Singapore has outstripped Tokyo as the world’s most expensive city for expatriates, according to annual rankings by the Economist Intelligence Unit released on Tuesday.
Paris rose six places to become the world’s second-most expensive city, which the report said in part reflected a recovery by European economies.
It cited a strong Singaporean dollar, the high price of utilities and the cost of car ownership as among the factors contributing to Singapore taking the top spot away from Tokyo, which for years has led the rankings.
The calculations are based on the cost of living in US dollars and look at over 400 individual prices in 140 cities.
Mumbai was the least expensive major city in which to live, partly due to government subsidies on some products and low local wages. It was followed by Karachi, New Delhi and Damascus as the fourth-cheapest, which the report said reflected the weakening of the Syrian pound due to the country’s civil war.
“Improving sentiment in structurally expensive European cities combined with the continued rise of Asian hubs means that these two regions continue to supply most of the world’s most expensive cities,” Jon Copestake, editor of the report, said in a statement.
After Singapore and Paris, the 10 cities with the highest cost of living, in descending order, were Oslo, Zurich, Sydney, Caracas, Geneva, Melbourne, Tokyo and Copenhagen.
London was ranked 15th most expensive city while New York was in 26th place, “but Asian cities also continue to make up many of the world’s cheapest, especially in the Indian subcontinent”.
The report said Singapore’s curbs on car ownership, which include a quota system and high taxes, made it “significantly more expensive than any other location when it comes to running a car”. A new Toyota Corolla Altis costs $110,000 in Singapore compared to around $35,000 in neighbouring Malaysia.
Overall transport costs in Singapore are almost three times higher than those in New York, it said.
“In addition, as a city-state with very few natural resources to speak of, Singapore is reliant on other countries for energy and water supplies, making it the third most expensive destination for utility costs,” the report said.
It also noted that Singapore is the priciest place in the world to buy clothes, as malls and boutiques in its popular Orchard Road retail hub import luxury European brands to “satisfy a wealthy and fashion-conscious consumer base”.
Singapore has one of the world’s highest concentrations of millionaires relative to its 5.4 million population. Its per capita income of more than $51,000 in 2012 masks a widening income gap between the richest and poorest.