Global mobility company ECA International has released its annual list of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, and once again Hong Kong has landed at the top of the list.
The company calculates the list based on several factors, including the average price of household staples like milk and cooking oil, rent, utilities, public transit and the strength of the local currency.
This is the third year in a row that Hong Kong has claimed the dubious honor of being the world’s priciest city on the ECA index. The index specifically focuses on foreign workers and expats in their rankings.
Asia takes the prize
It is safe to call Asia the most expensive continent, with five cities – Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Seoul – landing in the top 10.
Some regulators include the Middle East in Asia. In that case, Tel Aviv – which is in sixth place – also counts toward Asia’s total and would give it six out of 10 spots.
Asia also claims the honor of being home to the fastest-rising city on the overall list. That would be Colombo, Sri Lanka’s main metropolis, which jumped 23 places from 162 to 149.
Lee Quane, ECA’s regional director for Asia, explained the reasoning for mainland China’s growing presence on the index.
“The majority of the mainland Chinese cities in our rankings have higher rates of inflation than we are used to seeing, but they are still typically lower than elsewhere in Asia,” Quane said in a statement. “Therefore, the main reason for their rise in the rankings has been the continued strength of the Chinese yuan against other major currencies.”
Lower down the list
So, which cities are lower ranked than in previous years?
Paris, which has topped the ECA list in the past, dropped out of the top 30. Madrid, Rome and Brussels all fell as well.
“Nearly every major Eurozone city saw a drop in the rankings this year as the euro performed worse in the last 12 months than the US dollar and British pound,” Quane explains.
External factors like politics and international conflicts can also play a role. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the accompanying sanctions placed by many countries meant that Moscow came in 62nd place and St Petersburg landed in 147th.
Europe’s most expensive city is Geneva, Switzerland, which was in third place after Hong Kong and New York City. Switzerland uses the Swiss franc instead of the euro.
The coronavirus pandemic has, of course, played a role in global supply chains and other economic factors.
ECA International isn’t the only company that ranks the world’s cities based on economics.
London-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) releases its Worldwide Cost of Living index every December. In 2021, Tel Aviv took the prize for costliest place to live, with Paris and Singapore tying for second.
Hong Kong was in the fifth spot, behind Zurich. In 2020, Hong Kong, Zurich and Paris all shared the designation of number one.
Both lists use the prices of everyday items like groceries and fuel to determine their rankings. However, EIU ties its figures to the US dollar, so economies that do the same thing – like Hong Kong, for one – are more likely to rank highly.
Either way, regardless of the order cities are listed on different indexes, it’s clear that Asian, European and North American cities are far more expensive to live in than their counterparts in Africa and South America.
The world’s most expensive cities
1. Hong Kong
2. New York
6. Tel Aviv
CNN’s Maureen O’Hare contributed reporting.