Inflation, exchange rates and flexible work shaping employee mobility, according to Mercer Cost of Living ranking

June 29, 2022

New York, United States 


  • New York City (7) remains the most expensive city in the United States, with Hong Kong SAR (1) taking the top spot globally
  • Inflation, exchange rates, and the war in Ukraine has had a material impact on employees’ pay and savings
  • Mercer’s annual Cost of Living Survey provides a reference point and helps shape multinational organizations’ approach to calculating appropriate compensation packages for employees on international assignments

Today, Mercer announced the results of its 2022 Cost of Living Survey with New York City remaining the most expensive city in the US for expatriates, ranking 7th worldwide, while Hong Kong SAR took the top spot globally. In addition to cost of living data, employee mobility research conducted by Mercer and the learnings from Mercer’s work with clients demonstrates that the war in Ukraine, exchange rate variations and widespread inflation are shrinking employees’ pay and savings.


Both inflation and exchange rate fluctuations directly influence the purchasing power of expatriate employees. The rise of remote and flexible working has also caused many employees to reconsider their priorities, work-life balance and the choice of location to live in. These conditions have serious consequences for employers, who need to rethink their approach to managing a globally distributed workforce, particularly in light tight labor markets. According to a June 2022 survey by Mercer, labor shortages rank as a significant or moderate HR priority for 82% of US employers.


Mercer’s cost of living data helps employers understand the importance of monitoring currency fluctuations and assessing the inflationary and deflationary pressures on goods, services and accommodation in all operating locations. The data also help employers determine and maintain compensation packages for employees on international assignments and when working abroad.


“The volatility triggered by COVID-19 and further worsened by the crisis in Ukraine has fueled global economic and political uncertainty. This uncertainty, coupled with significant rising inflation in most of the countries around the world, has international assignees concerned about their purchasing power and socio-economic stability,” said Yvonne Traber, Partner at Mercer and Global Head for the Mobility Business.


“Failing to adopt competitive international compensation strategies in times of uncertainty and adapt to this new world of work will undermine an organization’s ability to attract and retain top talent,” added Traber.


Conversely, this situation also offers an opportunity for cities and governments looking to attract foreign business, and for businesses looking to attract talent. The cost of living in a location can have a significant impact on its attractiveness as a destination for talent, and it can influence site selection decisions for organizations expanding and transforming their geographic footprint.


“After years of low inflation, the US is now seeing price increases in goods and services at greater rates compared to many other countries. This inflation is also manifesting itself at different levels across cities and regions in the US,” said Vince Cordova, Partner in Mercer’s Career practice. “Given the increased flexibility organizations and individuals have around work location options, understanding these differences and being able to measure how they change over time will be important in designing effective and responsive compensation and talent strategies.”


Regional insights


The Americas

New York City (7) remains the most expensive city in the region, followed by Nassau, Bahamas (16). The remaining US cities are ranked between 17th place and 112th place, Los Angeles (17), San Francisco (19), Honolulu (20), Washington (29), Chicago (36) and Cleveland (112). 

The most expensive Canadian city is Toronto (89) followed by Vancouver (108), Montreal (125), Ottawa (132), and least expensive city in Canada is Calgary (141). 
In South America, Buenos Aires, Argentina (114) is ranked as the most expensive city in region, followed by Montevideo, Uruguay (123), Santiago, Chile (130), Quito, Ecuador (156), Sao Paulo, Brazil (168). Belo Horizonte (210) is the least expensive city in South America. Managua (212) the capital of Nicaragua is the least expensive city in the Americas. 



Four out of 10 most expensive cities to live in for the international assignees are located in Asia, including the single most expensive city in the world – Hong Kong SAR (ranked 1). Singapore (8), Tokyo, Japan (9) and Beijing, China (10) are all on the top 10. The most expensive city in India is Mumbai ranked 127. 


The most expensive city in Pacific is Noumea, New Caledonia (54) closely followed by Sydney, Australia (58). Auckland, New Zealand (95) is the most expensive city in New Zealand, and Wellington (120) the least expensive in the Pacific.  



Four European cities are among the top 10 list of most expensive locations. All of those four are based in Switzerland, and Zurich being ranked second within the global ranking, as being the costliest within the European cities, closely followed by Geneva (3rd) and Basel (4th). Other cities in Europe are Copenhagen, Denmark (11), London, United Kingdom (15), Vienna, Austria (21) and Amsterdam, The Netherlands (25).  


