Asia–Pacific (APAC) is widely regarded as an attractive destination for expatriates, and initiatives such as the Asian Economic Community, launched in December 2015, have helped fuel a higher level of mobility of workers within the region. For this expanding group of expatriates, fluctuating exchange rates and widely differing economic factors make trying to calculate the cost of living for a particular lifestyle in a given city tremendously challenging.

While there are a multitude of ‘cost of living’ studies published, these often assume that everyone has the same interests and live relatively identical lifestyles, which of course, just isn’t the case. For example, while for some people a car may be an absolute necessity, for others it may be considered a luxury, or simply unnecessary based on their lifestyle. Similarly, for some, dining out may be the norm, while others prefer instead to cook and eat at home. Utilising the Qlik APAC Cost of Living App, we examined the cost of living data across eight cities in APAC — Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo, which revealed some interesting findings:

Cities Costs Ranked

Source: Qlik,

Sydney behind the numbers

While Japan’s most populated city, Tokyo, takes the overall title in the APAC Cost of Living app as the most expensive, with costs 39% higher than the APAC average, delving deeper into the data reveals that all is not how it may seem: Analysing just the data category covering ‘Expensive’ city services and experiences, reveals that Hong Kong usurps Tokyo as the most expensive city in which to live the high life. At the other end of the spectrum, exploring ‘Budget’ costs shows Sydney elevated in the rankings to second only to Tokyo, indicating that Australia’s sparkling harbour jewel is no place to try to live on a budget.

Devil in the data detail

As with many things in life, the devil is in the detail, as they say. This rings true for any analysis on Sydney’s cost of living as there is no single, fixed way of living. Everyone has different preferences and lifestyles, so what it costs one person to live is likely to be different for the next person. With so many variables in the app, some of the interesting insights include:

  • While commuters are encouraged to catch public transport to and from work to reduce congestion, public bus prices in Sydney are 206% higher at A$4.28 for the first 10km than the average cost of A$1.41 elsewhere in the region.
  • Sydney is known for being a gourmet paradise, therefore it is no surprise that it is the priciest place in APAC in which to dine out in hotel restaurants, with a meal for two costing up to A$322. That is about twice what it costs in Shanghai (A$173) or Tokyo (A$151), while Seoul is the least expensive choice (A$69), followed by Mumbai (A$79) and Hong Kong (A$91).
  • Basic utilities prices in Sydney are higher than the APAC average as well. Sydney residents pay 96% more for electricity at A$0.31 per kWh than their Seoul counterparts, who pay 59% less. Water comes in at 91% higher than the average at A$2.49 per 1.5 litres, while internet services cost 35% more at an average of A$63.43 per month for unlimited broadband.
  • In terms of finding a place to live, Sydney is surprisingly one of the cheaper options per square metre in APAC. The inner suburbs offer the most attractive rate at A$302.70 — 44% less than the average, compared to Hong Kong where buyers pay 106% more at A$1,414.54.

The power of visual analytics

Today, we are increasingly seeing everyday people use data to gain more insight into various aspects of their lives. In the same way that individuals are tracking everything from fitness to spending, organisations now routinely use business intelligence to analyse and derive insights into what’s going on in their organisation. Putting actual dollar figures next to commonly used goods and services, says as much about the disparity in the cost of living in Sydney and across APAC as it does about how utilising data allows you to come closer to these truths.

The Qlik APAC Cost of Living app can be accessed at