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Moscow most expensive city for expats

Published on 30/07/2008

30 July 2008

AMSTERDAM – For the third year running, Moscow is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates according to the latest Cost of Living Survey from Mercer. Tokyo climbs two places since last year to second place, whereas London drops one place to rank third. Oslo moves up six places to rank 4th and is followed by South Korea’s Seoul.

Popular expat cities in Expatica countries Amsterdam (25th), Barcelona (31st), Brussels (39th) and Berlin (38th) still don’t make the top 20 while Geneva (9th) Paris (12th) remain in the top 15.

With New York as the base city scoring 100 points, Moscow scores 142.4 and is close to three times costlier than Asunción in Paraguay, which is the least expensive city in the ranking for the sixth year running with 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.
 “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,” says Yvonne Traber of Mercer.
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," says Traber.

For instance, although Moscow ranks as the most expensive place to live overall in the world, petrol costs EUR 0.558 for One litre of gasoline, unleaded 95 octane while the equivalent for Amsterdam, which ranks 25th, is EUR 1.38.

This general global trend for price increases 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,” says Traber.
“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 says.

For example, Latvia had real GDP growth of 10.2 percent in 2007, well above the global average growth rate of 5.2 percent, 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 percent in 2007. Bogota jumped to 87th place from 112th, reflecting Colombia’s 7 percent real GDP growth.

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.

[Copyright Expatica 2008]