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Japan, China top most expensive expat postings in Asia

A view of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, with Mount Fuji in the background.
A view of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, with Mount Fuji in the background. KIYOSHI OTA/BLOOMBERG

Japan, China top most expensive expat postings in Asia

Tokyo is still Asia’s most expensive city for expat postings, but it is being losing ground to smoggy Beijing, according to the results of a survey released recently by global employment solutions provider ECA International.

Tokyo and Beijing, which were globally ranked 10th and 15th, respectively, were followed by Nagasaki, Shanghai and Yokohama to round out the top five most expensive expat postings in Asia.

Things could be drastically different in the next survey, however, as economic conditions in Japan and China look likely to change this year.

“Although the Chinese government has allowed the renminbi to appreciate steadily against the US dollar and food and oil prices in China have been rising, Beijing’s jump up the ranking is largely due to Japanese locations becoming so much cheaper because of the weaker yen,” said Lee Quane, Asia regional director for ECA International.

“Nevertheless, living costs in Chinese locations have increased in recent years, making China a more expensive location than some of its neighbours for companies looking to set up operations in the region.”

The global list was topped by the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, followed by Angola’s capital Luanda, the Norwegian capital Oslo, South Sudan’s capital Juba and Stavanger, another Norwegian city.

More locally, the Southeast Asian region is led by Singapore, which ranks ninth in Asia and 30th globally. The survey ranked Phnom Penh 34th in Asia and 215th worldwide. Other Southeast Asian cities that came in ahead of Phnom Penh include Bangkok (26th), Yangon (31st) and Chiang Mai (32nd). Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City were close behind Phnom Penh at 36th and 37th, respectively.

ECA International’s cost of living indices are calculated based on surveys carried out each year in March and September focusing on a basket of common goods and services. The data released last month refers to year-on-year movements between ECA’s September 2012 and 2013 surveys.

The data is used by ECA clients to calculate cost of living allowances for assignees. The survey covers a basket of food, drink and tobacco items, as well as services, electrical goods, car transportation and dining out.

Certain living costs including accommodation rental, utilities expenses, car purchases and school fees are not considered in the survey. Such items can make a significant difference to expenses but are usually compensated for separately in expatriate packages.

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