Life in Shanghai now costs more than New York

Updated: 2014-03-10 01:24

By WU NI in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Shanghai has climbed up the cost-of-living ladder to No 21 on the world’s most-expensive city list, overtaking New York for the first time, according to a global cost-of-living survey.

The Economist Intelligence Unit measured the cost of living in 131 cities worldwide, using New York as the base. With a score of 101 against New York’s 100, Shanghai rose nine places from last year.

All Chinese cities are moving up in the cost-of-living index, with Shanghai seeing the fastest rise. Five years ago, the city was ranked 45th.

Hong Kong took fifth place in Asia and 13th in the world. Shenzhen is the second-most-expensive Chinese mainland city, ranked at 39.

"Chinese cities have continued to move up in cost-of-living terms as consumer demand has fed into inflation,’’ said Jon Copestake, editor of the report.

"A mooted slowdown in Chinese growth still represents growth compared with more stagnant mature economies.

"Wage inflation has driven up prices, but internationally, the impact of a stronger renminbi has also been felt," he said.

Singapore overtook Tokyo at No 1 on the list, driven by a strong currency and high transport costs. Mumbai is the cheapest.

Asia still remains host to the world’s cheapest cities, most of which are on the Indian subcontinent.

The survey gathered detailed information on the cost of more than 160 items from food, toiletries and clothing to domestic help, transport and utility bills.

It aims to provide a guideline to help human resources managers calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travelers.

The survey’s results were echoed by Chen Yan, a lawyer from the Shanghai Yingdong Law Firm, who settled in Shanghai in February after a two-year stint in New York.

Chen said she had lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan beside Central Park and paid about $2,500 in rent per month. In Shanghai, a similarly sized apartment near the city’s financial hub Lujiazui, might cost more than 10,000 yuan ($1,634). That made accommodation cheaper in Shanghai, but it took a larger slice of her salary.

"I need to pay a larger part of my salary in rent, to visit the opera, watch a film or go to a bar here," she said.

Deng Shi, who lived in Shanghai for four years and now works at a bank in New York, said that maintaining a comfortable life in New York costs about $3,000 a month, while the annual average income for New Yorkers is about $70,000.

"I felt Shanghai was pricier than New York in terms of purchasing power," he said.

But the cost of education in New York, especially higher education, is much more than Shanghai, he said.