The most expensive city in Eastern Europe is Prague (Czech Republic) ranked 60th out 227 cities. It is followed by Riga, Latvia (79), Bratislava, Slovakia (105) and Tallinn, Estonia (140). The least expensive city in Eastern Europe is Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina ranked 209th


Middle East and Africa

Tel Aviv (Israel) is the costliest city in the Middle East for international employees, ranked on the sixth position within the global ranking. The next in line for this region are cities from the United Arab Emirates, namely Dubai (31) and Abu Dhabi (61). Saudi cities such as Riyadh (103) and Jeddah (111) rank in the middle, closely followed by Amman, Jordan (115) and Manama, Bahrain (117).


In Africa, Bangui (23), Libreville, Gabon (24) and Victoria, Seychelles (38) are the three costliest cities. High in the ranking for this region we find also Djibouti (41), Kinshasa (53) and Lagos (55). The cheapest city in Africa is Tunis, Tunisia ranked 220th



About Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey

Mercer's widely recognized Cost of Living ranking is one of the world’s most comprehensive and is designed to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation strategies for their international assignees. New York City is used as the base city for all comparisons and currency movements are measured against the US dollar. The survey includes over 400+ cities throughout the world; this year’s ranking includes 227 cities across five continents and measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment. The data collected provide all of the key elements employers need to design efficient and transparent compensation packages for international assignees. Learn more here.



About Mercer

Mercer believes in building brighter futures by redefining the world of work, reshaping retirement and investment outcomes, and unlocking real health and well-being. Mercer’s approximately 25,000 employees are based in 43 countries and the firm operates in 130 countries. Mercer is a business of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people, with 83,000 colleagues and annual revenue of approximately $20 billion. Through its market-leading businesses including Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit Follow Mercer on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Mercer 2022 Cost of Living Ranking

