Beijing: Employees of international companies who live in Beijing and Shanghai have comparatively higher living costs than their colleagues who live in New York, a study has found.

According to the survey conducted by Mercer Investment Consulting (MIC), living costs in Beijing and Shanghai were ranked 20th and 21st out of 214 global cities, with housing expenses accounting for most of the spending in those two cities, Xinhua news agency reported.

Beijing fell from last year's ranking of 16th, while Shanghai jumped from last year's ranking of 25th.

New York City ranks 32nd, while Angola's capital Luanda remains the most expensive city globally for expatriates. Pakistan's port city of Karachi is the cheapest, says the 2011 survey.

Lisa Deng, Mercer's China market manager, said that compared to cities in other countries like Australia, living costs in Chinese cities are stable thanks to a comparatively steady currency rate.

China is the world's largest receiver of overseas employees designated by international firms, foreign governments and non-government organisations, according to Mercer, a US-based international human resources consultancy company.

The survey compared the costs of more than 200 items, including food, housing, transportation, clothing and entertainment, using prices in New York as a base to establish the survey's ranking system.

Living costs in New York were equal to 86 percent of those in Beijing, said Alan Zhang, Mercer's chief of information products in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao.

The annual report aims at helping international companies and governments set up better pay for their overseas employees.

A total of 11 Chinese cities participated in the survey. Hong Kong was ninth, Guangzhou was 38th, Shenzhen 43rd and Taipei came 52nd.

The most expensive city in Asia is Tokyo (second), followed by Osaka (sixth) and Singapore (eighth).

Mercer began conducting the survey in 1990.

(Agencies)