San Juan, Puerto Rico ranked 72 worldwide in Mercer Cost of Living Survey

Jumps 23 spots, becoming more expensive than Frankfurt

SAN JUAN — Although the main finding of the 25th annual Cost of Living Survey by benefits consulting firm Mercer was that several cities in Asia are the most expensive for U.S. employees working abroad, also noteworthy is that San Juan, Puerto Rico, rose 23 spots from last year, making it the 72nd costliest worldwide.

Governments and major companies use data from the survey to determine pay for employees when transferred abroad. New York is used as the base city for comparisons.

The survey includes more than 500 cities, with this year’s ranking including 209 cities and measuring the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment.

Mercer is a subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Cos., a professional services firm, and provides advice and data on worker compensation globally.

Explaining that mobility programs have become a “core component of multinational organizations’ global talent strategy,” Mercer said that according to its 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 65% of employers are using the programs to enhance their workforce strategies.

Its 2019 Cost of Living Survey to help employers make decisions about their employees working abroad found that “a number of factors, including currency fluctuations, cost of inflation for goods and services, and volatility in accommodation prices, contribute to the overall cost” of compensation packages for international assignments.

The survey found that eight out of the top 10 of the world’s most expensive cities for expatriates are Asian. Tokyo (2), Singapore (3) and Seoul (4) top the list, while the costliest city in the world for the second consecutive year is Hong Kong (1). Other cities in the top 10 are Zurich (5), Shanghai (6), Ashgabat (7), Beijing (8), New York (9), and Shenzhen (10).

U.S. cities “climbed in the ranking due to the strength of the US dollar against other major currencies as well as the significant drop of cities in other regions. New York jumped four places to rank 9, the highest-ranked city in the region. San Francisco (16) and Los Angeles (18) climbed twelve and seventeen places, respectively, while Chicago (37) jumped fourteen places. Among other major US cities, Washington, DC (42) is up fourteen places, Miami (44) is up sixteen places and Boston (49) is up twenty-one spots. Portland (107) and Winston Salem, North Carolina (138) remain the least expensive US cities surveyed for expatriates,” a release on the survey reads.

Mercer includes San Juan (72), which jumped 23 spots from March last year, in its Central and South America region, becoming the second-most expensive, only surpassed by Montevideo, Uruguay, (70).

“Other cities in South America that climbed on the list of costliest cities for expatriates include Panama City (93), San José (131), and Havana (133) rising twenty-one, ten, and twenty-two spots, respectively,” Mercer said.

Found third most expensive in the region was Santiago, Chile (79), followed by Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago (83); and São Paolo, Brazil (86), which dropped 28 spots from last year.

Mercer Cost of Living Survey – Worldwide Rankings 2019

(Mercer international basket, including rental accommodation costs)

