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UK cities move up rankings in global cost of living survey

By Vicky Shaw
UK cities including London, Birmingham, Glasgow and Belfast have moved up the rankings in a global survey of the most expensive places to live.

London made this year’s top 20 in Mercer’s 2020 Cost of Living Survey, which covers 209 cities across the world.

The survey is carried out to help companies understand how expensive cities will be to live in for their expatriate employees, so that pay can be set accordingly. New York is used as a base city.

All UK cities included in the annual survey climbed in this year’s ranking, mainly due to the strength of sterling against the US dollar, according to the research.

For the 2020 survey, London is up four places, moving from 23 to 19.

Birmingham has also risen from 135 in 2019 to 129 in 2020.

Aberdeen is now placed at 134, from 137 last year.

Glasgow jumped from 145 to 141 and Belfast edged up from 158 to 149.

Kate Fitzpatrick, Mercer’s global mobility practice leader for the UK and Ireland said: “The position of UK cities remained relatively stable year-on-year as the pound held its own against the US dollar.”

Regarding the impact of coronavirus on companies and their expatriate workers, Ms Fitzpatrick said: “Our research has shown that most expatriates out on assignment chose to stay in their host location during the pandemic lockdown period.

“Some temporarily returned to their home country or travelled elsewhere, but wherever possible have continued to work remotely.”

She added that companies will need to closely monitor how currency fluctuations have impacted expat cost of living and if necessary adjust their compensation packages.

“Cost savings will also remain high on the agenda as companies decide when and where to send employees on assignment,” she said.

Dublin was ranked at 46 this year, down from 43 in 2019.

Hong Kong remained top of the list of the most expensive places for expatriates to live. It was followed by Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in second position.

Tokyo and Zurich were in third and fourth positions respectively, while Singapore was in fifth place, down two places from last year.

Cophenhagen was placed 25th, Paris was ranked at 50 and Vienna was at 54.

Amsterdam, Rome and Sydney were ranked at 64, 65 and 66 respectively. Munich was at 72 and Barcelona was at 102.

The data was collected in March and Mercer said that due to the timing of the Covid-19 outbreak it conducted further analysis on availability of goods in April and May to verify pricing.

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