Global cost of living survey finds improved affordability in UK cities

Several UK cities, including London, have tumbled down the rankings in an annual survey of the world’s most expensive places to live.

But Glasgow bucked the trend seen elsewhere in the UK, by moving up the rankings in the list of the world’s most expensive cities.

The strengthening of the US dollar against the pound is the main reason for UK cities tumbling down the list, according to the report – which said despite concerns over Brexit the UK remains an attractive destination for organisations looking to relocate staff.

The study, compiled by Mercer, aims to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees.

It measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in locations around the world, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment.

The city of New York is used as the base city for all comparisons, and currency movements are measured against the US dollar.

Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living Survey saw London fall by four places from 19 to 23.

Birmingham fell seven places to 135 and Aberdeen fell three places to 137.

Belfast fell six places to 158.

An exception was Glasgow, where increases in the cost of living saw the Scotland city climb three places in the ranking, from 148 last year to 145.

Slightly stronger demand for flats and apartments in the city were partly behind Glasgow’s movement.

Meanwhile, the costliest city in the world for the second year in a row was identified as Hong Kong, in first place.

It was followed by Tokyo (2), Singapore (3) and Seoul (4), with Zurich placed fifth.

New York was in ninth place, with Moscow at 27, Paris at 47 and Sydney at 50. Rome was at 55, while Brussels was at 77, with Melbourne at 79 and Berlin at 81, followed by Madrid at 82. Dublin was at 43, falling from 32 last year.

The world’s least expensive city for expatriates in the survey was identified as Tunis in Tunisia in last place at 209, followed by Tashkent in Uzbekistan (208), and Karachi in Pakistan (207).

“UK cities’ fall in this year’s ranking is mainly due to a strengthening of the US dollar against the pound,” said Kate Fitzpatrick, Mercer global mobility practice leader, UK and Ireland.

“Price inflation remains low, keeping any increases in the cost of living to a minimum for expatriates and locals alike.”

She continued: “The UK remains an attractive destination for organisations looking to relocate personnel to international business and financial centres, in spite of well-publicised macro headwinds, including Brexit.”