Strong pound keeps UK cities steady on global list of most costly places to live

The list, compiled by Mercer, helps employers to calculate appropriate compensation packages for expatriate employees, based on living costs.

A view of London
A view of London

The relative strength of sterling has kept the rankings of UK cities steady on a global list of the most costly places for expatriate employees to live.

London was placed 18th, edging up by one place from number 19 last year, while Birmingham was ranked at 121, moving up by eight places from 129 in 2020.

Aberdeen was placed at 128, moving up the rankings from 134 in 2020, and Glasgow was up by 10 places to reach 131, from 141 last year.

Belfast moved up one place to 148, from 149 in 2020.

The list, compiled by Mercer, measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in 209 cities across the world.

The data can be used by employers to calculate compensation packages for employees living and working overseas.

Kate Fitzpatrick, Mercer’s global mobility practice leader for the UK and Ireland, said: “UK cities have remained relatively stable in the ranking this year, due to low inflation and the fact that the pound has remained strong against all major currencies during the pandemic.”

She added: “While there has been limited cross-border mobility over the last 12 months due to the travel restrictions associated with Covid-19, organisations are now beginning to plan for a revival of activity.

“While the mix of permanent transfers, long and short-term assignments, business travellers, and international remote workers has changed, the need for – and indeed the desire of – employees with valuable and in-demand skills to mobilise remains strong.

“The cost and quality of living a city has to offer is directly tied to its attractiveness as a place to live and work.

“Multinational employers monitor our data closely and over time to ensure they can offer compensation packages to an internationally mobile talent pool which are fair and globally competitive.”

Hong Kong
Hong Kong was second on the list (Anthony Devlin/PA)

This year’s survey found that Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, was the most expensive city, pushing Hong Kong from first place last year into second place, while Beirut surged by 42 positions to become the third most expensive city, from number 45 in 2020.

Tokyo was placed fourth.

Placed at number five in the global rankings, Zurich remained the most costly European city, followed by Geneva (eight) and Bern (10).

Paris was placed at number 33.

New York, in 14th place, was ranked as the most expensive city in the United States, falling by eight positions since last year when it was at number six.

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