These factors are evaluated in Mercer’s Quality of Living Reports, which offer city-to-city comparisons for nearly 500 global assignment destinations.



Economic environment

Consumer goods availability

Public services and transport

Public services and transport

Natural environment

Socio-cultural environment

School and education

Medical and health considerations


  • Cities in Asia are the most expensive locations for employees working abroad
  • Multinationals’ focus on mobility as a workforce strategy supports career growth and global competitiveness

Mercer, a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth and careers, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), has released the results of its 2019 Cost of Living survey, ranking cities around the world. Mercer’s 25th annual Cost of Living Survey finds that a number of factors, including currency fluctuations, cost of inflation for goods and services, and volatility in accommodation prices, contribute to the overall cost of expatriate packages for employees on international assignments. According to the report, N’Djamena, Chad takes the lead as the highest-ranking city in Africa.

In a rapidly changing world, mobility programs have become a core component of multinational organizations’ global talent strategy. Organizations realize that to thrive they must embrace change, adapt to new technologies, and build emerging skills to attract, motivate, and enhance talent.

“In a skill-focused economy driven by digital disruption and the need for a globally connected workforce, deploying expatriate employees is an increasingly important aspect of a competitive business strategy for global companies,” said Ilya Bonic, President of Mercer’s Career business. “There are numerous personal and organizational advantages for sending employees overseas, including career development, global experience, new skillsets, and re-allocation of resources. By offering fair and competitive compensation packages, organizations can facilitate moves that drive business results.”

Key African Findings

Kinshasa, Dem. Rep. of Congo (22) is in second place, rising fifteen places. Libreville, Gabon (24) is the next African city on the list, followed by Lagos, Nigeria (25), which moved up seventeen places.

Despite dropping about 20 places, Luanda, Angola (26) still remains in fifth place.

As compared to last year’s report, some African countries like Conakry in Guinea and Nairobi, Kenya have gone up from 106 to 88 and from 123 to 97 respectively.

Douala in Cameroon and Maputo in Mozambique have seen a noticeable increase in exchange rates. Whereas the opposite has been recorded for Brazzaville, Congo (39). Other costly African cities include Dakar (72) and Abuja (85).

“Contrary to the perception that the African market is very volatile, certain factors like currency fluctuations and housing costs contribute to varying Cost of Living differentials in developed economies,” said Yolanda Sedlmaier, Principal Leader – Africa Mobility at Mercer. “Each African country has its own unique economy and this is why multinationals need not approach their expatriate packages for Africa with one single strategy. Let’s look at it this way, while a city like N’Djamena in Chad has been listed as the 11th most expensive city in the world, whereas Mali comes in at the 124th position in terms of cost of living,” Yolanda Sedlmaier, added.

Global ranking

Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living Survey finds that eight out of the top ten of the world’s most expensive cities for expatriates are Asian cities, resulting from high costs for expatriate consumer goods and a dynamic housing market. Tokyo (2), Singapore (3) and Seoul (4) top the list, while the costliest city in the world for the second consecutive year is Hong Kong (1). Other cities appearing in the top ten are Zurich (5), Shanghai (6), Ashgabat (7), Beijing (8), New York City (9), and Shenzhen (10). The world’s least expensive cities for expatriates are Tunis (209), Tashkent (208), and Karachi (207).

Mercer’s widely recognized survey is one of the world’s most comprehensive, and is designed to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees. 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 500 cities throughout the world; this year’s ranking includes 209 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.

Mercer produces individual cost of living and rental accommodation cost reports for each city surveyed.

Notes for Editors

The figures for Mercer’s cost of living and rental accommodation cost comparisons are derived from a survey conducted in March 2019. Exchange rates from that time and Mercer’s international basket of goods and services from its Cost of Living Survey have been used as base measurements.

Governments and major companies use data from this survey to protect the purchasing power of their employees when transferred abroad; rental accommodation costs data is used to assess local expatriate housing allowances. The choice of cities surveyed is based on demand for data.



Claiming eight of the top 10 spots, Asian cities continue to dominate the list of most expensive locations for working abroad in Mercer’s 2019 ranking. Western Europe dominates the ranking with Luxembourg named as the safest city in the world.




Rank City Country/Region
1 Vienna Austria
2 Zürich Switzerland
3 Vancouver Canada
3 Munich Germany
3 Auckland New Zealand
6 Düsseldorf Germany
7 Frankfurt Germany
8 Copenhagen Denmark
9 Geneva Switzerland
10 Basel Switzerland

