If you are considering moving to North or South America in the near future, consider the city you are moving to and just how expensive or not it will be for you as an expatriate.
When you are looking at The Americas to move to as an expatriate the most expensive countries to live in for the last quarter of 2012 are Venezuela; Bermuda; Brazil; and Cayman Islands. Interestingly South America has more countries that are expensive to live in than in the North. Caracas which is the most expensive city to live in, has an overall cost of living index of 126.19 compared to the base of 100 in New York . Cities such as Hong Kong, Luanda, and Yokohama have a similar cost of living index to that of Caracas. Caracas is the seventh most expensive city to live in the world and the first in the Americas; New York (Manhattan) comes in second, Hamilton third, Sao Paulo fourth and Rio de Janeiro fifth, the cheapest city for expatriates to live in is Managua in Nicaragua which is the 756 most expensive in the world. The biggest mover down the rankings is Puebla in Mexico, which has dropped to become the 582nd most expensive location in the world. The biggest mover up the rankings for the Americas is Belmopan in Belize, which has risen to be the 362nd most expensive location in the world. The reason Caracas is the most expensive is because of Venezuela’s mix of strong demand within the economy due to the dominance of the oil industry together with a lack of supply of goods and services due mainly to price controls for a range of basic products and ongoing nationalizations and expropriations. What makes it further expensive for expatriates are the following basket groups: clothing, furniture & appliances, groceries, healthcare, housing, personal care, recreation & culture, restaurants meals out and hotels.
Benchmark rental for a secure upmarket unfurnished apartment (3 bedrooms) is $4,535 in a central location, and $2,515 in a suburban location, per month, excluding utilities. The standard price for a Blue-ray player is $198, and $1,953 for a 46 inch LED HD TV. While a private practice Doctor visit for an uninsured patient averages in at $131, and a private hospital stay per day including nursing care, medications, diagnostic tests, food, and related costs is $3,858.
The reason Puebla has become less expensive for expatriate’s to live in relative to other global locations is that most of its economy is based on industry with one of the world's largest Volkswagen factories outside of Germany. The relatively lower cost of living experienced in Puebla has helped contribute to a comparatively high purchasing power in US Dollar terms, and has helped make it’s industry more competitive in global terms. Belize's economy is highly susceptible to market changes outside the country. Although moderate growth has been achieved in recent years, the cost of living is directly related to the economy, which is vulnerable to world commodity price fluctuations and trading agreements, especially with the U.S. (30% primarily cane sugar) and the UK (21% primarily bananas). The global slowdown in economic activity is putting downward pressure on demand for Belize exports. The below are the Top Ten rankings, showing the Cost of Living Rankings in The Americas by city: 1. Venezuela, Caracas 2. USA, New York (Manhattan) NY 3. Bermuda, Hamilton 4. Brazil, Sao Paulo 5. Brazil, Rio de Janeiro 6. Cayman Islands, George Town 7. Canada, Toronto 8. USA, New York (Brooklyn) NY 9. USA, New York NY 10. Brazil, Brasilia
The below are the Top Ten rankings, showing the Cost of Living Rankings in The Americas by city excluding housing, education, healthcare and transport basket groups: 1. Venezuela, Caracas 2. Bermuda, Hamilton 3. Brazil, Sao Paulo 4. USA, New York (Manhattan) NY 5. Brazil, Rio de Janeiro 6. Cayman Islands, George Town 7. Antigua and Barbuda, Saint John's 8. Brazil, Brasilia 9. Barbados, Bridgetown 10. Canada, Toronto
The Cost of Living is the cost of maintaining a certain standard of living. When comparing the cost of living between different locations the objective is to calculate the difference expressed as an index (e.g. dividing the COL in Location A by the COL in Location B may result in an index of 140). The index indicates the difference in the cost of living between the 2 locations. In this example the index of 140 means that Location A is 40% more expensive than Location B. This would mean that a person who moves from Location B to Location A would need to earn 40% more, to have the same standard of living in Location A as they have currently.
Expatriates paid US Dollar packages are better off compared to a year ago in countries such as Malawi, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Argentina, Indonesia, Paraguay, Brazil, and Mozambique. However, a number of countries have become relatively more expensive in dollar terms. These countries include Kenya, Uganda, Colombia, Chile, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. Purchasing power for US Dollar expatriates in these countries has decreased significantly in the past year. You need to plan a move to these countries with the knowledge that your salary will cover your cost of living with the purchasing power you are used to. Ensure you find the information that multinational companies and the man on the street can use to calculate the salary that the employee needs to earn to maintain their purchasing power.
NOTE: When calculating the cost of living index, New York City is used as the base and the US dollar as the base currency. The US dollar exchange rate is taking into account when converting from any particular currency. Cost of Living data is representative of an expatriate lifestyle where local prices are collected for fixed quantities of the same goods and services at or near each location. Each locations prices are affected by availability (i.e. supply and demand) as well as local pricing regulations and taxes on goods and services (e.g. premiums on luxury goods). Therefore you will find that products of the same type will cost either more or less in various locations. Local inflation is usually representative of local price increases, which in turn impacts an expatriates purchasing power. The exchange rate impacts both the price of imports to the host country and the expatriate assignment salary calculation between the home and the host country. Therefore the cost of living has a significant impact on the purchasing power of an expatriate’s salary package.
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