Toronto jumps ten spots (109) to join Vancouver as the most expensive cities in the Canadian rankings

June 26, 2018

Canada, Toronto


Mercer’s 24th annual Cost of Living Survey finds Asian, European, and African cities most expensive locations for employees working abroad

Multinationals prepare for the Future of Work with focus on mobile talent


  • Toronto jumps ten spots (109) to join Vancouver as the most expensive cities in the Canadian rankings 
  • Most Canadian cities drop in rankings due to relatively stable market conditions
  • Ottawa, ranked 160, is the least expensive city in Canadian rankings

As a result of the digital era, aging populations, skills shortages, and unpredictable political and economic contexts, the landscape of global business is changing as are jobs that are critical for the future of work. Multinationals are embracing this transformation by focusing on mobile talent and assessing the cost of expatriate packages for their international assignees. According to Mercer’s 24th annual Cost of Living Survey, factors like instability of housing markets, low inflation, and fluctuating prices for goods and services are impacting the cost of doing business in various cities around the world.


Mercer’s survey reveals that Hong Kong has passed Luanda to take the top spot as the world’s most expensive city for expatriates. Tokyo and Zurich are in second and third positions, respectively, with Singapore in fourth, up one place from last year. This means that four out of five of the world’s most expensive cities for expatriates are now in Asia.


“With technology advances and the importance of a globally connected workforce, deploying talent remains a key component of a multinational’s business strategy,” said Ilya Bonic, President of Mercer’s Career business. “While a mobile workforce allows organizations to achieve greater efficiency, utilize top talent, and be cost effective with international projects, volatile markets and slowing economic growth in many parts of the world require them to carefully assess expatriate remuneration packages.”


Other cities appearing in the top 10 of Mercer’s costliest cities for expatriates are Seoul (5), Luanda (6), Shanghai (7), N’Djamena (8), Beijing (9), and Bern (10). The world’s least expensive cities for expatriates are Tashkent (209), Tunis (208), and Bishkek (207).


“Aligning workforce and mobility strategies by ensuring the right employees are in the right place is more critical than ever for multinationals as they focus on new global business models,” said Mr. Bonic. “And, properly compensating employees on international assignments is as important as it can be costly.”


Mercer's widely recognized survey is one of the world’s most comprehensive, and is designed to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation strategies 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 375 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.


Although most Canadian cities dropped in the ranking, the country’s highest-ranked city, Toronto (109), jumped ten places due to an increase in expatriate rental accommodation costs. Vancouver (109) dropped two spots, while Montreal (147) and Calgary (154) fell eighteen and eleven spots, respectively.


“While Toronto’s cost of living ranking has risen, this year’s results – combined with the results of Mercer’s annual Quality of Living Survey released earlier this year – show that Canadian cities provide a world-class quality of living at a relatively moderate cost,” said Gordon Frost, Partner and Career Business Leader for Mercer Canada. “This is a significant strength for Canada and Canadian companies as we compete for top talent in a highly competitive global economy and prepare for the workforce of the future.”


Cities in the United States have dropped in the ranking due to a steady pickup of the European economy, which triggered a decline of the US dollar against other major currencies worldwide. New York dropped four places to rank 13, the highest-ranked city in the region. San Francisco (28) and Los Angeles (35) dropped seven and twelve places, respectively, from last year, while Chicago (51) dropped twenty places. Among other major US cities, Washington DC (56) is down seventeen places, and both Miami (60) and Boston (70) are down nineteen spots. Portland (130) and Winston Salem, North Carolina (161) remain the least expensive US cities surveyed for expatriates.


In South America, São Paolo (58) ranked as the costliest city despite a thirty-two place drop from last year. Santiago (69) followed as the second most expensive location. The majority of other cities in South America fell in the ranking despite price increases on goods and services in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. In particular, Rio de Janeiro (99) plummeted forty-three spots. Lima (132) dropped twenty-eight places, while Bogota (168) fell fifteen places. Tegucigalpa (201) is the least expensive city in South America. Caracas in Venezuela has been excluded from the ranking due to the complex currency situation; its ranking would have varied greatly depending on the official exchange rate selected.


Two European cities are among the top 10 list of most expensive cities. At number three in the global ranking, Zurich remains the most costly European city, followed by Bern (10). Geneva (11) is down four places from last year mainly due to a downward trend in the city’s housing market.


