What's new

News Mercer's Cost of Living Survey: Tokyo

Welcome to our Japan community!

A discussion forum for all Things Japanese. Join Today! It is fast, simple, and FREE!


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
Reaction score
According to Mercer's 2021 Cost of Living city ranking Tokyo is the world's fourth most expensive city for ex-pats. Ranking second in 2019 and third in 2020, Tokyo is outranked by Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, Hongkong, and Beirut. Mercer’s 2021 index ranked the cost of living in 209 cities, by comparing the cost of more than 200 items in each location, including food, household goods, transportation and housing.

Ashgabat, which has been named as the most expensive cities for overseas workers was last year on number two in the list of world's most expensive cities. Turkmenistan's ongoing financial crisis, which has led to food shortages and hyperinflation, is cited by Mercer as the reason why Ashgabat's cost of living has risen over the past couple of years. The biggest change from last year's Mercer survey sees Beirut rising from the 45th most expensive city for international workers in 2020 to the third priciest for 2021. Mercer puts this development down to Lebanon's economic depression, which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Port of Beirut explosion in August last year. Meanwhile, as the Euro gained almost 11 per cent against the US dollar, European cities were ranked comparatively more expensive than their US counterparts. This led to New York City dropping out of the Mercer top 10 altogether, while Paris climbed the rankings from number 50 in 2020 to number 33 in 2021. Similarly, the appreciation of the Australian Dollar saw Aussie cities like Sydney and Melbourne climb up Mercer's ranking. As for the cheapest cities for overseas workers, Mercer's ranking pinpoints Tbilisi, Georgia (number 207), Lusaka, Zambia (number 208) and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (number 209).

I always find these lists suspect. I think it assumes some "standard of living." If you rent a 1K, don't drink alcohol and eat at Yoshinoya or convenience stores every day then it becomes one of the cheapest cities in the world.
  • Thread starter
  • Admin
  • #3
Agreed, their definition of "expat" seems to be tailored to financial execs with an annual minimum salary north of 30m JPY, living in Roppongi or Hiroo, and all expenses like international school for the kids covered. Oh, and if you stick to nihonshu instead of champagne and imported whiskey, you won't break the bank either. :LOL:
Yeah - Hong Kong I can sort of understand, but Ashgabat and Beirut... There must be some weird inputs going in to that calculation.
Yeah - Hong Kong I can sort of understand, but Ashgabat and Beirut... There must be some weird inputs going in to that calculation.
Maybe they're adding in the cost of a 10-person security team.
That's exactly what I was thinking. Plus the cost to helicopter your kids to nursery school in Switzerland every day.
  • Thread starter
  • Admin
  • #7
In this year's Mercer Survey, Tokyo plunged from 4th position (2021) to ninth in 2022, partly due to the weakening of the yen against the U.S. dollar and other major currencies.

Hong Kong topped the list of the priciest cities in the world, a return to pole position after ceding it to Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabat in 2021. Hong Kong was previously named the most expensive city for three consecutive years to 2020. Asian cities occupied four of the top 10, with Singapore, Tokyo and Beijing accounting for places eight through 10. In a separate Asian top 10 ranking, Chinese cities filled six spots, a development Mercer put down to the Chinese yuan's strength making the country's mainland more expensive to live in. Conversely, a relative affordability rise in Japanese and Korean cities was attributed to the effects of their weaker currencies.

Here's the full listing:

Top Bottom