Shanghaiist loves lists. We’ve embraced the love of lists ever since we picked up Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity. So when browsing the morning news yesterday, our honed powers of list detection and surveillance led us to discover that Shanghai has been included in yet another list. Not just any pokey little list might we add, but The Economist magazine’s 2007 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey (WCOL) for expatriate workers.
So let’s get to the facts. This survey was compiled by the The Economist‘s inhouse number crunchers, aptly named the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU). The survey compiled its data set by collecting a snapshot of prices from 177 internationally comparable products and services sorted into 10 categories. From this data set, an index score was calculated and then normalised against the cost of living in New York City (index value of 100). Here’s the top 10 cities in the world with the highest cost of living.
The major findings from the EIU study are as follows:
Of the ten most expensive cities surveyed, only Tokyo and Osaka hail from outside Europe. Western European cities make up the priciest places in the survey. Moscow (Russia—26th) is now more expensive than New York (US—28th), the most expensive destination outside Europe and Asia.
Latin America presents the best value for money overall, accounting for a quarter of the cheapest 30 cities. Guatemala City (Guatemala—63rd) has overtaken Mexico City (Mexico—68th) as the region’s most expensive.
While Asian hubs and Australasian cities remain relatively costly, other cities in the region make up most of the world’s cheapest destinations. Hubs like Singapore (14th), Seoul (South Korea—11th) and Bangkok (Thailand—92nd) all saw cost of living rises. Jakarta in Indonesia saw its relative cost of living jump 12 percentage points and 27 places in the ranking to 73rd.
Only two cities from Africa and the Middle East feature in the 50 most expensive destinations: Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire—44th) and Tel Aviv (Israel—47th). The South African cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria fell furthest due to a weak rand. Although it remains in the headlines for the wrong reasons, Tehran, in Iran, presents the best value for money in the world.
But enough of the world. We live in China, and we really only care about us, right? Of the 132 cities included in the survey, The People’s Republic of China was represented by nine cities. Beijing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tianjin return from the EIU 2006 WCOL survey, and this year Suzhou and Qingdao have been promoted into the big league.
Drum roll please….
It is no surprise that Hong Kong remains top of the tree in the PRC. But you might be thinking. Gee haven’t Shanghai and Beijing slipped a lot compared to the last survey we heard about? Well, this is the EIU survey. There are a few other surveys floating around the world, some of which we have commented on before and really have wondered if they are truly accurate. One reason we think that this survey has a big disparity between the EIU survey and others is that the EIU doesn’t include accommodation costs in their calculations. The question of how appropriate the items used to calculate the index score could also be called into question as its appears to be dominated by predominantly western products. If you’re super keen, there are a few explanations regarding the choice of metrics to include in this survey.
Another blogger that we include in our seemingly endless list of favourite weblogs, The China Law Blog, recently had this to say about The Economist‘s judgement regarding the cost of living in Beijing and Shanghai.
I am quite familiar with Shanghai prices, less so of Beijing, but I can tell you that before my firm secured its apartment in Shanghai, I would always do just fine staying in Shanghai at the Radisson Hotel right smack across from People’s Park, traveling around by taxi, and eating plenty well, for way less than 6,541 yuan per two days. Our extremely nice, two bedroom furnished Shanghai apartment also costs quite a bit less than the 12,132 yuan per month the Economist ascribes “mid-priced” furnished one bedroom apartments in Shanghai. I also find it difficult to believe Beijing apartment rents are 2.5 times those in Shanghai.
Despite its lofty price calculations, this really is an excellent site for business travelers who find themselves going to any of the listed cities.
We agree with this sentiment. We also hope that this information in this expensive report can be distributed a little more widely as it may help our editor, fellow bloggers, and contributors on this website answer the endless stream of n00b questions about Shanghai’s cost of living.
The other significant news to arise from this report is that amazingly life for expats in Chinese cities is getting cheaper:
Since the Yuan broke free from the US dollar, Chinese cities have experienced a relative fall in the ranking, as increased investment opens up pricing competition and lowers tariffs on branded goods in larger urban centres according to the EIU.
A RMB65 pint of Guinness and a RMB80 burger at O’Malley’s exists as evidence to counter this claim.
Before signing off, there’s one final pressing matter to put to rest from this survey. Which of the 15 -ist sites can brag about the lowest cost of living for expatriates?
Our friends in New York will be pleased as punch that they’ve been used as the benchmark once again, but along with our European buddies Parisist and Londonist (OK, you’re not part of Europe) they may be thinking that they’ve got the short end of the stick. Another fascinating result from the survey, Latin American cities offer the best value for money, news which shouldn’t shock our Sampaist brothers and sisters, although they will recognise things have gotten more expensive in the last year. As for Austinist, Houstonist, Philadelphiaist, you didn’t make this list!
UPDATE: Oops. We seem to have overlooked Taipei (No. 53) in our list of Chinese cities. The propaganda must be working.