Full ranking

Rank City Country/Region
11 Sydney Australia
11 Amsterdam Netherlands
13 Berlin Germany
14 Bern Switzerland
15 Wellington New Zealand
16 Toronto Canada
17 Melbourne Australia
18 Luxembourg Luxembourg
19 Ottawa Canada
19 Hamburg Germany
21 Perth Australia
21 Montréal Canada
23 Nuremburg Germany
23 Stockholm Sweden
25 Oslo Norway
25 Singapore Singapore
27 Stuttgart Germany
28 Brussels Belgium
29 Adelaide Australia
30 Canberra Australia
31 Helsinki Finland
32 Calgary Canada
33 Dublin Ireland
34 San Francisco United States
35 Brisbane Australia
36 Boston United States
37 Lisbon Portugal
37 Honolulu United States
39 Paris France
40 Lyon France
41 Milan Italy
41 London United Kingdom
43 Barcelona Spain
44 New York United States
45 Edinburgh United Kingdom
46 Madrid Spain
46 Seattle United States
48 Glasgow United Kingdom
49 Kobe Japan
49 Tokyo Japan
49 Birmingham United Kingdom
49 Chicago United States
53 Washington United States
54 Philadelphia United States
55 Yokohama Japan
56 Rome Italy
57 Aberdeen United Kingdom
58 Osaka Japan
59 Pittsburgh United States
60 Leipzig Germany
61 Minneapolis United States
62 Nagoya Japan
63 Dallas United States
64 Belfast United Kingdom
64 Atlanta United States
66 Houston United States
66 Los Angeles United States
66 Miami United States
69 Prague Czech Republic
70 St. Louis United States
71 Hong Kong Hong Kong SAR
72 Pointe-à-Pitre Guadeloupe (France)
72 Detroit United States
74 Ljubljana Slovenia
74 Dubai United Arab Emirates
76 Budapest Hungary
77 Seoul South Korea
78 Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates
78 Montevideo Uruguay
80 Bratislava Slovakia
81 Vilnius Lithuania
82 Warsaw Poland
83 Port Louis Mauritius
84 Taipei Taiwan
85 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
86 Limassol Cyprus
86 Tallinn Estonia
88 Durban South Africa
89 Athens Greece
90 Riga Latvia
91 Buenos Aires Argentina
92 San Juan Puerto Rico
93 Santiago Chile
94 Busan South Korea
95 Cape Town South Africa
96 Johannesburg South Africa
97 Panama City Panama
98 Zagreb Croatia
98 Victoria Seychelles
100 Wroclaw Poland
101 Johor Bahru Malaysia
101 Taichung Taiwan
103 Shanghai China
104 Tel Aviv Israel
105 Muscat Oman
106 Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei
107 Brasilia Brazil
108 San José Costa Rica
109 Bucharest Romania
110 Noumea New Caledonia
110 Doha Qata
112 Nassau Bahamas
113 Monterrey Mexico
114 Tunis Tunisia
115 Asunción Paraguay
116 Sofia Bulgaria
117 Rabat Morocco
118 Rio de Janeiro Brazil
119 São Paulo Brazil
120 Beijing China
120 Amman Jordan
122 Guangzhou China
122 Quito Ecuador
124 Casablanca Morocco
124 Lima Peru
126 Kuwait City Kuwait
127 Manaus Brazil
128 Bogotá Colombia
129 Mexico City Mexico
130 Istanbul Turkey
131 Windhoek Namibia
132 Shenzhen China
133 Bangkok Thailand
134 Chengdu China
135 Santo Domingo Dominican Republic
136 Manama Bahrain
137 Manila Philippines
138 Colombo Sri Lanka
139 Belgrade Serbia
140 Nanjing China
141 Gaborone Botswana
142 Jakarta Indonesia
143 Hyderabad India
143 Pune India
145 Xian China
146 Qingdao China
147 Port of Spain Trinidad & Tobago
148 Chongqing China
149 Bengaluru India
150 Lusaka Zambia
151 Chennai India
152 Kingston Jamaica
153 Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam
154 Mumbai India
155 Hanoi Vietnam
156 La Paz Bolivia
156 Sarajevo Bosnia-Herzegovina
158 Shenyang China
158 Guatemala City Guatemala
160 Kolkata India
161 Skopje Macedonia
162 New Delhi India
163 Dakar Senegal
164 Riyadh Saudi Arabia
165 Accra Ghana
166 Libreville Gabon
167 Moscow Russia
168 Jeddah Saudi Arabia
169 Jilin China
170 Yerevan Armenia
171 Vientiane People’s Democratic Republic of Laos
172 Kampala Uganda
173 Kyiv Ukraine
174 St. Petersburg Russia
175 Tirana Albania
175 San Salvador El Salvador
177 Cairo Eqypt
177 Almaty Kazakhstan
179 Banjul Gambia
180 Managua Nicaragua
181 Blantyre Malawi
182 Cotonou Benin
183 Maputo Mozambique
184 Beirut Lebanon
185 Algiers Algeria
186 Nairobi Kenya
187 Tbilisi Georgia
188 Minsk Belarus
189 Djibouti Djibouti
189 Tegucigalpa Honduras
191 Kigali Rwanda
192 Havana Cuba
193 Yaounde Cameroon
194 Islamabad Pakistan
195 Baku Azerbaijan
196 Phnom Penh Cambodia
197 Douala Cameroon
198 Dar es Salaam Tanzania
199 Luanda Angola
199 Tehran Iran
201 Karachi Pakistan
202 Caracas Venezuela
203 Yangon Myanmar
203 Lome Togo
203 Tashkent Uzbekistan
206 Bishkek Kyrgyzstan
207 Lahore Pakistan
208 Abidjan Cote d’Ivoire
209 Addis Ababa Ethiopia
210 Harare Zimbabwe
211 Ashgabat Turkmenistan
212 Lagos Nigeria
213 Abuja Nigeria
214 Antananarivo Madagascar
215 Dushanbe Tajikistan
216 Ouagadougou Burkina Faso
217 Dhaka Bangladesh
218 Tripoli Libya
218 Niamey Niger
220 Bamako Mali
221 Nouakchott Mauritania
222 Conakry Guinea Republic
223 Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo
224 Brazzaville Congo
225 Damascus Syria
226 N’Djamena Chad
227 Khartoum Sudan
228 Port au Prince Haiti
229 Sana’a Yemen Arab Republic
230 Bangui Central African Republic
231 Baghdad Iraq

Source: Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living Survey