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Hong Kong Most Expensive City to Live; Mumbai, Delhi Not Good for Expats

Mercer's 2022 Cost of Living survey took into account the prices of more than 200 items—from categories such as food, transportation, housing and personal care— in 227 cities as of March 2022.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong has emerged as the most expensive city in which to live and work overseas, even as Mumbai and Delhi have come out to be high on the affordable index for the expatriates with Kolkata being the least expensive city.

According to Mercer’s 2022 Cost of Living survey, Hong Kong rose in one position from last year to emerge as the most expensive city to live in and work in overseas. Last year it was Ashgabat, Turkmenistan which was the most expensive city. This is the fourth time in the last five years that Asia’s financial hub has been listed as the most expensive city for overseas workers.

Rising inflationary pressures, which have pushed the cost of living across the globe coupled with ongoing Covid-19 restrictions and increased political volatility, have made it more expensive to compensate staff posted in Hong Kong, the report said. Mercer’s annual cost of living index, now in its 28th year, has emerged as an indicator for the companies and governments to determine pay packages for expatriate employees by measuring accommodation costs and the price of goods and services within local markets against their relative cost in New York City. This year’s survey in 227 cities and took into account the prices of more than 200 items—from categories such as food, transportation, housing and personal care—as of March 2022.

Indian cities of Mumbai and Delhi were ranked among the top 40 most expensive cities in Asia for expatriates. Mumbai ranked at 127 emerged as the costliest city in India in terms of both living expenses and accommodation costs. It was followed by New Delhi (155), Chennai (177), Bengaluru (178), and Hyderabad (192), while Pune (201) and Kolkata (203) were the least expensive Indian cities in the ranking.

Mumbai, the financial hub of India, also emerged as a popular place for multinational corporations to establish operations. Organisations are, however, also considering other low-cost cities such as Hyderabad, Chennai, and Pune due to the higher cost of living in Mumbai. This year’s ranking compares the prices of more than 200 commodities including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment in the 227 cities spread across five continents.

The study highlights elements that contribute to daily costs. Among the assessed Indian cities, Kolkata has the lowest cost of daily necessities such as milk, breads, vegetables, while Mumbai and New Delhi have the highest costs. In terms of energy, phone costs, the cost of home utilities is highest in Mumbai and lowest in Chennai and Hyderabad. Watching a movie in Mumbai is most expensive whereas Hyderabad is the cheapest.

The survey found that Hyderabad had the cheapest housing of all the places surveyed in India when evaluating the country’s housing market. However, Hyderabad is more expensive than Pune and Kolkata when both cost of living and housing are taken into account.

Mumbai also has some of the costliest rentals, followed by New Delhi and Bangalore. On the other hand, accommodation cost in other cities in the survey (Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, and Kolkata) was 50% lesser than those of Mumbai.

Meanwhile, Knight Frank, in its latest report, Active Capital Asia-Pacific—Rising Capital in Uncertain Times has ranked Singapore, Sydney, Wellington, Perth, and Melbourne as the top five green-rated cities in commercial real estate in the Asia-Pacific region. Four Indian cities— Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai—also made it to the list of top 20 sustainable cities as per the APAC Sustainability Index 2021. Knight Frank’s APAC Sustainably Led Cities Index rated 36 cities based on urbanisation pressure, climate risk, carbon emissions and government initiatives.

Bengaluru led the sustainability index amongst the top Indian cities and ranked 14thin the APAC region. Bengaluru is the only Indian city to achieve the gold standard category. Delhi ranked second amongst the Indian cities (ranked 17th in the APAC region) followed by Hyderabad (ranked 18th in the APAC region) and Mumbai (ranked 20th in the APAC region).

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