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February 15, 2012

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Shanghai still more expensive than New York

The cost of living for expats is still higher in Shanghai than it is in New York, according to the latest survey.

Shanghai rose six places to rank 42nd in a global list while New York climbed two places from 49th spot in June to 47th, according to a cost of living survey by the UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit using data from December last year.

Los Angeles and Moscow tied with Shanghai while Beijing dropped three places to 59th. Hong Kong is 22nd.

The biannual survey, which aims to explore the true cost of an expat lifestyle in 130 major cities, compares more than 400 prices across 160 products and services.

The survey covers the cost of necessities such as food, drink and clothing, and optional spending such as on private schools, domestic help and recreation.

The survey found, for example, that a kilogram of white sliced bread was US$3.58 on average in Shanghai compared with US$3.36 in 2010, and the price of a liter of regular unleaded petrol was US$1.22 compared to US$0.98. Ten years ago, bread was US$2.05 and the petrol US$0.34.

Despite price increases over the past decade, Shanghai has seen its relative cost of living fall, slipping from 16th spot 10 years ago as the US dollar, which China's currency yuan used to be pegged to, started to weaken from its 2001 high. Beijing once ranked 11th and Hong Kong third.

Following the strengthening of the Swiss franc last year, Zurich is now the most expensive city for expats, pushing Tokyo into second place. Another Swiss city, Geneva, has moved up six places to end joint third with Japan's Osaka.

Though in the midst of a sovereign debt crisis, Europe accounts for half of the top 10 most expensive cities, with Oslo fifth, Paris sixth, and Frankfurt 10th.

"Local inflation in mature markets always has far less influence on the relative cost of living than the currency movements of the countries in question," the report said.

The appreciation of the Australian dollar, whose parity with the US dollar dropped to only half the value 10 years ago, also explains the recent presence of Sydney and Melbourne among the 10 most expensive locations. They came seventh and eighth.

The three least expensive cities for expats were Karachi, Mumbai and Tehran.


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