Overall, Western European cities have all risen in the rankings, a result of strong local currencies against the US dollar and the cost of goods and services. In particular, cities in Germany experienced some of this year’s biggest surges in the ranking, with Frankfurt (68) and Berlin (71) jumping forty-nine spots while Munich (57) climbed forty-one places. In the United Kingdom, Birmingham (128) went up nineteen places from last year, Belfast (152) jumped eighteen spots, and Aberdeen (134) climbed twelve places from its previous ranking. London jumped ten spots to rank 19.


Other cities that jumped in the ranking include Paris (34), up twenty-eight places from last year, Rome (46), up thirty-four spots, Madrid (64), up forty-seven, and Vienna (39) up thirty-nine spots. Meanwhile, a few cities in Eastern and Central Europe, including Moscow (17), St. Petersburg (49), and Kiev (173), dropped four, fourteen, and ten spots, respectively, because of local currencies losing value against the US dollar.


Tel Aviv (16) continues to be the most expensive city in the Middle East for expatriates, followed by Dubai (26), Abu Dhabi (40), and Riyadh (45). Cairo (188) remains the least expensive city in the region. “On the whole, most Middle Eastern cities have dropped in the ranking, due to decreases in rental accommodation costs throughout the region,” said Yvonne Traber, Global Mobility Product Solutions Leader at Mercer.


Despite dropping off the top spot on the global list, Luanda, Angola (6) remains the highest-ranking city in Africa. N’Djamena (8) follows, rising seven places. Moving up fourteen spots, Libreville (18) is the next African city on the list, followed by Brazzaville, Congo (19), which is up eleven places. Rising ten spots, Tashkent (209) in Uzbekistan ranks as the least expensive city in the region and globally.


This year, Hong Kong (1) emerged as the most expensive city for expatriates both in Asia and globally as a consequence of Luanda’s drop in the ranking due in part to the downward trend in the city’s housing market. Hong Kong is followed by Tokyo (2), Singapore (4), Seoul (5), Shanghai (7), and Beijing (9).


“Stronger Chinese monetary regulation, a flourishing economy and a push to have the Chinese Yuan as an international currency pushed Chinese cities up in the ranking,” said Ms. Traber. “However, significant surges in other locations worldwide caused Japanese cities, Osaka and Nagoya in particular, to fall in this year’s ranking.”


Mumbai (55) is India’s most expensive city, followed by New Delhi (103) and Chennai (144). Kolkata (182) and Bengaluru (170) are the least expensive Indian cities ranked. Elsewhere in Asia, Bangkok (52) jumped fifteen places from last year. Kuala Lumpur (145) also rose in the ranking, up twenty places, while Hanoi (137) plummeted thirty-seven places. Bishkek (207) and Tashkent (209) remain the region’s least expensive cities for expatriates.


Australian cities have fallen in the ranking this year. Brisbane (84) and Perth (61) dropped thirteen and eleven spots, respectively, while Sydney (29), Australia’s most expensive ranked city for expatriates, experienced a relatively moderate drop of five places. Melbourne fell twelve spots to rank 58. “Cities in other countries moved up in the ranking, causing Australian cities to drop,” said Ms. Traber. “In general, cities that fall in the middle of the ranking are at greater risk of experiencing significant changes in their positions due to the movement of other cities.”


Mercer produces individual cost of living and rental accommodation cost reports for each city surveyed. For more information on city rankings, visit To purchase copies of individual city reports, visit or call Mercer Client Services in Warsaw on +48 22 434 5383.


