Cost of living continues to soar in Asia

The Economist Intelligence Unit has identified Singapore, Hong Kong and Osaka as the most expensive cities in the world to live in.
By: | March 20, 2020

Asia makes up the top three in the list of most expensive cities in the world to live in, said the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in its 2020 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey. Singapore and Hong Kong continue to top the rankings, joined by Osaka, which climbed three places to replace Paris. Tokyo also rose from 13th to joint eighth place with Los Angeles, while Seoul drops out of the top ten on the back of currency depreciation.

Taking an average of the indices for all cities surveyed, and using New York as the base city, the cost of living has fallen by around 4% on average across the 133 cities surveyed. This, said the EIU, can be attributed to the impact on global currencies of easing monetary policy, uncertainty around the US China trade war, and the strength of the US economy.

While Asian cities make up four of the most expensive list, Asia also represents the most varied cost of living as a continent, with India and Pakistan home to four of the ten least expensive cities in the rankings. Despite rapid population growth and fast-growing economies in the region, South Asia remains structurally cheap as a result of low wages and high levels of income inequality. This, explained the EIU, limit household spending and strong retail competition, thus suppressing potential price raises.

Nicholas Fitzroy, the EIU’s risk briefing director, added, “The rise in cost of living in Asian cities has been a feature of many of our reports over the past ten years, a trend continued in 2019 with Singapore, Hong Kong and Osaka sharing the top spot for the first time. Our 2019 survey shows some striking contrasts, with opposing trends in local currencies, inflation and domestic demand growth, seeing the comparative cost of living falling across Europe, while it rises in North America.”

“Similarly, the survey shows that there remains stark structural differences in the cost of living in Asia’s most expensive business hubs, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, and its cheapest, such as Bangalore and Chenna