Thursday, June 12, 2008

Expatriate Cost Of Living Climbs

Source : The Business Times, June 12, 2008

LIVING costs for expatriates in Singapore have risen among the most over the past nine months, according to a survey.

ECA International's latest cost-of-living study shows Singapore climbing 17 places in the rankings to 114th spot. Within Asia, it is 13th on a list dominated by Japanese and Korean cities.

Human resources firm ECA says a stronger currency and high food and fuel price rises led to a big climb in rankings for cities such as Singapore, Manila and 'many second-tier cities' in China. Hong Kong, India and a few Korean cities, on the other hand, fell in the rankings.

Globally, Luanda in Angola was ranked the most expensive city for expatriates, followed mostly by European cities and another African location - Libreville, Gabon - in the top 10.

The survey - carried out twice a year - compares a basket of 128 consumer goods and services commonly bought by expatriates in more than 370 locations worldwide.

According to ECA, multinational companies use the results as a guide to set assignment salaries. Living costs for expatriates are affected not only by inflation and exchange rates but also the availability of common consumer goods.

Not everything has gone up in price, however. While the cost of petrol rose more than 13 per cent in Singapore and Hong Kong in the six months between September 2007 and March 2008, and the cost of egg noodles by almost 15 per cent here over the same period, the cost of a flat screen TV set in Singapore, for instance, has fallen 20 per cent between the surveys, ECA notes.

The continued weakness of the US dollar has led to falls in rankings for most US cities. Manhattan, previously the most expensive in America, has dropped 29 places to 83rd globally. Rio de Janeiro is now the most pricey for expatriates in the Americas, and Canadian cities like Toronto and Montreal are now more costly than Manhattan.

And while Luanda's pole position may surprise some, ECA general manager Lee Quane points out that the survey compares like-for-like goods and services - and certain items and brands typically bought by expatriates can be very expensive in a place like Luanda where they may not be readily available.

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