July 26, 2021

Asia more and more expensive for expatriates

60% of the most expensive cities for expatriation are in Asia. This is revealed by the Mercer international survey on the cost of living and housing for expatriates published on Tuesday, June 22. Ashkhabad, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore and Beijing are, in that order, in the Top 10 of the most expensive destinations for international mobility.

Intended to help large companies and governments to adapt the remuneration of their expatriates to local purchasing power, the survey carried out in March 2021 establishes the ranking of more than 200 cities in the world, taking into account the cost of housing, transportation, clothing, food and recreation.

Turkmenistan created a surprise in this year of Covid: its capital, Ashkhabad, becomes in 2021 the most expensive destination for expatriation, ahead of Hong Kong. “The economic and social crisis combined with the Covid has generated hyperinflation in this country”, explains Jean-Philippe Sarra, Head of International Mobility Consulting at Mercer France.

“The cost of living has always been a factor in international mobility planning, but the pandemic has added a whole new layer of complexity, as well as lasting implications related to employee health and safety, teleworking and flexibility policies, among other considerations ”, comments Ilya Bonic, president of the talent management business and head of strategy at Mercer.

In Europe, Zurich

Mobility is evolving, says the human resources consulting firm, moving from traditional long-term expatriations to other types of mobility, such as short-term assignments, international recruitments, permanent transfers, international teleworking and « commuting », namely working abroad during the week and returning to one’s country of origin at the weekend.

This particular mode of expatriation used in Europe, for example in England, Switzerland or Belgium, has been reinforced by the health crisis, “Because expatriates have often preferred to leave without their family”, explains Jean-Philippe Sarra. In Europe, Zurich remains the most expensive destination. The only French cities in the ranking are Paris, Lyon and Pointe-à-Pitre.

Apart from the high cost of Asia, the survey also reveals a drop in the cost for expatriates in the United States, mainly due to currency fluctuations. This is the case of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Boston and Washington, among others.

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