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Caracas now the most expensive location in the Americas for expatriates

Using the main official DICOM exchange rate, Caracas is now the most expensive location in the Americas for expatriates, and the ninth-most expensive in the world, thanks to poor availability of goods and global currencies in Venezuela. Caracas is up 252 places from last year.

Published by ECA, the world's leading provider of information, software and expertise for the management and assignment of employees around the world, the Cost of Living Survey compares a basket of like-for-like consumer goods and services commonly purchased by international assignees* in over 460 locations worldwide. The survey allows businesses to ensure that their employees’ spending power is maintained when they are sent on international assignments. ECA International has been conducting research into cost of living for over 45 years.

ECA’s latest Cost of Living Survey indicates that Caracas now sits just above Manhattan in the regional rankings, and has also overtaken Buenos Aires (5th), Los Angeles (6th), Sao Paulo (20th) and Vancouver (38th).

Using Venezuela’s main official exchange rate, DICOM, Caracas tops the regional rankings. Caracas has seen the most dramatic rise in the global rankings this year, climbing a staggering 252 places in our rankings as inflation, as measured by ECA, has soared to over 440% annually. However, this ranking is likely to change considerably in upcoming Cost of Living Surveys given ongoing exchange-rate volatility there. In fact, using the black-market exchange rate Caracas is by far the cheapest city in the world.

- Steven Kilfedder, Production Manager, ECA International

Americas highlights

Manhattan no longer most expensive location in Americas for first time in three years

Manhattan has made way for Caracas to top the regional rankings this year, but Manhattan is still one of the most expensive locations in the world and the most expensive location in North America for expatriates. It has fallen by two places this year to 23rd globally.

South American cities re-enter the top 100 most expensive in the world

Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, ranks 35th globally this year, in sharp contrast to 2016 when it was 163rd. It has risen by 128 places in the global rankings in the past year, mainly because of soaring inflation, and is the second-highest climber this survey, behind Caracas.

Sao Paulo (85th), Rio de Janeiro (88th) and Montevideo (97th) re-entered the top 100 most expensive locations in the world, with Brasilia reaching 103rd, up 106 places since last year.

Global highlights

Luanda is now the most expensive location in the world for expats

Luanda has risen from 8th position last year to top ECA’s global rankings this year.

“The cost of goods typically purchased by international assignees in Luanda, which were already high due to poor infrastructure and high oil-fuelled demand, have been pushed much higher in the last year. The Angolan kwanza is increasingly overvalued, which pushes up relative costs, while the continued weakness of the black-market exchange rate has also inflated the price of imported goods,” added Kilfedder.

UK cities fall dramatically by up to 68 places and out of top 100 global rankings

Central London is now 132nd in the world, down from 65th last year, the lowest ever recorded since ECA first began publishing the Cost of Living rankings over 10 years ago - thanks to the weakened British pound.

Edinburgh has fallen to 165th, Cardiff is now ranked at 175th and Belfast has dropped to 186th in ECA’s ranking.

Swiss cities continue to dominate the global top 10

Despite prices falling in the previous year, Swiss cities continue to dominate the global top 10 – with Zurich 3rd, Geneva 4th, Basel 5th and Bern 6th.

The relative decline of the euro between surveys has seen most Eurozone locations fall in the global rankings with French, Dutch and German destinations among those falling most in the past year. Berlin has seen the most significant decline in mainland Europe, falling by 28 places to 122nd place.

Russia and Australia climb the cost of living rankings

The strengthened rouble has led to Moscow climbing the rankings by 125 places this year to 56th. However, it has a long way to go to reach the heights of five years ago when it was ranked 13th in the world.

Sydney remains the most expensive city in Australia. It currently ranks 50th in the global rankings, up from 70th place last year. All ranked locations within Australia rose in our global rankings this year, with Adelaide rising the most, by 34 places to 75th position – although it is still the cheapest ranked location in Australia.

All surveyed locations in China remain in the top 100 most expensive in the world, with Shanghai peaking at 13th position. Even though all ranked Chinese cities fell in the global rankings this year, they’re far more expensive than five years ago – with cities there rising by over 52 places on average.


Global top 10 most expensive locations for expatriates

Country Location Global ranking 2017
Angola Luanda 1
Hong Kong Hong Kong 2
Switzerland Zurich 3
Switzerland Geneva 4
Switzerland Basel 5
Switzerland Bern 6
Japan Tokyo 7
Korea Republic Seoul 8
Venezuela Caracas 9
Sudan Khartoum 10

About ECA's Cost of Living Survey

ECA International's Cost of Living surveys are carried out in March and September using a basket of day-to-day goods and services commonly purchased by assignees. The data used above refers to year-on-year movements between ECA's March 2012 to 2017 surveys. ECA’s Cost of Living Survey rankings began in 2005.

Cost of living indices are used by ECA clients to calculate cost of living allowances for assignees. The survey covers:

Food: Groceries; dairy produce; meat and fish; fresh fruit and vegetables 
Basic: Household goods; recreational goods; general services; leisure services
General: Clothing; electrical goods; motoring; meals out; alcohol and tobacco

Certain living costs such as accommodation rental, utilities charges (electricity, gas, and water), car purchases and school fees are not included in the survey. Such items can make a significant difference to expenses but are usually compensated for separately in expatriate packages.

This comparison of cost of living was calculated on a base composed of various developed countries and is used to reflect an international lifestyle. Other indices available from ECA reflect specific city-to-city comparisons and different levels of shopping efficiency.

ECA's blog provides updates and commentary on currency, inflation and expatriate cost of living. Follow the blog here:

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