CNBC: Top 10 most expensive cities for ex-pats to live in 2024

Elisia Seeber
CNBC
Hong Kong was ranked as the most expensive city for expats to live in, followed by Singapore and Zurich, according to the Cost of Living City Ranking 2024.
Hong Kong was ranked as the most expensive city for expats to live in, followed by Singapore and Zurich, according to the Cost of Living City Ranking 2024. Credit: zhou,yilu/昊 周 - stock.adobe.com

Asia’s biggest financial hubs have once again clinched the top spots for being the costliest cities for international workers to live in, according to Mercer.

Hong Kong was ranked as the most expensive city for expats to live in, followed by Singapore and Zurich, according to the Cost of Living City Ranking 2024.

Cities in Switzerland — Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern — snagged four out of 10 spots. New York City ranked No. 7.

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The top five spots had no change from the year before, but London climbed 9 positions from No. 17 to 8.

Top 10 most expensive cities for expats:

  1. Hong Kong
  2. Singapore
  3. Zurich, Switzerland
  4. Geneva, Switzerland
  5. Basel, Switzerland
  6. Bern, Switzerland
  7. New York City, United States
  8. London, United Kingdom
  9. Nassau, Bahamas
  10. Los Angeles, United States

The survey compared the costs of more than 200 items in each of the 226 cities studied — including the price of housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.

New York City was used as the benchmark and currency fluctuations were measured against the U.S. dollar.

Cities in Nigeria, Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan were the least expensive cities for ex-pats to live in, with Lagos and Abuja in Nigeria falling 178 and 86 spots respectively to No. 225 and 226.

Sky-high housing markets

High inflation and rising economic and geopolitical tensions have driven up housing prices, utilities, local taxes and education, the Mercer report said.

“High living costs may cause assignees to adjust their lifestyle, cut back on discretionary spending or even struggle to meet their basic needs,” Yvonne Traber, Mercer’s global mobility leader, highlighted in the press release.

Apart from Nassau, Bahamas, all other cities in the top 10 reported a rise in housing costs from 2023, with an 8% price jump in Hong Kong and Singapore, 7% in New York City and 6% in Zurich.

“Between 2023 and 2024, there was a lot of volatility in this cost around the world, with housing rental prices varying significantly between cities,” the report said.

Prices have also risen as housing supply failed to keep up with demand.

“Such costs can be particularly challenging in areas with high population growth or with limited land available for development. Other factors, such as construction costs and land prices, can also affect housing affordability,” the report noted, adding that this would leave employees with less disposable income for other expenses.

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