Weakened Dollar Changes List of Priciest Cities for Expatriates

July 24, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The weakening of the U.S. dollar has caused significant changes in the rankings of the world's most expensive cities for expatriates by Mercer.

The Worldwide Cost of Living Survey 2008 found Moscow is still the most expensive city for the third consecutive year (See Moscow is the Priciest of the Pricey as a Hometown). Tokyo climbed two places to second position and London drops one place to rank third, according to a Mercer press release.

Oslo and Seoul rounded out the top five. Asunción in Paraguay is the least expensive city in the ranking for the sixth year running, Mercer said.

New York City , the survey’s base city with a score of 100, was the only North American city to feature in this year’s top 50 at 22 nd place – dropping seven places. All other U.S. cities also experienced a significant decline in the rankings, such as Los Angeles, which moved from 42 nd to 55 th place (score 87.5), Miami from 51 st to 75 th place (score 82), and Washington, DC, from 85 th to 107 th place (score 74.6).

“The decline in the ranking of all US cities is due to the weakening value of the US dollar against other major world currencies,” said Mitch Barnes, principal at Mercer in the US, in the press release.

Elsewhere in the Americas, Toronto jumped 28 places to rank 54 th . All other Canadian cities in the survey experienced a similar rise, with Vancouver moving from 89 th to 64 th , Calgary from 92 nd to 66 th , and Montréal from 98 th to 72 nd .

The two top-ranking cities in South America are São Paulo in 25 th place and Rio de Janeiro in 31 st place, jumping 37 and 33 places, respectively. The Brazilian real appreciated nearly 18% against the U.S. dollar last year, causing these Brazilian cities to rocket up the list, Mercer said.

Aside from Moscow, London, and Oslo, other European cities ranking in the top 10 of the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey 2008 included Copenhagen at 7 th place and Geneva in 8 th place. Both cities have dropped one place from last year. Zurich remains in 9 th place, and Milan climbed to 10 th place.

Tel Aviv is again the most expensive city in the Middle East at 14 th place, up three places from 2007. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have dropped significantly this year, at positions 52 and 65, respectively, mainly due to the UAE dirham being pegged to the U.S. dollar. Most African cities in the survey moved down the ranking with the exception of Lagos in Nigeria, which jumped seven places to 30.

In Asia, after Tokyo and Seoul, Hong Kong closely follows in 6 th place with a score of 117.6. Singapore ranks 13 th . In contrast, certain cities in this region experienced significant declines in the ranking, such as Jakarta, which fell from 55 th to 82 nd place and Bangkok, which dropped from 95 th to 105 th place.

In Vietnam, Hanoi dropped 35 places to rank 91 st place and Ho Chi Minh City dropped 40 places to rank 100 th place, mainly because the Vietnamese dong has remained stable against the U.S. dollar.

Both Australian and New Zealand cities are moving up in the rankings due to the appreciation of their local currencies against the U.S. dollar. However, New Zealand's cities remain the less costly option for expatriates, with Auckland in 78 th place and Wellington in 93 rd place. Sydney continues to be the most expensive city for expatriates in this region, moving up six places to 15 th , followed by Melbourne (36 th place) and Perth (53rd).

Mercer's survey covers 143 cities across six continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment. It is used to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees.

For further information or to purchase copies of the city reports, visit www.mercerHR.com/costofliving , or call Mercer Global Information Services at 800-333-3070.