Mercer’s 2009 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey

If you’re headed for Tokyo in 2009, make sure your expatriate compensation package meets the grade…

Mercer’s 2009 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey

According to Mercer’s 2009 Cost of Living Survey, Tokyo has knocked Moscow off the top spot and is now the most expensive city in the world in which to live as an expat. At the bottom of the scale is Johannesburg, which has earned the name as the cheapest as a result of a loss in almost 30% of the value of the rand against the dollar.

The survey encompasses 143 cities across all six continents and assesses the cost of living as an expat by comparing the total price of a basket of 200 everyday items, which include transport, housing, food and clothing. New York is used as the base against which costs in all other countries are evaluated and as a result of this all currency movements are measured against the US dollar.

Mercer, a consultancy company that specializes in HR and related financial advice, products and services, produce the annual report in order to assist corporations throughout the world to assess and award compensation payments for their expatriate employees. A detailed look at the results is thus crucial for anyone who is considering a move abroad and commencing contract negotiations.

The 2009 results reveal major shifts in rankings since last year’s assessment. One of Mercer’s senior researchers, Ms Constantin-Metral, attributes this to fluctuations in currencies throughout the world: “As a direct impact of the economic downturn over the last year we have observed significant fluctuations in most of the world’s currencies, which have had a profound impact on this year’s ranking. Many currencies, including the Euro and British pound, have weakened considerably against a strong US dollar causing a number of European cities to plummet in the rankings.”

Countries within Europe as a whole have fallen in the rankings with London, an expat enclave long associated with high living costs, now failing to make the top ten. Similarly cities in Australia, New Zealand and India have all dropped places against their previous year’s assessment.

Japan, however, tells a very different story with two of its major cities; Tokyo and Osaka, taking first and second place respectively. Cities in China and the Middle East are also seeing raises in their cost of living rankings. In China, this is believed to be a direct result of the strength of the RMB relative to other currencies, which has also led to cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou all moving up the charts.

The strength of the US dollar has not only impacted the cost of living for people in cities in the US but also impacts the Middle East and Hong Kong, both of which possess currencies that are pegged to the US dollar.

Mercer’s 2009 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey Top Ten Cities*

Rank City Country
1 Tokyo Japan
2 Osaka Japan
3 Moscow Russia
4 Geneva Switzerland
5 Hong Kong China
6 Zurich Switzerland
7 Copenhagen Denmark
8 New York United States
9 Beijing China
10 Singapore Singapore

*Source= Mercer’s 2009 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey

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