Hong Kong emerged as the most expensive city in the world for international workers, according to Mercer’s Cost of Living City Ranking for 2024 —  a position the SAR has held since 2022. Singapore took the No. 2 spot, and was the only other Asian city in the Top 10 of the list that assesses which cities make a location attraction for expat employees. The other most pricey cities in Asia include Shanghai (No. 23), Beijing (No. 25), Seoul (No. 32), and Tokyo (No. 49).

1Hong Kong
7New York
10Los Angeles
The Top 10 most expensive cities in the world for expatriate employees for 2024.

Mercer evaluated the comparative costs of over 200 items in 226 cities — from housing and transportation to food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment. The American consulting firm used New York as the base city and currency movements were measured against the US dollar. They analysed the costs of everyday items such as eggs, olive oil, a cup of coffee, 1 litre of petrol, men’s jeans, and a woman’s haircut to see how much they increased from 2023. The prices for all these products increased in Hong Kong, except for jeans. In addition, rental costs in the territory increased by 8% over the past year.

12 large eggs13%
1 litre of olive oil25.4%
Espresso coffee at a popular café0.5%
1 litre of petrol (unleaded 95 octane)7.2%
Men’s blue jeans0%
Women’s shampoo, haircut, and styling4.8%
The percentage increase in the price of various goods and services in Hong Kong from 2023-2024.

According to Mercer, factors such as expensive housing markets, high transportation costs, and higher cost of goods and services contributed to high living costs in top-ranking cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Zurich. The firm also stated that inflation and exchange-rate fluctuations directly affect the pay and savings of internationally mobile employees. Heightened economic and geopolitical volatility, as well as local conflicts and emergencies also led to additional expenses in housing, utilities, local taxes, and education. 

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The rankings also included a mention of quality of living, which encompassed factors like safety and security, infrastructure, and connectivity to find cities that combine low costs with a high quality of life. Hong Kong ranked 77 when it came to quality of living, while Singapore came in at No. 29. Vienna, which is the 24th most expensive city in the world for international workers, took the No. 1 spot in terms of quality of living.

Header image credit: Leung Cho Pan via Canva

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From the Middle East to the Far East and a couple of places in between, Anjali has lived in no fewer than seven cities in Asia, and has travelled extensively in the region. She worked as a lifestyle journalist in India before coming to Hong Kong, where her favourite thing to do is island-hopping with her daughter. You can check out her musings on motherhood, courtesy her Instagram profile.

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