Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How to Calculate a Cost of Living Allowance - Part 2

The formula for calculating the specific cost of living index for an international assignment is as follows:

Cost of Living Index = Customized Cost of Living Index for Host City / Customized Cost of Living Index for Home City

When moving to a higher cost of living host city, the index will be greater than 1 (positive). When moving to a lower cost of living host city the index will be less than 1 (negative). Where the index is negative it means that in real terms the cost of living in the host city is lower than the home city. This means that if the negative index where to be applied to the employee’s salary, they would actually be paid proportionately less spendable salary in the host city. It is important to note that the majority of organizations do not apply a negative cost of living index because it makes it difficult to persuade an employee to take up an assignment as they tend to see it as a reduction in salary. 

Examples of Cost of Living Index Calculations using our data:

Example 1) An Australian employee moving from Perth to London where healthcare and communication will be provided by the employer

More Expensive in London:
Alcohol & Tobacco +4.77%
Clothing +21.85%
Education +31.53%
Furniture & Appliances +16.03%
Groceries +16.35%
Household +50.72%
Miscellaneous +137.47%
Personal Care +11.18%
Recreation & Culture -6.82%
Restaurants Meals Out and Hotels +34.99%
Transport +19.80%

The overall difference in cost of living moving from Perth and London is +28.06%.

In this case the cost of living index is positive and would be applied as it is.

Example 2) A British employee moving from London to Mumbai where the employer will provide housing and education

More Expensive in Mumbai:
Alcohol & Tobacco -37.53%
Clothing -9.58%
Communication -44.92%
Furniture & Appliances -19.31%
Groceries -24.03%
Healthcare -31.24%
Miscellaneous -72.43%
Personal Care -24.94%
Recreation & Culture -35.73%
Restaurants Meals Out and Hotels -33.11%
Transport is -27.99%

The overall difference in cost of living moving from London Mumbai is -30.53%.

In this case the cost of living index is negative and would not be applied.

Net Spendable Salary

Differences in cost of living only impact the portion of the salary that is spendable in the host country. Items in the home country such as retirement funding, medical insurance and other home based costs are not impacted by the cost of living in the host country.

To determine the Net Spendable Salary establish what amount / portion of the current salary (in home currency) is spent in maintaining the employee’s current standard of living / lifestyle. What will the expatriate need to spend their salary on in the host country? For example will accommodation be provided or will the employee pay rent, will healthcare be provided etc. Deduct all items that are either provided in kind or are spendable in the home country. Deduct the hypothetical amount of tax, social contributions and any other statutory deductions applicable in the home country from the Spendable Salary. What is left is the Net Spendable Salary.

In part 3 we discuss the formula for calculating a cost of living allowance using the above inputs