Mercer’s annual Cost of Living Survey

New Zealand and Australian cities could become top choices for expats

Organisations are continuing to leverage global expansion strategies to remain competitive and in the wake of Covid-19, social and economic disruption may have spurred organisations to reassess their global mobility programs. Transferring employees between countries is common, but relocating talent isn’t cheap, particularly if cost-of-living factors make it necessary to increase the allowance/ benefits’ packages of expat staff.

Mercer’s 2020 annual Cost of Living Survey shows that New Zealand and Australian cities are becoming more affordable for expats. This survey report helps organisations determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees and measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items, including housing, transportation, food and entertainment. Hong Kong retained its top spot as the most expensive city for expatriates both in Asia and globally, followed by Ashgabat, Tokyo, Zurich and Singapore.

New Zealand and Australia’s turn

Given the Pacific’s success against Covid-19, major cities in New Zealand and Australian cities may become increasingly attractive as locations for businesses to send expatriates. The top ranked cities were Sydney (66), Melbourne (99) and Auckland (103).

Australian cities in particular have fallen in the ranking in 2020 as the local currency has depreciated against the US dollar. Sydney (66) experienced a drop of sixteen places.

“While the actual cost of living in New Zealand has not fallen, we’re seeing New Zealand cities fall in our Cost of Living ranking due in large part to currency fluctuations from the wake of COVID-19. It is important to look at this index in combination with our Quality of Living Survey because it shows that New Zealand cities are an unbeatable combination for multinational companies with Pacific or Asia aspirations,” said Martin Lewington, CEO for Mercer New Zealand.

The Americas, Europe and the United Kingdom

  • Major cities in the United States have climbed in this year’s ranking of most expensive cities for expats with New York (6) being the highest-ranked city followed by San Francisco (16) and Los Angeles (17).
  • Three European cities are among the top 10 list of most expensive locations. Zurich (4) remains the most costly European city, followed by Bern (8) and Geneva (9).
  • A decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union has not impacted its local currency which remains strong, gaining value to all major global currencies. London (19) and Birmingham (129) are the most expensive locations in this area.


22 June 2020