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Cost of living highlights

The South Sudan city of Juba was the most expensive location for expatriates in our latest Cost of living ranking, based on the March 2015 survey results. Juba was followed by Luanda and Zurich.
Caracas, formerly in top spot, was removed from the list this time around simply because the multiple exchange rate systems in operation in Venezuela lead to considerably varied rankings. However, if an official fixed exchange rate is used Caracas would be by far the most expensive city in the world.
See below or click on the map below for more country highlights based on our latest survey findings.

New this survey:

New survey locations are Salzburg (Austria), Cayenne (French Guiana), Ahmedabad (India) and Nashville (USA).

Public transport index: Also new this survey is the addition of a public transport index which can be used in the cost of living calculator and reports. To use this index, select it as an alternative to the ECA default basket type.

Single parent spendables: Where available we’ve now added data to our spendable tables for single parent families. Allowances for this family type can now be calculated via our Cost of Living calculator. 

Host prices: Finally, average prices for items within the default basket are now listed in all host locations. These can be added to a report using ECA’s Report Builder, or downloaded into Excel.

If you need assistance with anything above, require advice regarding currency fluctuations or are simply looking for data, please do get in touch. You can also download our Global Perspective document on the topic of Cost of living for additional insight. Just go to the Resources section of our website.

Global Highlights


Once again the government has extended its price control program aimed at tackling high inflation, this time until July. The controls affect 476 supermarket items including milk, bread and meat as well as canned goods and cleaning products. ECA observed a 13% uplift between March and September surveys. Inflation, since then, has remained high yet stable but the peso has weakened so June interim survey indices for assignees in Argentina will have only increased a little on those published in March.


While the introduction in January 2015 of VAT at 7.5% does appear to have pushed up most prices it is unclear whether all of the rise has been immediately passed on to consumers since there was a three-month transition period. On the other hand, petrol prices fell 27% between surveys which has held back overall inflation. The Bahamian dollar peg to the US dollar means indices to the Bahamas will rise for most assignees.


Inflation observed in ECA’s basket of goods in Brazil accelerated slightly between surveys and, unlike most parts of the world, petrol prices have risen due to the introduction of tax increases on fuel. Despite rallying briefly at the time of the September survey, the Brazilian real has now depreciated again against most major currencies outweighing the impact of price increases. Indices for most assignees coming to Brazil will have fallen.


Inflation in Canada has remained very low due to the drop in global oil prices. Between September 2014 and March 2015 the price of petrol in Canada fell 17% on average. During that period the Canadian dollar continued to weaken against many currencies, particularly the US dollar. Indices for US assignees, moving across the border will have dropped significantly.


Indices for moves into China have increased considerably on the whole, despite ECA observing a deceleration in price increases in the six months between surveys. This is due to the Chinese yuan following the trend of the US dollar and gaining significant value against most other currencies since September. Shanghai has become the most expensive location in Asia in ECA’s ranking of most expensive locations, closely followed by Beijing.


The euro has continued to struggle against most currencies, weakening, for example, by approximately 17% against the US dollar and 9% against the British pound in the six months between September and March surveys. With inflation remaining low in most major economies any significant index change for assignees into or out of the region is likely to be due to currency movements. In general, those moving away from the Eurozone will have seen a fairly large increase in their index, whereas inbound assignees will have seen it drop.


Indices to Ghana rose significantly in the six months to March – a combination of high inflation and the strengthening of the cedi against most currencies, including the USD. However, since March the cedi has depreciated, offsetting accelerating inflation measured in our June interim survey for this location. Therefore the June survey will see significantly lower indices for assignees in the country and raise them for Ghanaians moving abroad but with the cedi having since strengthened, a trend which is expected to continue, inbound indices are likely to increase. The economic situation remains volatile so do get in touch for the latest information.
The South Sudan city of Juba was the most expensive location for expatriates in our latest Cost of Living ranking, based on the March 2015 survey results. Juba was followed by Luanda and Zurich.

Hong Kong

Inflation in Hong Kong has accelerated compared to last survey, averaging around 2% over six months. However, the main driver for changes in indices there has been the strong performance of the US dollar, to which the HK dollar is pegged. The majority of assignees, including those coming out of the Eurozone and Japan, will see considerable increases in their indices. Even those from the US will see an increase in their indices since ECA has observed falling prices overall in the States, unlike Hong Kong.