Rank City Location
1 Hong Kong Hong Kong (SAR)
2 Zurich Switzerland
3 Geneva Switzerland
4 Basel Switzerland
5 Bern Switzerland
6 Tel Aviv Israel
7 New York City, NY United States
8 Singapore Singapore
9 Tokyo Japan
10 Beijing China
11 Copenhagen Denmark
12 Shanghai China
13 Shenzhen China
14 Seoul South Korea
15 London United Kingdom
16 Nassau Bahamas
17 Los Angeles, CA United States
18 Guangzhou China
19 San Francisco, CA United States
20 Honolulu, HI United States
21 Vienna Austria
22 Qingdao China
23 Bangui Central African Republic
24 Libreville Gabon
25 Amsterdam Netherlands
26 Nanjing China
27 Oslo Norway
28 Taipei Taiwan
29 Washington, DC United States
30 Boston, MA United States
31 Dubai United Arab Emirates
32 Miami, FL United States
33 Munich Germany
34 Busan South Korea
35 Paris France
36 Chicago, IL United States
37 Osaka Japan
38 Victoria Seychelles
39 Brussels Belgium
40 Shenyang China
41 Djibouti Djibouti
42 Atlanta, GA United States
43 Helsinki Finland
44 Chengdu China
45 Seattle, WA United States
46 Berlin Germany
47 The Hague Netherlands
48 Milan Italy
49 Dublin Ireland
50 Yokohama Japan
51 Nagoya Japan
52 Luxembourg Luxembourg
53 Kinshasa The Democratic Republic Of The Congo
54 Noumea New Caledonia
55 Lagos Nigeria
56 Chongqing China
57 Rome Italy
58 Sydney Australia
59 Hamburg Germany
60 Prague Czech Republic
61 Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates
62 Frankfurt Germany
63 Xian China
64 Luanda Angola
65 Dakar Senegal
66 Edinburgh United Kingdom
67 Melbourne Australia
68 Abidjan Côte D'Ivoire
69 Suzhou China
70 Philadelphia, PA United States
71 Stuttgart Germany
72 San Juan Puerto Rico
73 Wuhan China
74 Brazzaville The Republic Of Congo
75 Dallas, TX United States
76 Conakry Guinea Republic
77 Douala Cameroon
78 Barcelona Spain
79 Riga Latvia
80 N'Djamena Chad
81 Dusseldorf Germany
82 Pittsburgh, PA United States
83 Minneapolis, MN United States
84 Brisbane Australia
85 Houston, TX United States
86 Glasgow United Kingdom
87 Stockholm Sweden
88 Pointe-A-Pitre Guadeloupe (France)
89 Toronto Canada
90 Madrid Spain
91 Portland, OR United States
92 Taichung Taiwan
93 Aberdeen United Kingdom
94 Birmingham United Kingdom
95 Auckland New Zealand
96 Lyon France
97 Perth Australia
98 Dhaka Bangladesh
99 Leipzig Germany
100 Yaounde Cameroon
101 St. Louis, MO United States
102 Adelaide Australia
103 Riyadh Saudi Arabia
104 Canberra Australia
105 Bratislava Slovakia
106 Bangkok Thailand
107 Detroit, MI United States
108 Vancouver Canada
109 Lisbon Portugal
110 Toulouse France
111 Jeddah Saudi Arabia
112 Cleveland, OH United States
113 Kaohsiung Taiwan
114 Buenos Aires Argentina
115 Amman Jordan
116 Nuremberg Germany
117 Manama Bahrain
118 Bamako Mali
119 Muscat Oman
120 Wellington New Zealand
121 Belfast United Kingdom
122 Manila Philippines
123 Montevideo Uruguay
124 Lome Togo
125 Montreal Canada
126 Athens Greece
127 Mumbai India
128 Cotonou Benin
129 Harare Zimbabwe
130 Santiago Chile
131 Kuwait City Kuwait
132 Ottawa Canada
133 Doha Qatar
134 Phnom Penh Cambodia
135 Port Of Spain Trinidad & Tobago
136 Guatemala City Guatemala
137 Ouagadougou Burkina Faso
138 Niamey Niger
139 San Jose Costa Rica
140 Tallinn Estonia
141 Calgary Canada
142 Havana Cuba
143 Casablanca Morocco
144 Bujumbura Burundi
145 Ljubljana Slovenia
146 Accra Ghana
147 Abuja Nigeria
148 Vilnius Lithuania
149 Mexico City Mexico
150 Hanoi Vietnam
151 Jakarta Indonesia
152 Panama City Panama
153 Kingston Jamaica
154 Cairo Egypt
155 New Delhi India
156 Quito Ecuador
157 Vientiane Lao People'S Democratic Republic
158 Bucharest Romania
159 Zagreb Croatia
160 Nairobi Kenya
161 Tirana Albania
162 Rabat Morocco
163 Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam
164 Dar Es Salaam Tanzania
165 Limassol Cyprus
166 Kampala Uganda
167 Maputo Mozambique
168 Sao Paulo Brazil
169 Nouakchott Mauritania
170 Sofia Bulgaria
171 Port-Au-Prince Haiti
172 Lima Peru
173 Santo Domingo Dominican Republic
174 Warsaw Poland
175 Belgrade Serbia
176 Rio De Janeiro Brazil
177 Chennai India
178 Bengaluru India
179 Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei
180 Budapest Hungary
181 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
182 San Salvador El Salvador
183 Colombo Sri Lanka
184 Blantyre Malawi
185 Monterrey Mexico
186 Baku Azerbaijan
187 Wroclaw Poland
188 Antananarivo Madagascar
189 Tegucigalpa Honduras
190 Krakow Poland
191 Port Louis Mauritius
192 Hyderabad India
193 Johannesburg South Africa
194 Cape Town South Africa
195 Asuncion Paraguay
196 La Paz Bolivia
197 Yerevan Armenia
198 Yangon Myanmar
199 Lusaka Zambia
200 Brasilia Brazil
201 Pune India
202 Banjul Gambia
203 Kolkata India
204 Minsk Belarus
205 Bogota Colombia
206 Skopje Macedonia
207 Manaus Brazil
208 Kigali Rwanda
209 Sarajevo Bosnia-Herzegovina
210 Belo Horizonte Brazil
211 Johor Bahru Malaysia
212 Managua Nicaragua
213 Windhoek Namibia
214 Addis Ababa Ethiopia
215 Gaborone Botswana
216 Durban South Africa
217 Tbilisi Georgia
218 Algiers Algeria
219 Almaty Kazakhstan
220 Tunis Tunisia
221 Tashkent Uzbekistan
222 Istanbul Türkiye
223 Karachi Pakistan
224 Islamabad Pakistan
225 Dushanbe Tajikistan
226 Bishkek Kyrgyzstan
227 Ankara Türkiye

Source: Mercer’s 2022 Cost of Living Survey

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