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Cost of Living Survey highlights

There is no consistent theme in the results among emerging markets of this year’s cost of living survey, with some countries like India, Brazil and Russia seeing recoveries in their currencies, while others like Argentina, Iran and Pakistan have continued to see declines. Another group, which includes Turkey and South Africa, also saw their currencies recover strongly, but after the survey period they fell once more.

Meanwhile, the world’s major economies may be experiencing a calm before a storm, seeing low inflation and relatively stable currencies during the six months between ECA’s September 2018 and March 2019 cost of living surveys. There are many potential threats to this relative calm, from a global trade war to Brexit or another debt crisis within the EU. It is possible that any of these issues or others could lead to a big realignment in the coming months but for now indices will be relatively stable when moving between these countries compared to recent surveys.

ECA has prepared this interactive map to help you understand and explain to assignees how key events around the world have affected cost of living indices during our survey period. This should act as a useful guide when considering whether to amend assignee cost of living allowances to ensure that spending power is maintained.

If you require any assistance or would like additional information or data on the 482 locations included in our survey, or need advice regarding currency fluctuations, please get in touch with your ECA representative.


Post-survey developments

Once more world events have failed to follow ECA’s cost of living publication schedule. The currencies of Argentina, Haiti, Venezuela and Zambia have all continued to depreciate, each falling by more than 10% against the US dollar since the survey period and much more in the case of the bolivar. The Pakistani rupee has also continued to fall, reaching record lows against the US dollar.

Since the survey the currencies in Turkey and South Africa have also fallen back after gains in the survey period. In South Africa this has more than erased any earlier strength while the lira has lost half of its gains against the US dollar, so the increases in the index described in the article would be tempered or even eradicated if a more recent exchange rate was used.

The March 2019 survey was conducted before mass protests in Sudan pushed the military to intervene and oust the long-serving president Omar Bashir. Signs were initially promising that the economic situation might improve, with funds from donors promised to help rebuild the economy, and the government even strengthened the Sudanese pound by around 5% in late April to 1 USD = 45 SDG, reflecting this confidence. However, talks soon collapsed and many protestors advocating a democratic transition died as the military tried to suppress dissent. There remains uncertainty about what lies ahead for Sudan with shortages of hard currency for imports making further devaluations likely and prices probably will keep rising.

To keep up with the latest trends in inflation and exchange rates subscribe to ECA’s blogs. To get more insight into how these changes or any others around the world will affect your staff please get in touch with ECA.

ECA’s interim surveys

We are currently undertaking interim surveys for the following countries due to high inflation expectations: Argentina, Haiti, Iran, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. The results will be available in July 2019.


ECA publishes cost of living data for 482 cities around the world. It is available from ECA in several forms: as part of a subscription in a calculator which allows you to experiment with different types of index and review the outputs; in reports, providing background detail for specific indices; and as part of the Build-up Calculator for performing balance-sheet calculations.

Cost of living data is also pre-populated in ECAEnterprise, our Assignment Management System, and in our Net-to-Net Calculator.

  Please contact us to speak to a member of our team directly.

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