Amplified by the global health crisis and the conflict in Ukraine, skyrocketing inflation and currency volatility are affecting international economic balances and the cost of living for each of us. For organizations with globally distributed workforces, assessing and managing the impact on their employees’ financial wellbeing may be particularly complex.
Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey provides employers with current, extensive and reliable data to help them navigate compensation strategies for their mobile employees in the unpredictable global markets.
So what are the most expensive cities in the world for international employees?
Hong Kong tops Mercer’s 2022 Cost of Living City Ranking, based on our latest research, followed by Zurich and Geneva, while Ankara closes the ranking at the 227th spot.
Check out the full ranking below and visit our Newsroom for more local insights in the press releases from across geographies.
This map presents the most and least expensive cities in the world for international employees.
The top 10 most expensive cities are, in order from rank 1 to rank 10: Hong Kong, Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern, Tel Aviv, New York City, Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing.
The 10 least expensive cities are, in order from rank 218 to 227: Algiers, Almaty, Tunis, Tashkent, Istanbul, Karachi, Islamabad, Dushanbe, Bishkek, Ankara.
1. Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR
2. Zurich, Switzerland
3. Geneva, Switzerland
View the full city ranking
|1||Hong Kong||Hong Kong SAR|
|7||New York City, NY||United States|
|17||Los Angeles, CA||United States|
|19||San Francisco, CA||United States|
|20||Honolulu, HI||United States|
|23||Bangui||Central African Republic|
|29||Washington, DC||United States|
|30||Boston, MA||United States|
|31||Dubai||United Arab Emirates|
|32||Miami, FL||United States|
|36||Chicago, IL||United States|
|42||Atlanta, GA||United States|
|45||Seattle, WA||United States|
|53||Kinshasa||The Democratic Republic Of The Congo|
|61||Abu Dhabi||United Arab Emirates|
|70||Philadelphia, PA||United States|
|72||San Juan||Puerto Rico|
|74||Brazzaville||The Republic Of Congo|
|75||Dallas, TX||United States|
|82||Pittsburgh, PA||United States|
|83||Minneapolis, MN||United States|
|85||Houston, TX||United States|
|91||Portland, OR||United States|
|101||St. Louis, MO||United States|
|107||Detroit, MI||United States|
|112||Cleveland, OH||United States|
|135||Port Of Spain||Trinidad & Tobago|
|139||San Jose||Costa Rica|
|157||Vientiane||Lao People'S Democratic Republic|
|163||Ho Chi Minh City||Vietnam|
|164||Dar Es Salaam||Tanzania|
|173||Santo Domingo||Dominican Republic|
|176||Rio De Janeiro||Brazil|
|179||Bandar Seri Begawan||Brunei|
|182||San Salvador||El Salvador|
|194||Cape Town||South Africa|
…and what it means for purchasing power across markets.
With the recent return of high inflation across the globe, employees are increasingly concerned about their purchasing power, resulting in salary increase expectations. Companies, on the other hand, need to strike a delicate balance between controlling their costs while struggling to attract and retain talent.
Addressing these issues with regard to internationally mobile employees is a complex and significant challenge for multinational employers.
They may adopt various strategies to protect the purchasing power of their international workforce in times of market volatility, but it’s important that they understand the advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches. The consequences of their decisions will impact both the business and the financial wellbeing of their employees. Mercer has created a practical guide that can help you understand and navigate this complexity.
The charts below show the price movement* of everyday items across selected locations
This infographic shows the movement of gasoline prices across selected locations. By far, the highest price increase occurred in Istanbul, followed by Los Angeles, Barcelona, New York City and Berlin. No price movement occurred for Dakar. Gasoline price decrease did not occur in any of the locations. The data refer to one liter of gasoline, unleaded 95 octane.
This infographic shows the movement of cooking oil prices across selected locations. The highest price increase occurred in Barcelona, followed by Istanbul, Dublin, Beijing and Warsaw. No price movement occurred in Berlin, Hong Kong, London, Paris and Tokyo. Price decrease occurred in Mumbai, Seoul, Dubai, Toronto and Johannesburg. The data refer to cooking oil (1 lt / 33.8 oz / 920 gr).
This infographic shows the movement of beer prices across selected locations. By far, the highest price increase occurred in Istanbul. No price movement occurred in 9 out of the 25 cities. The most significant price decrease occurred in Warsaw, followed by Berlin, Nairobi, Toronto and Beijing. The data refer to international branded beer (0.33l / 11.2oz).