Mercer Cost of Living Survey – Worldwide Rankings 2018
(The Mercer international basket, including rental accommodation costs)
Rank as of March City Country/Market
2017 2018
3 2 TOKYO Japan
4 3 ZURICH Switzerland
5 4 SINGAPORE Singapore
6 5 SEOUL South Korea
1 6 LUANDA Angola
8 7 SHANGHAI China
15 8 NDJAMENA Chad
11 9 BEIJING China
10 10 BERN Switzerland
7 11 GENEVA Switzerland
12 12 SHENZHEN China
9 13 NEW YORK CITY United States
27 14 COPENHAGEN Denmark
18 15 GUANGZHOU China
16 16 TEL AVIV Israel
13 17 MOSCOW Russia
32 18 LIBREVILLE Gabon
29 19 LONDON United Kingdom
13 21 VICTORIA Seychelles
42 22 NOUMEA New Caledonia
20 23 OSAKA Japan
42 24 ABIDJAN Côte d'Ivoire
32 25 NANJING China
19 26 DUBAI United Arab Emirates
24 27 TAIPEI Taiwan
21 28 SAN FRANCISCO United States
24 29 SYDNEY Australia
37 29 TIANJIN China
46 31 CHENGDU China
66 32 DUBLIN Ireland
71 33 MILAN Italy
62 34 PARIS France
23 35 LOS ANGELES United States
45 36 QINGDAO China
17 37 KINSHASA Dem. Rep. of the Congo
42 38 SHENYANG China
78 39 VIENNA Austria
22 40 ABU DHABI United Arab Emirates
34 41 NAGOYA Japan
28 42 LAGOS Nigeria
57 43 ASHGABAT Turkmenistan
70 43 YAOUNDE Cameroon
52 45 RIYADH Saudi Arabia
80 46 ROME Italy
46 47 OSLO Norway
84 48 BANGUI Central African Republic
35 49 ST. PETERSBURG Russia
85 50 AMSTERDAM Netherlands
31 51 CHICAGO United States
67 52 BANGKOK Thailand
88 53 HELSINKI Finland
35 54 HONOLULU United States
57 55 MUMBAI India
39 56 WASHINGTON United States
98 57 MUNICH Germany
46 58 MELBOURNE Australia
26 58 SAO PAULO Brazil
41 60 MIAMI United States
50 61 PERTH Australia
93 62 DAKAR Senegal
54 63 ACCRA Ghana
111 64 MADRID Spain
52 65 BEIRUT Lebanon
37 66 DHAKA Bangladesh
104 67 BRUSSELS Belgium
117 68 FRANKFURT Germany
67 69 SANTIAGO Chile
51 70 BOSTON United States
120 71 BERLIN Germany
107 71 LUXEMBOURG Luxembourg
49 73 DJIBOUTI Djibouti
94 73 DOUALA Cameroon
65 75 MONTEVIDEO Uruguay
40 76 BUENOS AIRES Argentina
71 77 CANBERRA Australia
55 77 MANAMA Bahrain
121 79 BARCELONA Spain
64 79 WHITE PLAINS United States
61 81 AUCKLAND New Zealand
122 82 DUSSELDORF Germany
132 83 PRAGUE Czech Republic
71 84 BRISBANE Australia
62 85 DALLAS United States
74 86 HOUSTON United States
77 87 ADELAIDE Australia
125 88 HAMBURG Germany
106 89 STOCKHOLM Sweden
76 90 SEATTLE United States
67 91 YANGON Myanmar
126 92 RIGA Latvia
137 93 LISBON Portugal
59 94 AMMAN Jordan
83 95 ATLANTA United States
79 95 SAN JUAN Puerto Rico
81 97 MORRISTOWN United States
75 97 PORT OF SPAIN Trinidad & Tobago
59 99 ABUJA Nigeria
56 99 RIO DE JANEIRO Brazil
86 101 WELLINGTON New Zealand
86 102 MINNEAPOLIS United States
99 103 NEW DELHI India
130 104 POINTE A PITRE Guadeloupe
137 105 LYON France
91 106 CONAKRY Guinea
141 108 STUTTGART Germany
119 109 TORONTO Canada
107 109 VANCOUVER Canada
139 111 COTONOU Benin
144 112 ATHENS Greece
147 113 BRATISLAVA Slovakia
88 114 PANAMA CITY Panama
81 115 DOHA Qatar
95 116 DETROIT United States
88 117 JAKARTA Indonesia
117 117 JEDDAH Saudi Arabia
92 117 MUSCAT Oman
126 120 BAMAKO Mali
111 121 KUWAIT CITY Kuwait
100 122 ST. LOUIS United States
111 123 NAIROBI Kenya
97 124 HO CHI MINH CITY Vietnam
100 125 CLEVELAND United States
107 125 PITTSBURGH United States
134 125 PORT AU PRINCE Haiti
147 128 BIRMINGHAM United Kingdom
130 128 CASABLANCA Morocco
111 130 GUATEMALA CITY Guatemala
115 130 PORTLAND United States
104 132 LIMA Peru
161 132 LJUBLJANA Slovenia
146 134 ABERDEEN United Kingdom
144 134 LOME Togo
153 134 OUAGADOUGOU Burkina Faso
100 137 HANOI Vietnam
95 138 MANILA Philippines
159 138 ZAGREB Croatia
