The basics
Singapore: Latest News

Singapore named world’s most expensive city

A new survey reveals Singapore to have the highest cost of living in the world. Find out the country’s response to the findings.

Singapore city view

Singapore has been named the most expensive city in the world to live in by a new survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The survey, calculating the living costs of 131 cities around the world, took into account the costs of 400 individual products across 160 different products and services, including food, drink, clothing, transport and tuition fees. It is intended as a tool to help calculate cost-of-living allowances and compensation packages for travelling professionals and expatriates.

Knocking Tokyo off the top spot, Singapore climbed five places in the ranks since 2013. France’s capital Paris came in at second, whilst Olso, Norway was third. However, most of the survey’s top 10 spots this year went to Asian and Australasian cities, with Australia’s Sydney and Melbourne coming in at 5th and 6th respectively. Tokyo shared 6th place with Melbourne and Geneva, Switzerland.   

Singapore’s finance minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has commented on the findings, saying that the survey was aimed at measuring the cost of living for expatriates, rather than reflecting the accurate cost of living for a city’s locals.

‘It is not that these surveys are wrong, or that they are misguided,’ he said in a parliamentary speech. ‘But they are measuring something quite different from the cost of living for an ordinary local in different cities around the world.’

‘The EIU tries to put together a basket of what they think are expatriate costs, perhaps more on the higher end of expatriates. It is quite different from the goods and services consumed by ordinary Singaporeans.’

Jon Copestake, the editor of the EIU report has pointed out that the highest-weighted category of items in the survey were everyday items and grocery staples, such as meat, bread and vegetables. The survey included items ranging in price from a loaf of bread to luxury cars.

‘Expatriates make up a very significant proportion of Singapore’s population,’ he told Australian Network News. ‘This means that the results of our survey will be more keenly felt by a higher proportion of the people who live and work there.’ 

The continued strength of the Singapore dollar, reliance on imports and high utility bills were cited as partial explanations for the city’s high living costs.  

The Singapore dollar has appreciated in value by 40% over the last decade, with inflation costs averaging at 2.8%, up from 1% ten years before. Transport costs in Singapore were found to be three times higher than those in New York, whilst the city was also named the priciest place worldwide to buy clothes.

High living costs however have done little to deter international students from studying abroad in Singapore. Singapore was named the third best student city in the world in a 2014 QS survey, with foreigners found to make up more than 42% of the overall population. Singapore also came out on top in Employer Activity surveys, with recruiters from around the world seen to target graduates from Singaporean institutions. 

Another 2013 study by the EIU has ranked Singapore as the 6th best country to be born in, based on results of subjective life-satisfaction surveys and objective quality-of-life factors such as crime rates, social policies and the state of the world economy.


Useful Links

Student living costs in Singapore

Applying to study in Singapore

Search for a course

Study level*
About Author

Singapore city view

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.