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Expat cost of living in S’pore gaining on HK’s

S’pore and Chinese cities move up the ranks due to strong currencies, inflation

(SINGAPORE) The Republic is catching up with Asia’s leading cities in one area it probably does not wish to make strides in – expatriate cost of living.

While some of the region’s most pricey cities became relatively less expensive in the past year, Singapore, along with Beijing and Shanghai, have climbed the rungs in the latest cost of living survey by ECA International.

Singapore is listed as the ninth most expensive city in Asia – behind Seoul, Tokyo, Yokohama and Kobe, as well as Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing and Shanghai. Worldwide, Singapore ranks 122nd, but that is 10 spots higher than in the 2006 survey.

In comparison, the Japanese cities and Taipei have all dropped in the global rankings in the past year, primarily due to a weaker currency, while Hong Kong stayed put at its 79th spot. This means that the gap is closing between the two ‘traditionally competitive’ locations, Singapore and Hong Kong, says ECA.

Conducted every March and September, the cost of living survey by the Hong Kong-based HR consultancy tracks a basket of 128 consumer goods and services commonly consumed by expatriates in more than 300 locations worldwide.

Multinational firms use the findings as a guide in determining expatriate remuneration packages and allowances.

But the survey excludes significant items such as housing, utilities, car purchases and school fees because, ECA says, expatriate packages usually include separate compensation for these.

Apart from the two-percentage-point hike in the Goods and Services Tax in July and overall rising inflation, the appreciating Singapore dollar is also driving up costs in Singapore ‘in a significant manner’, says Lee Quane, general manager of ECA.

‘While this is good news when sending international assignees from Singapore, those companies who need to send employees into Singapore will now have to apply higher cost of living indices to salaries to guarantee their personnel’s spending power when in Singapore.’

Seoul, Asia’s most expensive city, has climbed one rung in the global rankings to seventh in the latest findings.

Tokyo, on the other hand, has dropped out of the top 10 for the first time, moving from 10th to 13th.

A strengthening yuan against the US dollar, along with soaring oil, food and grain prices, have added to living costs in the Chinese cities, including ‘second-tier’ ones. According to ECA, living costs for foreigners in Chongqing, for instance, have risen by 12 per cent, or twice as much as in Beijing.

Luanda in Angola emerged as the world’s most expensive city for expatriates. Two other African cities – Kinshasa and Libreville – also feature in the top 10. European cities, led by Oslo and Moscow, make up most of the top spots.


Source: Business Times 27 Nov 07

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