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
8 11 NDJAMENA Chad
10 12 BERN Switzerland
11 13 GENEVA Switzerland
21 14 VICTORIA Seychelles
16 15 TEL AVIV Israel
28 16 SAN FRANCISCO United States
15 17 GUANGZHOU China
35 18 LOS ANGELES United States
23 19 OSAKA Japan
14 20 COPENHAGEN Denmark
26 21 DUBAI United Arab Emirates
37 22 KINSHASA Dem. Rep. of the Congo
19 23 LONDON United Kingdom
18 24 LIBREVILLE Gabon
42 25 LAGOS Nigeria
6 26 LUANDA Angola
17 27 MOSCOW Russia
25 27 NANJING China
22 29 NOUMEA New Caledonia
24 30 ABIDJAN Côte d’Ivoire
31 30 CHENGDU China
29 32 TIANJIN China
40 33 ABU DHABI United Arab Emirates
41 33 NAGOYA Japan
27 35 TAIPEI Taiwan
45 35 RIYADH Saudi Arabia
51 37 CHICAGO United States
54 38 HONOLULU United States
19 39 BRAZZAVILLE Congo
52 40 BANGKOK Thailand
36 41 QINGDAO China
56 42 WASHINGTON United States
32 43 DUBLIN Ireland
60 44 MIAMI United States
33 45 MILAN Italy
38 45 SHENYANG China
34 47 PARIS France
66 47 DHAKA Bangladesh
70 49 BOSTON United States
29 50 SYDNEY Australia
39 51 VIENNA Austria
43 52 YAOUNDE Cameroon
65 53 BEIRUT Lebanon
48 54 BANGUI Central African Republic
46 55 ROME Italy
79 56 WHITE PLAINS United States
77 57 MANAMA Bahrain
50 58 AMSTERDAM Netherlands
73 59 DJIBOUTI Djibouti
86 59 HOUSTON United States
47 61 OSLO Norway
85 62 DALLAS United States
63 63 ACCRA Ghana
90 64 SEATTLE United States
53 65 HELSINKI Finland
73 66 DOUALA Cameroon
55 67 MUMBAI India
57 67 MUNICH Germany
95 69 ATLANTA United States
75 70 MONTEVIDEO Uruguay
97 70 MORRISTOWN United States
62 72 DAKAR Senegal
95 72 SAN JUAN Puerto Rico
68 74 FRANKFURT Germany
49 75 ST. PETERSBURG Russia
94 75 AMMAN Jordan
67 77 BRUSSELS Belgium
102 78 MINNEAPOLIS United States
58 79 MELBOURNE Australia
69 79 SANTIAGO Chile
71 81 BERLIN Germany
64 82 MADRID Spain
97 83 PORT OF SPAIN Trinidad & Tobago
71 84 LUXEMBOURG Luxembourg
99 85 ABUJA Nigeria
58 86 SAO PAULO Brazil
61 87 PERTH Australia
106 88 CONAKRY Guinea
81 89 AUCKLAND New Zealand
116 90 DETROIT United States
79 91 BARCELONA Spain
82 92 DUSSELDORF Germany
114 93 PANAMA CITY Panama
122 94 ST. LOUIS United States
93 95 LISBON Portugal
77 96 CANBERRA Australia
83 97 PRAGUE Czech Republic
123 97 NAIROBI Kenya
125 97 PITTSBURGH United States
88 100 HAMBURG Germany
117 100 JEDDAH Saudi Arabia
106 102 BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN Brunei
84 103 BRISBANE Australia
117 103 MUSCAT Oman
117 105 JAKARTA Indonesia
125 106 CLEVELAND United States
130 107 PORTLAND United States
142 108 PHNOM PENH Cambodia
87 109 ADELAIDE Australia
138 109 MANILA Philippines
92 111 RIGA Latvia
109 112 VANCOUVER Canada
137 112 HANOI Vietnam
101 114 WELLINGTON New Zealand
109 115 TORONTO Canada
115 115 DOHA Qatar
91 117 YANGON Myanmar
103 118 NEW DELHI India
121 119 KUWAIT CITY Kuwait
124 120 HO CHI MINH CITY Vietnam
99 121 RIO DE JANEIRO Brazil
132 121 LIMA Peru
105 123 LYON France
120 124 BAMAKO Mali
104 125 POINTE A PITRE Guadeloupe
108 126 STUTTGART Germany
89 127 STOCKHOLM Sweden
111 128 COTONOU Benin
112 128 ATHENS Greece
128 128 CASABLANCA Morocco
113 131 BRATISLAVA Slovakia
141 131 SAN JOSE Costa Rica
76 133 BUENOS AIRES Argentina
165 133 HAVANA Cuba
128 135 BIRMINGHAM United Kingdom
130 136 GUATEMALA CITY Guatemala
134 137 ABERDEEN United Kingdom
161 138 WINSTON SALEM United States
147 139 MONTREAL Canada
140 140 TALLINN Estonia
145 141 KUALA LUMPUR Malaysia
132 142 LJUBLJANA Slovenia
138 143 ZAGREB Croatia
157 144 MEXICO CITY Mexico
134 145 LOME Togo
134 145 OUAGADOUGOU Burkina Faso
148 145 GLASGOW United Kingdom
156 148 QUITO Ecuador
143 149 NIAMEY Niger
173 150 KIEV Ukraine
145 151 NUREMBERG Germany
148 152 VILNIUS Lithuania
154 153 CALGARY Canada
144 154 CHENNAI India
163 154 ISTANBUL Turkey
150 156 LEIPZIG Germany
164 157 KINGSTON Jamaica
152 158 BELFAST United Kingdom
179 159 MAPUTO Mozambique
165 160 RABAT Morocco
153 161 LIMASSOL Cyprus
160 161 OTTAWA Canada
161 161 PORT LOUIS Mauritius
151 164 BUDAPEST Hungary
125 165 PORT AU PRINCE Haiti
172 166 TIRANA Albania
174 166 SAN SALVADOR El Salvador
188 166 CAIRO Egypt
178 169 SANTO DOMINGO Dominican Republic
168 170 BOGOTA Colombia
180 171 DAR ES SALAAM Tanzania
183 171 ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia
154 173 WARSAW Poland
158 174 BRASILIA Brazil
169 175 KIGALI Rwanda
176 176 BUCHAREST Romania
175 177 SOFIA Bulgaria
186 178 BAKU Azerbaijan
170 179 BENGALURU India
170 180 CAPE TOWN South Africa
181 181 BELGRADE Serbia
158 182 COLOMBO Sri Lanka
192 183 KAMPALA Uganda
195 184 ALGIERS Algeria
177 185 JOHANNESBURG South Africa
183 186 ASUNCION Paraguay
193 187 MONTERREY Mexico
165 188 HARARE Zimbabwe
182 189 KOLKATA India
189 189 GABORONE Botswana
187 191 ALMATY Kazakhstan
194 192 NOUAKCHOTT Mauritania
204 193 BLANTYRE Malawi
191 194 SARAJEVO Bosnia and Herzegovina
199 195 LA PAZ Bolivia
185 196 LUSAKA Zambia
198 197 YEREVAN Armenia
202 198 MINSK Belarus
201 199 TEGUCIGALPA Honduras
200 200 MANAGUA Nicaragua
197 201 SKOPJE Macedonia
203 202 TBILISI Georgia
190 203 ISLAMABAD Pakistan
196 204 WINDHOEK Namibia
206 204 BANJUL Gambia
207 206 BISHKEK Kyrgyzstan
205 207 KARACHI Pakistan
209 208 TASHKENT Uzbekistan
208 209 TUNIS Tunisia

Source: Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living Survey