Singapore remains the most expensive city for expatriates: survey

SINGAPORE held on to its first-place seat as the world's most expensive city for expatriates for the seventh straight year, sharing the top spot with Hong Kong and Osaka. However, the city-state's gap with other cities narrowed.

This was according to findings from The Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) 2020 edition of its worldwide cost of living survey released on Wednesday.

This year, Singapore was 2 per cent more expensive than New York - the base city for comparison - and on equal footing with Osaka. Last year, however, Singapore was 7 per cent more expensive than New York and 6 per cent higher than Osaka for expatriates.

"While there was upward pressure in Singapore this year because of rising electricity costs and the strong currency, this was offset by flat or cheaper prices for other goods, such as restaurant meals and supermarket staples," said Simon Baptist, global chief economist at The EIU to The Business Times.

In Singapore this year, the average price for a one-kilogramme loaf of bread fell to US$3.35 from US$3.40 a year ago. The average price of a bottle of beer dropped to US$2.25 from US$2.37 the year prior.

Meanwhile, the average price of men's two-piece business suit and women's haircut held steady at US$1,167.14 and US$96.01 respectively.

On a global level, the survey found the cost of living falling by around 4 per cent on average across the 133 cities surveyed. This reflected the impact on global currencies from easing monetary policy, uncertainty around the US-China trade war and the strength of the US economy.

As the Singapore dollar has been "relatively strong" compared with many other currencies such as the Australian dollar, the euro as well as the Chinese yuan, cities which use those currencies became less expensive when compared with Singapore, Mr Baptist said.

Last year, the Singapore dollar was slightly weaker against the US dollar, which meant it had gotten marginally cheaper than cities in the US.

The survey also found Asia to have the most varied cost of living as a continent. Although the top-ranked cities are dominated by Asian business hubs, Asia also made up the biggest proportion of the 10 least expensive cities in the ranking.

India and Pakistan were home to four of the cities in the bottom 10 rankings.

Despite rapid population growth and having fast-growing economies, South Asia remains "structurally cheap" due to low wages and high levels of income inequality, the survey said. This limits household spending and strong retail competition, suppressing potential price rises.

The worldwide cost of living survey is a bi-annual survey which compares more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services. It collects more than 50,000 individual prices over a range of stores - from supermarkets, mid-priced stores and higher-priced speciality outlets.


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