Living costs in Tokyo are famous for being among the world’s highest – for many years the Japanese capital has been ranked in the top five of the world’s costliest cities. 

Living expenses in Beijing have also skyrocketed in recent years. Still, few people would conclude that it's more expensive to live in Beijing than in Tokyo. And while it may be true that the absolute living costs in Tokyo are higher than Beijing, what's missing in the comparison is taking local wages into account.

A few days ago, a website for Chinese expats in Japan, surveyed Tokyo and Beijing’s living costs, taking both prices and wages into consideration. After they published their results on Tuesday, it immediately became one of the hottest posts on Wechat.

Below is the comparison data they came up with, while we added an additional city – New York City – into the comparison. The question is simple: what can you buy in Tokyo, NYC and Beijing with the earnings from half hour’s labor in these three cities?

The average income for low-wage workers in Tokyo, such as shift workers at McDonald’s or cashiers at local grocery stores, is about JPY 900-1100/hour, a little more than the Japanese minimum wage which is JPY 888/hour. In NYC, most low-wage workers make the USD 8/hour minimum wage. In Beijing, the average wage for low-wage workers is about RMB 10/hour. Under the current exchange rates, JPY 500 roughly equals RMB 26, and USD 4 roughly equals RMB 24.

Now let’s take a look at what you can buy with JPY 500 (RMB 26) in Tokyo, 4 dollars (RMB 24) in NYC and RMB 5 in Beijing. (Beijing and Tokyo data are from HuashengJP’s article, while New York City data was sourced from the internet)

JPY 500 (RMB 26) in Tokyo: a good-quality t-shirt, 100 percent cotton
USD 4 (RMB 24) in NYC: an okay-quality “I <3 NY” t-shirt sold by street vendors, cotton or polyester
RMB 5 in Bejing: one third of a crappy t-shirt, polyester

JPY 500 ­(RMB 26) in Tokyo: two or three pairs of Addidas sports socks, 100 percent cotton
USD 4 (RMB24) in NYC: two pairs of Hanes men’s crew socks, 100 percent cotton
RMB 5 in Bejing: one pair of brandless socks sold by street vendors, polyester

JPY 500 (RMB 26) in Tokyo: a made-in-China shirt of acceptable quality
USD 4 (RMB 24) in NYC: one-third of a Walmart shirt, acceptable quality
RMB 5 in Bejing: a sleeve (one fourth of a shirt) of very displeasing quality

JPY 500 (RMB 26) in Tokyo: five McDonald’s cheeseburgers
USD 4 (RMB 24) in NYC: four Mcdonald’s cheeseburgers
RBB 5 in Bejing: one McDonald’s cheeseburger

JPY 500 (RMB 26) in Tokyo: a medium-size carton of Haagen Dazs
USD 4 (RMB 24) in NYC:  a medium-size carton of Haagen Dazs
RMB 5 in Bejing: two local brand ice cream bars

JPY 500 (RMB 26) in Tokyo: five bottles of coke
USD 4 (RMB 24) in NYC: 2 bottles of coke
RMB 5 in Bejing: one bottle of coke

JPY 500 (RMB 26) in Tokyo: a rice bowl meal, including a beef rice bowl, a bowl of miso soup, a raw egg and a small garden salad
USD 4 (RMB 24) in NYC: a chicken gyro or two thirds of a “chicken over rice” at a halal food cart
RMB 5 in Bejing: one third of a beef rice bowl, or half of a hefan (bento boxes sold by street vendors in China)

500 yen (26 kuai) in Tokyo: a large Ippudo ramen with one free refill of noodles
4 dollars (24 kuai) in NYC: half bowl of ramen at Menkui Tei
5 kuai in Bejing: half bowl of Lanzhou Lamian

JPY 500 (RMB 26) in Tokyo: a round-trip train ticket between Tokyo and Akabane (about 26 km in distance)
USD 4 (RMB 24) in NYC: one and a half subway ride (USD 2.75 for a single ride)
RMB 5 in Bejing: two subway rides, as far as you want to go

So a half hour’s very basic labor can trade you much less goods and services in Beijing than in Tokyo or New York City, except for public transportation.

Attention all Beijingers: Your city is harder than NYC and Tokyo.

Visit the original source and full text: the Beijinger Blog