Most expensive cities in the world: UK city leaps into top 10 most expensive cities to live in in 2024 index

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  • UK city rises to eighth in Mercer’s 2024 cost-of-living city ranking
  • Hong Kong retains the top spot, followed by Singapore, with Swiss cities dominating the top five
  • Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, Aberdeen, and Belfast also feature
  • Mercer's index measures the cost of over 200 items
  • Rising housing costs pose challenges for attracting and retaining talent

A UK city has surged into the top 10 in a global index ranking the most expensive cities for expatriate employees.

According to Mercer’s 2024 cost-of-living city ranking, London has climbed nine places from last year to secure the eighth position.

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Just below New York on the list, London’s ascent is attributed to factors such as the overall cost of living and rental prices.

Hong Kong continues to hold the top spot in this year's ranking, followed by Singapore. Swiss cities Zurich, Geneva, and Basel complete the top five most expensive cities.

Edinburgh was placed at 53, Glasgow at 68, Birmingham at 78, Aberdeen at 82, and Belfast at 87. Paris was ranked 29th and Dublin at 41. The index includes 226 locations across the world.

It measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. Abuja in Nigeria was ranked least expensive in the survey, at number 226.

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Mercer, a business of Marsh McLennan, compiles the ranking to help multinational employers plan compensation packages for workers.

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Rising housing costs in many cities around the world have been a challenge for employers, with volatile inflation trends also putting a strain on workers’ compensation packages, Mercer said.

These factors can make it difficult for employers to attract and retain top talent and can increase compensation and benefits expenses, limit talent mobility and raise operational costs, the report added.

Here are the 2024 cost-of-living city rankings from Mercer:

  1. Hong Kong
  2. Singapore
  3. Zurich, Switzerland
  4. Geneva, Switzerland
  5. Basel, Switzerland
  6. Bern, Switzerland
  7. New York, United States
  8. London, United Kingdom
  9. Nassau, Bahamas
  10. Los Angeles, United States

If you’re an expatriate employee looking to save money in an expensive city like London, here are some handy tips.

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Look for housing in less central areas where rent is typically lower, and consider sharing a flat with others to split the cost of rent and utilities. Try to negotiate rent prices or look for rent deals.

Utilise London’s extensive public transport network including buses, the Tube and trains, and get an Oyster card or use contactless payment for discounts. For shorter distances, consider biking or walking to save on transport costs and stay fit.

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For food, shop at local markets for fresh produce, which can often be cheaper than supermarkets, and use discount apps like Too Good To Go to get reduced-price food from restaurants and bakeries.

Take advantage of free attractions like museums, parks and galleries, and look for discounted tickets for events and shows on websites like TodayTix or use membership cards that offer discounts.

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For employers, Yvonne Traber, Mercer’s global mobility leader, said they may want to offer compensation packages that include housing allowances or subsidies, or provide support services.

 “Cost-of-living challenges have had a significant impact on multinational organisations and their employees,” she said. “It’s important for organisations to stay informed about cost-of-living trends and inflation rates and seek input from employees on these issues to effectively manage their effects.

“High living costs may cause assignees to adjust their lifestyle, cut back on discretionary spending or even struggle to meet their basic needs.”

Have you lived or worked in one of the top-ranked cities? How do you manage costs in an expensive city? Join the conversation in the comments section and exchange valuable tips and insights.

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