ECA has seen inflation in its shopping basket for India continue to slow between surveys while the rupee has strengthened again. For the majority of assignees into India indices have risen. A notable exception to this is assignees coming from the US who will see their indices stay relatively stable: inflation and exchange rate movements between the two countries have more or less offset each other.


In the six months between surveys, ECA’s data showed that inflation continued to decelerate in Japan, despite efforts by the government to encourage higher inflation. During the same period the yen has also continued to lose value against most major currencies. As a result, indices for assignees going into Japan have once again decreased this survey.


Inflation in Russia continued to increase between September 2014 and March 2015 surveys, with western sanctions and the collapse of the rouble impacting the cost of both imported and locally produced goods. In Moscow, ECA saw six-month inflation of around 12%, with larger increases seen in food and electrical goods in particular. However, the extreme depreciation of the rouble against major currencies more than offset inflation and indices using the March rate have fallen for most assignees. Since then the rouble has strengthened somewhat while inflation has slowed significantly. The June interim survey shows indices rising for most assignees in the country, although they will still be lower than in September 2014.

South Sudan

The South Sudanese pound’s peg to a strong US dollar, means it has appreciated considerably against most major currencies between surveys: more than 19% against the euro, for example. This, combined with increasing inflation – ECA saw six-month inflation of 6% - has led to higher inbound indices on all bases. Excluding Caracas with its complicated exchange rate situation (see below), Juba is the most expensive location in ECA’s latest cost of living ranking.


In January, the Swiss National Bank removed the cap that controlled the Swiss franc’s upper limit against the euro, leading to a rapid increase in the value of the franc. The Swiss franc has appreciated by around 13% against the euro between September and March surveys. Indices from Eurozone countries to Switzerland have increased significantly despite deflation in ECA’s shopping basket for Switzerland.


Turkey is one of the few locations where ECA has seen a significant rise in inflation compared to last survey. Six-month inflation figures average 6.5%, driven mainly by a rapid acceleration of food prices. The Turkish lira has been relatively stable against the euro between surveys so indices for moves out of the Eurozone to Turkey have increased considerably. However, against other currencies including the British pound, and even more so against the US dollar, the lira has weakened, more than offsetting the impact of inflation. Indices for moves from the UK and the US into Turkey have fallen.


The economic situation in Ukraine worsened considerably between September 2014 and March 2015. In the six months up to the March survey the hryvnia continued its freefall, losing around half its value. This, outweighed the impact of the 50% price rises ECA observed and cost of living indices went down for most assignees in Ukraine. However, since then the hryvnia has rebounded strongly. Inflation remains high, but has begun to stabilise. ECA’s latest June survey shows inbound cost of living indices increasing considerably for the majority of assignees.


Inflation in ECA’s basket of goods has slightly accelerated in the UAE since last year’s September survey. However, index movements for this location have been largely driven by the appreciation of the US dollar, to which the dirham is pegged. As a result, indices have risen significantly for most assignee moves into the Emirates


The sharp drop in petrol prices means ECA‘s inflation figures have turned negative in the USA. The average price at the pumps was 27% lower in March 2015 than it was last September. However, this has been offset by the strengthening of the US dollar: 7.6% against the British pound and 17.4% against the euro, resulting in lower indices for assignees out of the US but much higher indices, in many cases, for those moving to the US.


Ongoing economic volatility and multiple exchange rate systems make setting indices for Venezuela extremely complex. Using an official fixed exchange rate, Caracas is by far the most expensive city in the world as extremely high inflation persists (ECA’s annual price increase figure for Venezuela is  over 180%). However, if the alternative, floating Simadi rate is applied, cost of living in Caracas becomes incredibly cheap. NB. The Simadi rate, introduced in February 2015, replaces the SICAD II rate previously published by ECA. Get in touch for assistance.  

*ECA carries out its main cost of living surveys in March and September each year. However, due to the economic volatility in this country ECA conducted an interim survey for this location in June. For further information get in touch with your ECA contact.


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