London Retains Position as the Fourth Most Expensive City in the World

London Retains Position as the Fourth Most Expensive City in the World
7th June 2023 Samantha Anderson

London Retains Position as the Fourth Most Expensive City in the World

  • Following a four-year reign, Hong Kong (2nd) loses the top spot to New York
  • Geneva remains the most expensive location in Europe and the third most expensive in the world for expatriates
  • Two-thirds of Eurozone cities have risen in the Cost of Living ranking, with French and Scandinavian cities immune from upward trend
  • Bar London, all UK cities dropped global ranking despite ongoing cost of living crisis felt locally
  • Russians fleeing possible mobilisation trigger surge in rental prices in cities like Dubai, Yerevan, Nicosia and Tbilisi
  • Inflation is high around the world driven by rapidly rising food prices

London has retained its title as the fourth most expensive location in the world for expatriates*, according to ECA International’s latest Cost of Living report, while New York overtakes Hong Kong to claim the top spot.

Elsewhere in the UK, Birmingham (115th), Cardiff (118th) and Belfast (123rd) have fallen outside the top 100 most expensive cities in the world, with Birmingham falling 16 places, just one place above St Petersburg, Russia.

Steven Kilfedder, Head of Production at ECA International, said: “The cost of living crisis in the UK persists, with rising costs driven primarily by food, utilities, and housing prices. Despite these challenges, all UK cities bar London have experienced a decline in the global ranking. This can largely be attributed to the weakness of the pound, which has made the country cheaper for people coming to the UK from other countries.”

ECA International has researched the cost of living globally for 50 years. It carries out two main surveys per year to help companies assess living costs around the world as part of salary calculations for cross-border moves. The surveys compare a basket of like-for-like consumer goods and services commonly purchased by assignees in over 500 locations worldwide, such as coffee, sugar and eggs. ECA’s accommodation data is also factored in, comparing rental costs in areas typically inhabited by expatriate staff in over 430 locations worldwide.

According to its latest report, food prices globally have risen by around 15% on average in the last year, more than twice the rate of last year. In the UK, food prices rose faster than the global average, up almost 20%. There were rises across the basket of goods, but particularly large ones included ketchup (up 45%), cooking oil (up 80%) and eggs (up 36%). By comparison food prices rose around 10% in the US and France and 13% in Germany.

Mixed trends in European cities

More than half (54%) of European cities have moved up in the Cost of Living ranking, driven by high rates of inflation. The top five is dominated by Switzerland, with Geneva retaining its position as the most expensive city for expatriates, followed by London, Zurich, Bern, and Copenhagen. Zurich, Switzerland, has risen one place globally, becoming the sixth most expensive city in the world.

While in Norway, both Oslo and Stavanger fell nine and 14 places respectively to 28th and 40th positions. Similarly in Sweden, Stockholm and Gothenburg fell 10 and nine places and rank 46th and 86th in the world.

Within the Eurozone, nearly two-thirds of locations (61%) have risen in rank, including Dublin which has risen six places to 38th position due to high inflation. France is one of the exceptions as all surveyed French cities have seen marginally lower inflation than many other cities using the euro.

“These developments across Europe highlight the dynamics influencing the cost of living in different regions,” Kilfedder added. “Our Cost of Living rankings are affected by two factors: prices and exchange rates. Even when prices are rising quickly as they are in much of Europe, a city can become comparatively cheaper for visitors if the currency is weaker. This is the case for Norwegian and Swedish cities, where the inflation rates peaked at around 10%, but their rankings have plummeted by an average of 10 places due to the weakening of their respective currencies,” he explained.

European top 20 most expensive locations for expatriates

Location

Country

2023 European Ranking

2022 European Ranking

Geneva

Switzerland

1

1

London

United Kingdom

2

2

Zurich

Switzerland

3

3

Bern

Switzerland

4

4

Copenhagen

Denmark

5

5

Moscow

Russia

6

18

Oslo

Norway

7

6

Luxembourg City

Luxembourg

8

10

Dublin

Irish Republic

9

13

Amsterdam

Netherlands

10

14

Stavenger

Norway

11

7

Vienna

Austria

12

12

Paris

France

13

11

The Hague

Netherland

14

15

Stockholm

Sweden

15

9

Munich

Germany

16

16

Reykjavik

Iceland

17

8

Helsinki

Finland

18

17

Berlin

Germany

19

22

Frankfurt

Germany

20

19

Impact of Russian invasion of Ukraine on cost of living

The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to impact the cost of living in the warring countries themselves, the wider region and around the world. Despite Western sanctions, the Russian rouble has rebounded in the past year, pushing Moscow up 37 places to become the 25th most expensive location in the world.

Accommodation costs in locations where many Ukrainian refugees have fled the war have surged, making these cities more expensive for everyone including expatriates. Polish cities have seen the biggest impact, with colossal rises in rental prices of between 25% and 50%, which have pushed Krakow up 23 places in the global rankings to 178th and Warsaw up 11 places to 158th.

The same scenario has happened for Russians fleeing to cities such as Dubai, Yerevan, Nicosia and Tbilisi, in order to avoid possible mobilisation as a result of the war. Rents in Dubai, UAE, rose by almost a third (30%), pushing the city up to 12th in the global rankings, while rents also rose by more than a fifth in Tbilisi, Georgia – as supply could not rise to meet the increased demand from Russian expatriates. The Georgian city rose 65 places to 102nd in the ranking thanks to a stronger currency that also contributed to making the city more expensive for visitors.

