Mercer’s 25th annual Cost of Living Survey 2019 finds Manila 109th most expensive for employees working abroad
Organizations realize that to thrive they must embrace change, adapt to new technologies, and build emerging skills to attract, motivate, and enhance talent. According to Mercer's 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 65% of employers across all industries and countries are using mobility programs to enhance their workforce strategies. As a result, multinational organizations are carefully assessing the cost of expatriate packages for their international assignees. Mercer’s 25th annual Cost of Living Survey finds that a number of factors, including currency fluctuations, cost of inflation for goods and services, and volatility in accommodation prices, contribute to the overall cost of expatriate packages for employees on international assignments. “In a skill-focused economy driven by digital disruption and the need for a globally connected workforce, deploying expatriate employees is an increasingly important aspect of a competitive business strategy for global companies,” said Ilya Bonic, President of Mercer’s Career business. “There are numerous personal and organizational advantages for sending employees overseas, including career development, global experience, new skillsets, and re-allocation of resources. By offering fair and competitive compensation packages, organizations can facilitate moves that drive business results.” Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living Survey finds that eight out of the top ten of the world’s most expensive cities for expatriates are Asian cities, resulting from high costs for expatriate consumer goods and a dynamic housing market. Tokyo (2), Singapore (3) and Seoul (4) top the list, while the costliest city in the world for the second consecutive year is Hong Kong (1). Other cities appearing in the top ten are Zurich (5), Shanghai (6), Ashgabat (7), Beijing (8), New York City (9), and Shenzhen (10). The world’s least expensive cities for expatriates are Tunis (209), Tashkent (208), and Karachi (207). Mercer's widely recognized survey is one of the world’s most comprehensive, and is designed to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees. New York City is used as the base city for all comparisons, and currency movements are measured against the US dollar. The survey includes over 500 cities throughout the world; this year’s ranking includes 209 cities across five continents and measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment. “Cost of living is an important component of a city’s attractiveness for businesses,” said Yvonne Traber, Global Mobility Product Solutions Leader at Mercer. “Decision makers increasingly acknowledge that globalization is challenging cities to inform, innovate, and compete to foster the kind of satisfaction that attracts both people and investment – the keys to a city’s future.” Asia Pacific Eight of the top ten cities in this year’s ranking are in Asia due in part to a strong housing market. Hong Kong (1) remains the most expensive city for expatriates both in Asia and globally as a result of the housing market and currency being pegged to the US dollar, driving up the cost of living locally. This global financial center is followed by Tokyo (2), Singapore (3), Seoul (4), Shanghai (6), and Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (7). While Manila is found in the middle of Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living Survey, ranking 109th out of the 210 cities, it rose 29 spots up from 2018, posting the 4th sharpest climb in the world. Ashqabat climbed up 36 places to record the biggest increase in cost of living, followed by Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which went up 34 spots to its current 108th rank, and Havana, Cuba, which rose 32 places to rank 133rd for 2019. “While the Philippines’ robust economic growth continues to attract talent, business, and investments from all over the world, the findings of Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living study should signal its public and private sectors to take a deeper look and start a conversation on which factors are behind the dramatic increase in its cost of living from 2018 to 2019, and how they can be addressed or mitigated to ensure the country’s continued competitiveness,” said Mario Ferraro, Mobility Leader, Asia, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, Mercer. Mumbai (67) is India’s most expensive city, followed by New Delhi (118) and Chennai (154). Bengaluru (179) and Kolkata (189) are the least expensive Indian cities ranked. Elsewhere in Asia, Bangkok (40) jumped twelve places from last year. Hanoi (112) and Jakarta (105) also rose in the ranking, up twenty-five and twelve spots, respectively. Bishkek (206) and Tashkent (208) remain the region’s least expensive cities for expatriates. Australian cities have continued to fall in the ranking due to the depreciation of the local currency against the US dollar. Sydney (50), Australia’s most expensive ranked city for expatriates, dropped twenty-one places. Melbourne (79) and Perth (87) dropped twenty-one and twenty-six spots, respectively.