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This city has been ranked the most expensive for expats in 2024

Uprooting your life and moving to a completely different city for work isn’t always an easy decision.

There are many factors to consider, with cost undoubtedly high on the list. But which international city is the most expensive in the world for expats to move to?

Hong Kong has once again taken the title of most costly city for overseas workers in the 2024 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, which was released Monday.

The Asian city, which also topped the annual list in 2022 and 2023, was closely followed by Singapore, in second place.

Much of the rest of the top 10 was taken up by Swiss cities, with Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern coming in third, fourth, fifth and sixth place respectively.

Rising housing costs

New York was ranked as the eighth most expensive city for international employees to move to on the 2024 Mercer Cost of Living Survey. - Eloi_Omella/E+/Getty Images
New York was ranked as the eighth most expensive city for international employees to move to on the 2024 Mercer Cost of Living Survey. - Eloi_Omella/E+/Getty Images

The report examined 226 cities based on the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.

New York was the highest US city, taking seventh place, while UK capital London, which was in 17th place last year, jumped to eighth place. Nassau, The Bahamas took ninth place, with Los Angeles rounding out the top 10.

According to the report, expensive housing markets and increased costs for transportation, goods and services are among the reasons why the cost of living in the top ranking cities is particularly high.

“The cost of housing is a major factor in the Cost of Living City Ranking,” reads the study, pointing out that employees who spend a significant slice of their income on rent or mortgages will have “less disposable income for other expenses.”

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

Additionally, “inflation and exchange-rate fluctuations” were noted to have directly impacted the “pay and savings” of international workers.

At 92, Toronto was ranked as the most expensive city in Canada for international employees, followed by Vancouver at 101.

Financial impacts

Mexico City jumped 46 places to number 33 on the list of most expensive cities for international employees to move to. - fitopardo/Moment RF/Getty Images
Mexico City jumped 46 places to number 33 on the list of most expensive cities for international employees to move to. - fitopardo/Moment RF/Getty Images

While the top of the list changed little from the previous year’s rankings, there were some considerably big jumps further down.

Among them were Mexico’s Mexico City and Monterrey, with the former moving up 46 places to number 33, and the latter climbing 40 places to 115.

The study also noted that the cost of living in the US was “a significant issue” for 2024, with seven US cities appearing in the top 20.

“As US-based companies continue to source talent globally, inflationary pressures may give some inbound foreign nationals pause to accept a position in some of the high-cost cities and metro areas in the US,” says Vince Cordova, partner and mobility advisory leader at Mercer US.

“Therefore, we believe employers should be open about sharing the cost of living and net pay information with prospective staff so they can better understand the financial impacts of relocating to the US, and make a fully informed decision on whether or not to move ahead.”

The cities that ranked the lowest for living costs were Pakistan’s Islamabad and Nigeria’s Lagos and Abuja. However, this was said to be partly driven by “currency depreciations.”

The price of a dozen large eggs, a liter of olive oil and an espresso coffee at a popular café were among the 200 products taken into consideration when determining the rankings for the cost of living in each of the cities.

According to the study, the price of olive oil was the most notable hike on average.

“Cost-of-living challenges have had a significant impact on multinational organizations and their employees,” Yvonne Traber, Mercer’s global mobility leader, said in a statement.

“It is important for organizations to stay informed about cost-of-living trends and inflation rates and seek input from employees on these issues to effectively manage their effects.”

2024 cost of living city ranking

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

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