160 140 TALLINN Estonia
110 141 SAN JOSE Costa Rica
115 142 PHNOM PENH Cambodia
158 143 NIAMEY Niger
135 144 CHENNAI India
165 145 KUALA LUMPUR Malaysia
168 145 NURNBERG Germany
129 147 MONTREAL Canada
161 148 GLASGOW United Kingdom
167 148 VILNIUS Lithuania
172 150 LEIPZIG Germany
176 151 BUDAPEST Hungary
170 152 BELFAST United Kingdom
173 153 LIMASSOL Cyprus
143 154 CALGARY Canada
180 154 WARSAW Poland
123 156 QUITO Ecuador
177 157 MEXICO CITY Mexico
126 158 BRASILIA Brazil
132 158 COLOMBO Sri Lanka
152 160 OTTAWA Canada
171 161 PORT LOUIS Mauritius
140 161 WINSTON SALEM United States
142 163 ISTANBUL Turkey
155 164 KINGSTON Jamaica
156 165 HARARE Zimbabwe
151 165 HAVANA Cuba
169 165 RABAT Morocco
153 168 BOGOTA Colombia
147 169 KIGALI Rwanda
166 170 BENGALURU India
199 170 CAPE TOWN South Africa
189 172 TIRANA Albania
163 173 KIEV Ukraine
156 174 SAN SALVADOR El Salvador
184 175 SOFIA Bulgaria
181 176 BUCHAREST Romania
191 177 JOHANNESBURG South Africa
150 178 SANTO DOMINGO Dominican Republic
188 179 MAPUTO Mozambique
164 180 DAR ES SALAAM Tanzania
198 181 BELGRADE Serbia
184 182 KOLKATA India
136 183 ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia
178 183 ASUNCION Paraguay
179 185 LUSAKA Zambia
182 186 BAKU Azerbaijan
175 187 ALMATY Kazakhstan
183 188 CAIRO Egypt
196 189 GABORONE Botswana
173 190 ISLAMABAD Pakistan
202 191 SARAJEVO Bosnia and Herzegovina
186 192 KAMPALA Uganda
203 193 MONTERREY Mexico
189 194 NOUAKCHOTT Mauritania
187 195 ALGIERS Algeria
206 196 WINDHOEK Namibia
206 197 SKOPJE Macedonia
195 198 YEREVAN Armenia
193 199 LA PAZ Bolivia
194 200 MANAGUA Nicaragua
197 201 TEGUCIGALPA Honduras
200 202 MINSK Belarus
204 203 TBILISI Georgia
205 204 BLANTYRE Malawi
201 205 KARACHI Pakistan
192 206 BANJUL Gambia
208 207 BISHKEK Kyrgyzstan
209 208 TUNIS Tunisia
123 209 TASHKENT Uzbekistan

Source: Mercer’s 2018 Cost of Living Survey


Notes for editors
The list of rankings is provided to journalists for reference and should not be published in full. The top 10 and bottom 10 cities may be reproduced in a table.


The figures for Mercer’s cost of living and rental accommodation cost comparisons are derived from a survey conducted in March 2018. 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 the demand for data.


About Mercer
Mercer delivers advice and technology-driven solutions that help organizations meet the health, wealth and career needs of a changing workforce. Mercer’s more than 23,000 employees are based in 44 countries and the firm operates in over 130 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), the leading global professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With more than 65,000 colleagues and annual revenue over $14 billion, through its market-leading companies including Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh & McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit Follow Mercer on Twitter @MercerCanada.


Mercer also provides advice and market data on international and expatriate compensation management, and works with multinational companies and governments worldwide. It maintains one of the most comprehensive databases on international assignment policies; compensation practices; and data on worldwide cost of living, housing, and hardship allowances. Its annual global mobility conferences and other events provide companies with the latest trends and research on mobility issues. Visit for details. Follow Mercer’s mobility news on Twitter @Mercer.


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