A report by The Economist Intelligence Unit
Worldwide Cost of Living 2017
A ranking of the world’s major cities
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Worldwide Cost of Living 2017
The fndings of the latest Worldwide Cost of
A resurgent Asia
Singapore retains its title as the world’s most expensive city for a fourth consecutive year in a top ten
that may have a familiar feel to it. Not only has Singapore stayed top but Hong Kong remains second,
closely followed by Zurich. The latest survey has also seen a return to the top ten most expensive cities
for Tokyo and Osaka. The Japanese capital, which was the world’s most expensive city until 2012, has
moved seven places up the ranking owing to a sustained recovery in the strength of the Japanese yen.
With Japanese cities returning to the fold, Asia now accounts for half of the ten most expensive
cities ranked. Western Europe accounts for a further four cities, while New York City is the lone North
American representative. The Big Apple, which rose to seventh place last year, has fallen to ninth
owing to a slight weakening of the US dollar, which has also affected the position of other US cities.
This, however, still represents a comparatively sharp increase in the relative cost of living compared
with fve years ago, when New York was ranked 46th.
With the strength of the US dollar moderating and the euro remaining relatively stable, currencies
such as the Canadian dollar, the Australian dollar and the New Zealand dollar have appreciated in
value. As a result, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, and Wellington and Auckland in New Zealand all
feature among the 20 most expensive cities. Although the relative cost of living has fallen slightly in
the Swiss cities of Zurich and Geneva, both remain cemented among the ten most expensive, in third
place and joint seventh place respectively. Joining Geneva in seventh place is Paris, which has featured
among the ten most expensive cities for 15 years, although the relative cost of living in the French
capital has moderated. Currently, living in Paris is 7% more expensive than living in New York, but just
fve years ago it was 50% pricier.
Last year defation and devaluations were a prominent factor in determining the cost of living, with
many cities falling down the ranking owing to currency weakness or falling local prices. Both prices
and a number of currencies rallied during 2016 and, although infation in many cities has remained
moderate, the impact is refected in the average cost of living. Taking an average of the indices for all
cities surveyed using New York as base city, the global cost of living has risen to 74%, up slightly from
73% last year. This remains signifcantly lower than fve years ago when the average cost of living index
across 132 cities was at an all-time high of 93.5%.
Despite topping the ranking, Singapore still offers relative value in some categories, especially
compared with its regional peers. For categories such as personal care, household goods and domestic
help Singapore remains signifcantly cheaper than its peers, although it remains the most expensive
place in the world to buy and run a car, as well as the second-priciest destination in which to buy
clothes. In terms of food and drink the cost of living in Singapore is on a par with that of Shanghai
in China. Seoul, Tokyo and Osaka present the three most expensive places in the world to buy staple
goods. In Seoul, topping up a grocery basket is almost 50% more expensive than in New York.
Worldwide Cost of Living 2017
US cities fall back but Chinese cities fall further
With the dollar weakening slightly against other currencies, New York is the only North American city
among the ten most expensive cities, although Los Angeles remains highly ranked, in 11th place, down
from eighth place last year. Although recent years have seen the relative cost of living in US cities rise,
the latest ranking refects a fall for all but two (San Francisco and Lexington) of the 16 cities surveyed.
Meanwhile, the rise in the relative cost of living in Seoul has continued. The South Korean capital,
which was ranked as low as 50th just seven years ago, now occupies sixth place.
Seoul’s rise contrasts with a fall among Chinese cities, where weakening consumption growth and a
steady devaluation of the renminbi has resulted in China’s urban centres moving down the ranking by
between fve and 16 places each.
Paris is the only euro zone city among the ten most expensive. The French capital remains
structurally extremely expensive to live in, with only alcohol and tobacco offering value for money
compared with other European cities. The Danish capital, Copenhagen, which pegs its currency to the
euro, also features in the ten priciest, largely owing to relatively high transport and personal care
When looking at the most expensive cities by category, it is interesting to note that Asian cities
tend to form the priciest locations for general grocery shopping. However, European cities tend to be
priciest in the recreation and entertainment categories, with Zurich and Geneva the most expensive,
perhaps refecting a greater premium on discretionary spending.
The ten most expensive cities in the world
CountryCityWCOL index (New York=100)RankRank movement
Hong KongHong Kong11420
Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit
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