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Shanghai shoots up the 'most expensive' list

STRONG Asian currencies pushed Shanghai up 83 notches to rank as the 28th most expensive city in the world for foreign staff, according to a survey by ECA International.

Beijing advanced 78 notches to rank at 26 and Hong Kong became the 29th most expensive city from last year's 98th position, ECA International said today. ECA is an international human resources consultancy.

"The strengthening of Asian currencies is the dominant factor contributing to the region being more expensive for visitors than it was 12 months ago," said Lee Quane, regional director of ECA Asia.

"In that period, the yuan has continued to strengthen against the US dollar. Many Western currencies, including sterling, the euro and the Swiss franc, have weakened. As a result, people coming from these economies into Asia will notice a considerable difference in costs compared with 12 months ago," he said.

Tokyo remains the most expensive location in Asia, due largely to the appreciation of the yen against other major currencies, according to the survey which is conducted twice a year comparing a basket of commonly purchased consumer goods and services in over 370 locations worldwide.

Of the 15 Chinese cities featured in the survey, Beijing is the most expensive and the others all ranked in the top 30 positions in Asia.

As well as currency fluctuations, falling inflation in many countries and, in particular, the collapse of petrol prices from the record highs of last year, had an impact on the cost of living rankings.

Price inflation has slowed down in many Asian cities compared with a year ago, but it has fallen more dramatically in many Western countries where growth has been lower.

"Whereas Asian economies cushioned their citizens against rising fuel and food costs in 2008 through subsidies and price controls, Western governments did not," says Quane. "Consequently, the effect of lower prices is being felt more in the West than in many parts of Asia."

Living costs for international assignees are affected by inflation, availability of goods and exchange rates, all of which can have a significant impact on expatriate remuneration packages.


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