These Are the World’s Most Expensive Cities to Live in 2020

Hong Kong comes out on top, again.

Jun 15, 2020

If you need some sense of normalcy during these very, very weird times, don’t worry, Hong Kong is still the most expensive city in the world to live as an expat. Mercer’s annual Cost of Living Survey revealed that for the third consecutive year—and fourth time in the past five years—Hong Kong tops the list as the priciest place to live and work in the world. Despite the city’s tumultuous year dealing with protests and a pandemic, its notoriously expensive property market once again ensured they topped the league.

Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, took a surprising leap from No. 7 in 2019 to No. 2 in this year’s list. The city might not be what comes to mind when you think of lush living, but it surpassed Tokyo (No.3), Zurich (No.4), Singapore (No.5), and New York (No.6) in the rankings. Mercer told Forbes, “Turkmenistan has been witnessing an important economic and social crisis, combined with hyperinflation.” The supply and demand balance was upended as the costs of importing food and raw materials surged.

If you are wondering why cities like Shenzhen, China (No. 13), are listed as more expensive than, say, Paris, it’s because Mercer, a U.S.-based financial consultancy firm, had designed the survey to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation strategies for their expatriate employees, using the U.S. dollar as a measurement and New York City as a base city for all comparisons. The countries whose currency has been overperforming against the U.S. dollar tend to be higher up in ranking.

Mercer also notes that the global health and economic crisis has recently caused many companies to leverage new working arrangements and consider alternate forms of international assignments to sustain their overseas workforces. New approaches to office space, working from home, and redeployment of employees may cause next year’s list to look a whole lot different.


1. Hong Kong 

2. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

3. Tokyo, Japan

4. Zurich, Switzerland

5. Singapore

6. New York City, USA

7. Shanghai, China

8. Bern, Switzerland

9. Geneva, Switzerland

10. Beijing, China

See the full ranking here.

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