• Falling accommodation costs in Hong Kong helped pull the city's ranking down
  • Significant hikes in rental costs over increased demand post-pandemic pushed NYC up
  • A recent study found that 50% of working New Yorkers struggled to make ends meet

New York City has overtaken Hong Kong as the world's most expensive city for expatriates this year, a new study found, as many countries experience higher costs of living amid inflation.

"This shift marks the end of Hong Kong's four-year reign at the top," software and data mobility firm ECA International wrote of its findings from its "Cost of Living" 2023 research.

Lee Quane, ECA International's regional director for Asia, said, "Hong Kong fell in our rankings as the increase in prices of day-to-day goods and services was tempered by falls in accommodation costs in the city."

In Taiwan, Taipei plummeted 11 places to the 31st spot in global rankings and some Japanese cities also saw "significant falls" in the latest rankings.

"New York has overtaken Hong Kong as the most expensive location in the world for expatriates thanks, in particular, to significant rises in rental costs as demand soared post pandemic," the company said.

After Hong Kong, Geneva sits in the 3rd spot globally, followed by London, Singapore, Zurich, San Francisco, and Tel Aviv, Seoul and Tokyo.

New York was in 2nd place in last year's survey, while London and Geneva retained the same spots since last year. Singapore made a significant jump to 5th place from the 13th spot last year, while Tokyo fell five spots to 10th place in the global rankings.

In a separate report explaining Singapore's rise to the ranks, ECA International said the island city's ascent eight spots in the rankings and landing to the Top Five for the first time was primarily driven "by rapidly rising accommodation costs."

Despite Singapore's rise to the ranks, other major Asian cities saw their rankings fall, including Shanghai falling from 8th place in 2022 to 13th place this year, and Beijing from 14th spot down to 17th place this year.

Japan's Yokohama made one of the biggest jumps this year after it landed on the 41st spot from the 17th place in 2022.

ECA International, which started its cost of living rankings in 2005, bases its research on "day-to-day goods and services" and carries out its survey in March and September. The latest data is based on the March 2023 data collection period.

News of NYC's rise to the top spot came after the non-profit Fund for the City of New York revealed in a report that about half of the city's households cannot afford the expensive lifestyle in the city.

The report found that 50% of working New Yorkers struggled to obtain access to sufficient food, basic health care and shelter. It also noted that each NYC household needed at least $100,000 annually to get by, while a four-person household needed $150,000.

In a Glassdoor analysis of 25 American cities with the most satisfied workers released last month, New York City didn't even make it to the Top 20 and was in last place.

While NYC's average annual salary was higher than other cities that made it to the Top 10, such as College Station in Texas and Provo, Utah (Top 1), the average overall company rating for NYC was 3.72.

This is not the first time New York City has been tagged as one of the world's most expensive cities.

In December, the Economist Group's analysis arm the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked both NYC and Singapore as the two most expensive cities to live in globally.

"New York has appeared in this list for the very first time. So for the U.S. dollar to strengthen so much and get to where it is now, it is quite unusual," Upasana Dutt, head of Worldwide Cost of Living at EIU, told CNBC.

New York City also made it to the top list of U.S. cities with the most expensive place to live in for single individuals, as per a February study by real estate marketplace Zillow. After NYC, San Francisco was in the 2nd spot, while San Jose, San Diego and Boston rounded up the top five.

Zillow's analysis further found that couples fared better in New York City as they could save up to $39,000 annually in NYC compared to renters living alone.

In March, New York was ranked as the world's most expensive city for business travel in 2022, followed by Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Geneva and Zurich.

People shop in a grocery store in Manhattan, New York City
In photo: shoppers at a grocery store in Manhattan, New York City. Reuters