This infographic shows the movement of bread prices across selected locations. The highest price increase occurred in Istanbul, Mexico City, São Paulo, Dublin and Warsaw. No price movement occurred in Beijing, Berlin, Dakar, Hong Kong, Paris, Seoul and Sydney. The most significant price decrease occurred in New York City, Los Angeles, Dubai, Johannesburg and Mumbai. The data refer to white sliced toast bread (1000 gr / 35.3 oz).
*Source: Mercer's 2022 Cost of Living Survey. The comparison is based on data collected between September 2021 and March 2022. No price movement occurred for certain locations.
Cost of living is one of the key factors of city attractiveness for international talent, business and investments, but what do we learn when we also take quality of living into account?
Competition among cities is fierce, especially in times of galloping inflation hitting the majority of locations around the world. Which cities are currently best positioned to attract and retain top talent and international businesses?
A city’s attractiveness is based on a number of factors, and while the cost of life is clearly an important one, other components include the affordability of housing, the quality of life based on a range of factors such as safety, sanitation, eco-friendliness or education standards, as well as governance and taxation considerations.
The infographic on the right shows the results of our analysis that takes into account a combination of selected factors, drawing on Mercer’s latest cost of living and quality of living research.
This infographic shows the correlation between the Cost of Living Index and Quality of Living Index for selected global cities, as well as their score in the Eco-City Index. Some of the locations with the lowest cost of living and highest quality of living are Vancouver, Toronto, Stockholm, Lisbon and Frankfurt. Hong Kong has the highest cost of living but lower quality of living than many other locations. The general trend shows that the locations with higher cost of living and quality of living also rank higher for eco-friendliness.
¹Source: Mercer's Quality of Living Survey September 2021-2022.
New York City (NY), US is used as the benchmark for the calculations.
²Source: Mercer's Cost of Living Survey March 2022.
New York City (NY), US is used as the benchmark for the calculations.
³Source: Mercer's Quality of Living Survey September 2021-2022.
Mercer Eco-City Index includes quality of living criteria such as water potability, waste removal, air pollution, etc. New York City (NY), US is used as the benchmark for the calculations.
How can you ensure your mobile employees stay happy and efficient in the
In a recent webinar, our consultants shared highlights of Mercer’s latest global cost of living and quality of living research, and what it means for organizations and cities looking to attract and retain international talent.
Good afternoon, good morning everyone. Welcome to our webinar dedicated to the latest trends related to the cost of living, quality of living and city attractiveness.
In today’s webinar, my colleague Vadim, Mercer Senior Consultant in the US, joins me as a co-speaker.
Let’s discuss the agenda, as we have a lot of topics to cover. We’re going to look at several aspects explored in our latest mobility trends surveys. We’ll be looking at internationally mobile employees’ experience as well as running international assignments in difficult times, and one of the examples we’ll consider is the situation in China.
Then we’ll move on to mobility data trends and talk more in-depth about inflation issues, which is currently a hot topic in light of the pandemic, currency exchange fluctuations and so on.
Finally, we’ll share some considerations around city attractiveness, looking at its two components – cost of living and quality of living – how they both impact city attractiveness and what are the links between them.
Mercer’s annual Cost of Living city ranking is based on our Cost of Living data research - one of the most recognized and extensive surveys of its kind, encompassing over 400 cities around the world. Carried out twice per year, the survey is designed to help multinational companies and governments around the world determine compensation strategies for their expatriate employees.
How we calculate the cost of living index
In addition to evaluating more than 200 goods and services, Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey highlights essential factors — such as currency fluctuations, cost inflation and accommodation price instability — in determining the cost of packages for internationally mobile employees.
To help ensure the highest relevance of the data we provide, Mercer continuously keeps its Cost of Living Research methodology abreast with the latest trends, adjusting it to the international market developments and international assignees’ spending patterns.
Mercer inflation definition
Inflation is generally defined as the measure of price movements from time T to time T+1, using exactly the same specification of item in terms of packaging size and characteristics.
Therefore, for the purpose of Mercer’s Cost of Living survey, Mercer’s inflation quoted figure is designed to provide an indication of how the index has moved in the last six or 12 months in local currency terms, regardless of the currency fluctuations between the home and the host location.