Canada remains relatively affordable for foreign employees

An annual ranking of the affordability of global cities for employees working abroad shows Canada has stayed stable.

Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey finds that Canada’s major cities are relatively affordable while global peers have become more expensive for ex-pat workers.

Vancouver remains the most expensive in Canada but slips three places from last year to 112th in the rankings while Toronto, last year’s costliest in Canada, slips six spots to 115th.

Montreal saw a strong rise in cost of living, up eight spots from last year to 139th. Calgary (153) and Ottawa (161) remained stable.

“From a global perspective, Canada remains a relatively affordable place to live and an attractive destination for expatriates placed by organizations outside the country,” said Gordon Frost, Partner and Career Business Leader for Mercer Canada. “Cost of living and quality of living are key components of a competitive total rewards program and compelling employee value proposition – both of which are essential for companies to attract and retain the best talent as they prepare for the workforce for the future.”

Meanwhile, the strength of the US dollar made major cities there more expensive for international workers with New York up four places to 9th, the highest-ranked city in the region; San Francisco (16) was up 12 spots, Los Angeles (18) climbed seventeen places, and Chicago (37) jumped fourteen places.

Asia is most expensive

The costliest places were dominated by Asia which took 8 of the top 10 places.

Hong Kong (1) remains the most expensive city for expatriates both in Asia and globally as a result of the housing market and currency being pegged to the US dollar, driving up the cost of living locally.

It’s followed by Tokyo (2), Singapore (3), Seoul (4), Shanghai (6), and Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (7).

“Cost of living is an important component of a city’s attractiveness for businesses,” said Yvonne Traber, Global Mobility Product Solutions Leader at Mercer. “Decision makers increasingly acknowledge that globalization is challenging cities to inform, innovate, and compete to foster the kind of satisfaction that attracts both people and investment – the keys to a city’s future.”

Mercer Cost of Living Survey – Worldwide Rankings 2019
(Mercer international basket, including rental accommodation costs)

Rank as of March

City

Country/Region

2018

2019

1

1

HONG KONG

Hong Kong (SAR)

2

2

TOKYO

Japan

4

3

SINGAPORE

Singapore

5

4

SEOUL

South Korea

3

5

ZURICH

Switzerland

7

6

SHANGHAI

China

43

7

ASHGABAT

Turkmenistan

9

8

BEIJING

China

13

9

NEW YORK CITY

United States

12

10

SHENZHEN

China

Source: Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living Survey

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