Thai cities have fallen in the rankings of the world’s most expensive locations for overseas workers globally, with Bangkok dropping 12 positions to 57th place, and all other Thai cities moving out of the top 125 locations globally.

This was one of the findings of the latest Cost of Living research published by ECA International, the world’s leading provider of knowledge, information and software for the management and assignment of employees around the world.

Key Findings

  • Bangkok dropped 12 places and now sits outside of the top 50 most expensive locations globally
  • 10 of the top 20 most expensive locations in the world are Asian cities, as Chinese cities move up the rankings
  • Hong Kong tops the global rankings with Geneva in second place and Tokyo in third place

“The long-term effects of limited tourism and restricted overseas travel continue to impact the Thai economy, causing all Thai locations to plummet in the rankings. The lack of overseas visitors has weakened the baht while inflation rates, as measured by our baskets of goods, has been lower in Bangkok in comparison to most other locations in the region,”

Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia at ECA International.

Likewise, Japanese locations have all dropped in the latest rankings after a tough year for the yen. Tokyo has dropped one place to the third after being overtaken by Geneva, while Yokohama has fallen out of the global top ten to 16th.

Asia Highlights

  • Rebound in demand for Chinese goods strengthens Chinese yuan, driving all Chinese cities to climb in the latest rankings – with Shanghai and Guangzhou in the top ten
  • Singapore rises two places from last year to become 12th most expensive location globally for overseas workers, and remains in top ten Asia rankings
  • Strength of Taiwan’s exports, particularly semiconductors, is the biggest reason for the boost to the Taiwanese dollar, causing all surveyed cities to climb the rankings

Top ten most expensive locations for expatriates – Asia

Location2021 Global Ranking2020 Global Ranking
Hong Kong11
Tokyo32
Seoul88
Shanghai911
Guangzhou1015
Shenzhen1117
Singapore1214
Beijing1518
Yokohama1610
Taipei1925

Hong Kong remains the most expensive location in the world

Hong Kong remains the most expensive location in the world, with many prices rising quickly after experiencing slower growth in 2020 due to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Quane said, “Hong Kong is consistently at the top of the table and this year was no different with prices increasing by 2.7% overall in local currency. The Hong Kong economy has seen a recovery of sorts after a turbulent few years caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and political and social upheaval before this, and the increase in local prices reflects this.”

Chinese cities all rose in the latest rankings, with four Chinese locations now in the top 15 and Shanghai and Guangzhou both entering the global top ten.

Quane said, “Chinese cities have seen a rise in the rankings on the back of a strengthening of the Chinese yuan and relatively high rates of price increases. The Chinese currency has strengthened against all other major currencies thanks to a rebound in the demand for Chinese goods after a Covid-related lull at the beginning of 2020, making the cities more expensive now for overseas workers compared to before. Additionally, inflation in China has also picked up this year particularly due to rising fuel prices.”

Singapore, on the other hand, rose two places to 12th most expensive location in the world, as prices and inflation rose throughout 2021.

“Singapore has witnessed relatively high rates of inflation in the past year when measured by our basket of goods,” said Quane. “Inflation in day-to-day items has been accompanied by relatively high rates of growth in costs of rental accommodation. This contributed to Singapore’s rise of two places in the rankings along with the relative strength of the Singapore dollar against the yen and US dollar.”

Similarly, in Taiwan, all surveyed cities climbed the rankings and Taipei entered the top 20 most expensive global locations.

“The economy of Taiwan is currently experiencing a period of strength as its currency performs well against the US dollar. Taiwan avoided the worst of the economic downturn during the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic due to its early success in mitigating the spread of the virus, but the biggest reason for the boost to the Taiwanese dollar was the strength of exports, particularly semiconductors. This has contributed to the rise in our rankings of cities in Taiwan,” explained Quane.

Global Highlights

Most locations within the EU have seen drops in the rankings after an unsteady period for the euro, with Paris falling out of the global top 30 and cities such as Madrid, Brussels and Rome falling too.


Top ten most expensive locations for expatriates – Global

Location2021 Global Ranking2020 Global Ranking
Hong Kong11
Geneva24
Tokyo32
New York43
Tel Aviv57
London66
Zurich75
Seoul88
Shanghai911
Guangzhou1015

ECA International, the world’s leading provider of knowledge, information and software for the management and assignment of employees around the world, has released its latest annual Cost of Living research, which provides a comparison of costs faced by expatriates around the world in 208 cities in 121 countries and territories.

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