KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s cities are among the cheapest in Asia for expatriates to live in, although over half of the world’s 50 most expensive cities are also located in the same region, a global survey of 262 cities showed.

According to ECA International’s biannual study, a total of 26 of the top 50 most expensive cities this year were from Asia, including 14 cities from China, as compared to four from the European Union (EU) and three from the United States (US).

Lee Quane, ECA International’s regional director for Asia, noted the curiosity for many companies that move their employees within Asia.

“Asia is home to some of the world’s most expensive locations as well its cheapest. This level of variety is only matched in Africa which is home to both the world’s most expensive location and its cheapest,” Quane said in a statement today on ECA International’s results from its latest survey in September.

“Although Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, claims the status as Asia’s cheapest location, it is closely followed by locations in Malaysia — with Kuala Lumpur down to 213th in the global rankings,” ECA International said.

“Ulaanbaatar is joined by Johor Baru, George Town (Penang), Yangon and Karachi in making up the cheapest locations in Asia, with all these locations falling in our global rankings over the past 12 months,” it said.

The statement did not state the global rank based on living costs for Malaysia’s Johor Baru or George Town, or explain why these two cities were among the cheapest regionally to live in.

ECA International said Asian cities such as Singapore and those in Japan had fallen in the global ranking on living costs, owing to their relatively weaker currencies.

A table showing the top 20 most expensive cities out of 262 cities surveyed by ECA International. — Pix courtesy of ECA International

For Singapore, it fell by five places to become the world’s 21st most expensive city this year, marking the city’s lowest rank since 2014.

On Singapore falling out of the top 20 most expensive cities globally, Quane attributed this to the Singapore dollar being outpaced by strong-performing European currencies over the past 12 months.

“This has resulted in Singapore slipping down the rankings slightly, with some of the more expensive European cities rising above it in the table,” Quane said.

Japan’s capital Tokyo had fallen from its ranking as the most expensive city globally last year to the eighth place this year, but retains its last year’s rankings as the priciest Asian city.

Japan’s Yokohama, Nagoya and Osaka similarly fell out of the global top ten rankings last year to rank as the 18th, 19th and 20th priciest cities worldwide this year.

Quane commented that “Japanese cities have dropped in the rankings as the yen has weakened in the last year. However, with four cities in the global top 20 Japan is still an expensive place for expatriates.”

Although Hong Kong had briefly fallen out from the world’s top ten priciest cities last year, it has generally risen in the global rankings over the past five years and has now reclaimed its spot in the top ten most expensive cities, Quane said.

Hong Kong is now ranked ninth globally.

“Hong Kong now has the second cost of living of any city in the Asia-Pacific region, up from fifth this time last year,” Quane said.

The ECA International said it has been researching living costs for over 45 years, with its surveys on living costs conducted to help companies calculate cost of living allowances to ensure no compromise on the spending power of their staff while on international assignments.

It said its biannual surveys use a basket of similar consumer goods and services commonly bought by those assigned to work in 470 locations worldwide such as groceries, household goods, recreational goods, leisure services, clothing, electrical goods, motoring, meals out, alcohol and tobacco.

The surveys exclude data on accommodation rental, utilities, car purchases and school fees, which are usually covered by separate allowances given by companies to expatriates.

– Malay Mail