Rapid rise in Istanbul’s rankings

Istanbul is the biggest riser in this year’s rankings, up 95 places to 108th due to a myriad of factors. Kilfedder explained: “While the city has been impacted by the war in Ukraine, the main reason behind prices increasing by over 80% is the economic policies of the recently re-elected President Erdogan. Rents have also gone up partly due to increased demand from displaced Turkish nationals after February’s earthquake.”

Global top 20 most expensive locations for expatriates

Location

Country

2023 Global Ranking

2022 Global Ranking

New York

United States of America

1

2

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

2

1

Geneva

Switzerland

3

3

London

United Kingdom

4

4

Singapore

Singapore

5

13

Zurich

Switzerland

6

7

San Francisco

United States of America

7

11

Tel Aviv

Israel

8

6

Seoul

Korea Republic

9

10

Tokyo

Japan

10

5

Bern

Switzerland

11

16

Dubai

United Arab Emirates

12

23

Shanghai

China

13

8

Guangzhou

China

14

9

Los Angeles

United States of America

15

21

Shenzhen

China

16

12

Beijing

China

17

14

Copenhagen

Denmark

18

18

Abu Dhabi

United Arab Emirates

19

22

Chicago

United States of America

20

25

Cities in Western and Eastern hemispheres travel opposite ways in ranking

In North America, rankings for all US cities have risen this year, primarily driven by the strength of the US dollar. New York has overtaken Hong Kong as the most expensive location in the world for expatriates, having experienced higher rates of inflation and rental price increases compared to other US cities. Meanwhile in Canada, Vancouver is still the most expensive city in the country, climbing three places to 30th in the world.

The biggest riser in the region was Mexico City, which rose 50 places into the top 100 at 92nd most expensive in the world. The strength of the peso and high inflation made the city considerably more expensive for expatriates.

In South America, financial difficulties in Argentina have led to serious economic problems. Buenos Aires rose eight places to become the 29th most expensive location in the world. Kilfedder explained: “The rise in Buenos Aires’ ranking is due to a soaring inflation rate of over 100% during the survey period. The complexities of multiple exchange rates, an overvalued peso, and a burgeoning black market all reflect the uncertainty and fragility of the Argentinian economy, impacting various aspects of daily life.”

In Asia, Hong Kong’s fall in the ranking was matched by nearly all major locations in the region. Singapore, Seoul and Yangon were among the exceptions, with Singapore having leapt up into the top five most expensive cities in the world, up from 13th position in 2022. Contrary to last year, Chinese cities have dropped further down in the ranking due to the weaker Chinese yuan against other currencies and a lower rate of inflation compared to other countries. Shanghai and Guangzhou, remain the most expensive cities in China, but have fallen out of the global top 10, ranking as the 13th and 14th most expensive cities in the world for expatriates.

In Japan, all cities have dropped in the latest ranking as the Japanese yen weakened. Tokyo, which was consistently amongst the top five globally in recent years, has dropped five places to the 10th globally.

For further information about ECA International and its Cost of Living report, please visit: https://www.eca-international.com/home

-Ends-

Notes to Editors:

  • *Across all 207 cities in 120 countries and territories that make up the ECA ranking
  • Rooster will coordinate comment and interviews for Steven Kilfedder, Head of Production at ECA International

For further press information, please contact:
Yasmine Triana | Arabella Halfhide | Tiffany Huret | Becky Claxton
Rooster.
T: +44 (0)203 440 8934
E: [email protected]

About ECA’s Cost of Living Ranking
ECA International’s cost of living rankings combine ECA’s Cost of Living research and Accommodation research to enable a comparison of costs faced by expatriates around the world in 207 cities in 120 countries and territories.

This comparison of cost of living is calculated on a base composed of various developed countries and is used to reflect an international lifestyle. Other indices available from ECA reflect specific city-to-city comparisons and different levels of shopping efficiency.

ECA’s Cost of Living research
ECA International’s cost of living research is carried out in March and September using a basket of day-to-day goods and services commonly purchased by assignees. The data used above refers to the March 2023 data collection period with changes compared to the March 2022 period. ECA’s Cost of Living rankings began in 2005.

Cost of living indices are used by ECA clients to calculate cost of living allowances for assignees. The research covers:

  • Food: Groceries; dairy produce; meat and fish; fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Basic: Household goods; recreational goods; general services; leisure services
  • General: Clothing; electrical goods; motoring; meals out; alcohol and tobacco
  • Utilities costs
  • Public transport

ECA’s Accommodation research
This ranking uses data from ECA’s 2023 Accommodation reports. The reports have been published annually since 1996.

The reports provide comprehensive and reliable information for locations worldwide on the rental trends, types of accommodation and districts commonly sought by expatriates. To ensure impartiality and to maintain the accuracy of information, data from a number of sources is used to compile each accommodation report. ECA uses a global network of estate agents, relocation agents and extensive in-house research into worldwide property markets to establish and verify the housing data in the reports.

About ECA International
ECA International is the market-leading provider of knowledge, information and technology that enables businesses to manage their international reward programmes.

Partnering with thousands of clients on every continent, we provide a fully-integrated suite of quality data, specialist software, consultancy and training. Our unparalleled insights guide clients as they mobilise their most valuable resource: people.

We make the complex world of international mobility simple, providing clients with the expertise and support they need to make the right decisions – every time.

ECA International: Mobility solutions for a world that’s constantly moving.