Shanghai is Asia's most expensive city for expats

2015-12-15 Editor: Wang Fan
Shanghai Tower (the highest in the picture), a new landmark of Shanghai's financial hub Lujiazui, is nearly complete.(Photo provided to China Daily)

Shanghai Tower (the highest in the picture), a new landmark of Shanghai's financial hub Lujiazui, is nearly complete.(Photo provided to China Daily)

Shanghai is Asia's most-expensive city and the world's seventh most-expensive for expatriates, according to a cost-of-living survey, which cites the strengthening of the renminbi as the main cause.

Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou ranked eighth, ninth and 14th, respectively, all surpassing New York's Manhattan, which was 15th in the survey by ECA International, a London-based consultancy. Beijing was the second most-expensive city in Asia.

Manhattan is the only American city among the top 20, with the Chinese city Shenzhen close behind at 16th.

Four Swiss cities were the most expensive —Zurich, Geneva, Bern and Basel — and two African cities —Luanda, Angola and Kinshasa, Congo —came in fifth and sixth.

"In spite of the minor depreciation in the renminbi against the dollar over the summer, it has strengthened against most other currencies leading to Shanghai becoming the most expensive Asian city for international assignees,"said ECA's Asia regional director, Lee Quane, in a press release.

"This reflects the general trend seen in China, with Chinese locations gradually moving up our rankings over recent years. It is likely that major Chinese cities will remain expensive destinations for mobile executives for the foreseeable future," Quane said.

"Shanghai and Beijing are more expensive than Manhattan on average for most foods although fresh fruit and vegetables in Manhattan are more expensive. International clothing brands are considerably more expensive in Beijing and Shanghai than in Manhattan, while eating out is significantly cheaper," James Davis, EAC International's head of Marketing and Communications, wrote in an e-mail to China Daily.

ECA International's surveys use a basket of day-to-day goods and services commonly purchased by expats, including groceries such as dairy, meat and fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as household goods, general and leisure services, clothing, restaurants, alcohol and tobacco.

According to Davis, 500 grams of ground coffee costs $22.66 in Shanghai, compare to $14.52 in Manhattan. A $676.67 suit at the Big Apple would cost $1110.49 in Shanghai.

The marinara sauce is cheaper in Shanghai if made from scratch. A kilogram of tomatoes in Shanghai costs half the price in Manhattan.

"I found food and other living costs to be relatively cheap if I stuck with domestic products and ate at local restaurants, but any sort of craving for imported goods or international restaurants was usually pretty pricey," said Elizabeth Oppong of the US, who had worked in Shenzhen.

"I cut back on expensive habits like Starbucks and shopping at international stores," she told China Daily in an e-mail.

Travis Joern, an expat in Shanghai for the Canada China Business Council, said he tries to stick to local produce. "For foreign food products, you pay the premium for import duties, but for local food products it's quite affordable," Joern said in an e-mail.

All Chinese cities moved up in the rankings from the previous year. Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong were in the top 10 from last year's 12th, 13th, and 26th. Guangzhou went to 14th from 30th, and Shenzhen climbed 29 places to 16th from 45th.

Manhattan also saw a big jump—15th from 38th.

According to ECA, the strengthening of the US dollar between surveys saw cities across the US climb in the rankings. Miami rose 62 places to 71st.

"Despite prices in our basket of goods falling in some cities in the US, the strengthening of the US dollar means that it is becoming more expensive for companies to relocate staff into the States,"said Michael Witkowski, vice-president of ECA International New York.


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