50 is New York in 22nd place – score 100 – dropping seven places – from 15th place – in one year.

All other US cities have also experienced a significant decline in the rankings. For example, Los Angeles has moved from 42nd to 55th place (score 87.5), Miami from 51st to 75th place (score 82) and Washington, DC, from 85th to 107th place (score 74.6).

“The decline in the ranking of all US cities is due to the weakening value of the US dollar against most major world currencies,” said Mitch Barnes, principal at Mercer in the US. “The dollar has been declining steadily for the past several years, which has resulted in an overall decrease in the cost of living in 19 US cities, relative to other major global cities studied.

“On the bright side, the US dollar’s loss of value may serve to attract globally mobile executives to business centres such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The difference in cost of living can be significant, particularly for those executives with families.”

In 54th place (score 88.1), jumping 28 places from last year, Toronto is the most expensive city for expatriates in Canada. All other Canadian cities in the survey have experienced similar rises, with Vancouver moving from 89th to 64th (score 85.8), Calgary from 92nd to 66th (score 85.4) and Montréal from 98th to 72nd with a score of 83. This reverses last year’s trend which saw Canadian cities decline, and places them back where they have traditionally been rated. The Canadian dollar has appreciated nearly 15% against the US dollar, the main reason for these movements.

The two top-ranking cities in South America are São Paulo in 25th place (score 97) and Rio de Janeiro in 31st place (score 95.2), jumping 37 and 33 places, respectively. The Brazilian real appreciated nearly 18% against the US dollar last year, causing these Brazilian cities to rocket up the list. Another high-riser in this region is Caracas, jumping 40 places from 129th to 89th (score 79.3). High inflation in Venezuela has caused a sharp increase in the price of food and household products.

South America also has some of the lowest ranking cities globally. Asunción is the least expensive city for the sixth consecutive year (score 52.5), followed by Quito in Ecuador in 142nd (score 54.6), Buenos Aires in 138th (score 62.7) and Montevideo in 136th (score 63.2).

The UK currency has changed the least among the European currencies in relation to the US dollar – this led to decreases in the cost of living ratings of British cities’ ranking in the list of 143. Thus, from the London point of view:

Worldwide Cost of Living survey 2008 – City rankings.

United Kingdom, London, 24 July 2008

Moscow is still the most expensive city for expatriates; Asunción in Paraguay is the cheapest for the sixth consecutive year.
European and Asian cities dominate the top 10.
Weakening of US dollar causes significant changes in rankings.
London drops one place to rank third, with Tokyo climbing to second place.

Moscow is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates for the third consecutive year, according to the latest Cost of Living Survey from Mercer. Tokyo is in second position climbing two places since last year, where as London drops one place to rank third.

Oslo climbs six places to 4th place and is followed by Seoul in 5th.
With New York as the base city scoring 100 points, Moscow scores 142.4 and is close to three times costlier than Asunción which has an index of 52.5. Contrary to the trend observed last year the gap between the world’s most and least expensive cities now seems to be widening.

Mercer’s survey covers 143 cities across six continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. It is the world’s most comprehensive cost of living survey and is used to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees.

Yvonne traber, a principal and research manager at Mercer, commented: “Current market conditions have led to the further weakening of the US dollar which, coupled with the strengthening of the Euro and many other currencies, has caused significant changes in this year’s rankings.”

She added: “Although the traditionally expensive cities of Western Europe and Asia still feature in the top 20, cities in Eastern Europe, Brazil and India are creeping up the list. Conversely, some locations such as Stockholm and New York now appear less costly by comparison.

“Our research confirms the global trend in price increases for certain foodstuffs and petrol, though the rise is not consistent in all locations. This is partly balanced by decreasing prices for certain commodities such as electronic and electrical goods. We attribute this to cheaper imports from developing countries, especially China, and to advances in technology.

“Keeping on top of the changes in expatriate cost of living is essential so companies can ensure their employees are compensated fairly and at competitive rates when stationed abroad,” Ms traber observed.

“In some cases, cost of living increases may be correlated to countries with a high rate of economic growth. Companies may assign high priority to expansion in these economies but may have to deal with inflationary pressures due to competition for expatriate-level housing and other services, as observed in our surveys,” she noted.

For example, Latvia had real GDP growth of 10.2% in 2007, well above the global average growth rate of 5.2%, and its capital, Riga, jumped to 46th place in the latest Mercer ranking, up from 72nd a year ago. Cities in India all rose in the cost of living ranking, with New Delhi climbing to 55th place from 68th a year ago, as India posted a real GDP growth rate of 9.2% in 2007. Bogota jumped to 87th place from 112th, reflecting Colombia’s 7% real GDP growth.

Top 50 cities: Cost of living (including rental accommodation costs)
Base City: New York, US (= 100)

The Cost of Living Indices below have been prepared specifically for the purpose of the press release.
The indices are based on Mercer’s cost of living database and are modified to include housing,
and to reflect constant weighting and basket items.

Rank March

March 2007


Cost of living Index
March 2008
Cost of living Index
March 2007
1 1 Moscow Russia 142.4 134.4
2 4 Tokyo Japan 127.0 122.1
3 2 London UK 125.0 126.3
4 10 Oslo Norway 118.3 105.8
5 3 Seoul South Korea 117.7 122.4
6 5 Hong Kong China 117.6 119.4
7 6 Copenhagen Denmark 117.2 110.2
8 7 Geneva Switzerland 115.8 109.8
9 9 Zurich Switzerland 112.7 107.6
10 11 Milan Italy 111.3 104.4
11 8 Osaka Japan 110.0 108.4
12 13 Paris France 109.4 101.4
13 14 Singapore Singapore 109.1 100.4
14 17 Tel Aviv Israel 105.0 97.7
15 21 Sydney Australia 104.1 94.9
16 16 Dublin Ireland 103.9 99.6
16 18 Rome Italy 103.9 97.6
19 19 Vienna Austria 102.3 96.9
21 22 Helsinki Finland 101.1 93.3
23 38 Istanbul Turkey 99.4 87.7
25 25 Amsterdam Netherlands 97.0 92.2
25 62 São Paulo Brazil 97.0 82.8
29 49 Prague Czech Rep. 96.0 85.6
31 31 Barcelona Spain 95.2 89.2
31 23 Stockholm Sweden 95.2 93.1
35 67 Warsaw Poland 95.0 82.4
37 39 Munich Germany 93.1 87.6
39 44 Brussels Belgium 92.9 86.5
40 40 Frankfurt Germany 92.5 87.4
41 33 Dakar Senegal 92.2 89.0
43 43 Luxembourg Luxembourg 91.3 87.0
45 31 Bratislava Slovakia 90.6 89.2
46 72 Riga Latvia 90.4 81.5
49 59 Zagreb Croatia 90.0 83.5

Mercer is a leading global provider of consulting, outsourcing and investment services. Mercer works with clients to solve their most complex benefit and human capital issues, designing and helping manage health, retirement and other benefits. It is a leader in benefit outsourcing. Mercer’s investment services include investment consulting and multi-manager investment management. Mercer’s 18,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., which lists its stock (ticker symbol: MMC) on the New York, Chicago and London stock exchanges. For more information, visit

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