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Manila ranks 78th most expensive city for expats in 2021. Ashgabat, Hong Kong, Beirut top list

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Jun 23, 2021 5:35 pm

The Philippine capital is the 78th most expensive city for expatriates, according to the latest Mercer’s 2021 Cost of Living city ranking. 

This year’s ranking includes 209 cities across five continents and measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, which include the following: housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment. The data for the survey were collected in March 2021.

Manila went up two notches from its 2020 ranking of 80th. The city shares the spot with Mumbai, India’s most expensive city, which dropped 18 spots from its ranking last year of 60th.

Mercer Asia Pacific Global Mobility Leader Julia Radchenko told BusinessWorld that the rise of Philippines’ ranking was due to the strengthened Philippine peso versus the US dollar this year. Radchenko also noted that the peso is one of the few Asian currencies that has recorded gains against the US dollar, alongside the Chinese yuan and Taiwanese dollar.

The ranking also reveals that more than half of the Top 10 most expensive cities are located in Asia.

This year’s Top 10 most expensive cities for expats according to Mercer are:

  1. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
  2. Hong Kong
  3. Beirut, Lebanon
  4. Tokyo, Japan
  5. Zurich, Switzerland
  6. Shanghai, China
  7. Singapore
  8. Geneva, Switzerland
  9. Beijing, China
  10. Bern, Switzerland
The Wedding Palace located in the city of Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, the most expensive city for expats in 2021, according to Mercer.

Ashgabat, which climbed one spot from last year’s rankings, dethroned Hong Kong from the No. 1 position. Mercer cited that Turkmenistan’s ongoing financial crisis—which had led to food shortages and hyperinflation—is the reason why the cost of living in Ashgabat has risen over the past couple of years.

Beirut’s significant 42-notch climb to third place was the result of a severe and extensive economic depression due to escalation of several crises, including Lebanon’s worst financial crisis, COVID-19 pandemic and the Port of Beirut explosion in August 2020.

“Cost of living has always been a factor for international mobility planning, but the pandemic has added a whole new layer of complexity, as well as long-term implications related to health and safety of employees, remote working and flexibility policies, among other considerations,” said Ilya Bonic, career president and head of Mercer Strategy.

“As organizations rethink their talent and mobility strategies, accurate and transparent data is essential to compensate employees fairly for all types of assignments,” he said.

The Central Mosque in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, one of the least expensive cities at 209th place.

Meanwhile, out of 209 cities, the least expensive cities for expats according to Mercer’s survey are the following:

209. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

208. Lusaka, Zambia

207. Tbilisi, Georgia

206. Tunis, Tunisia

205. Brasilia, Brazil

204. Windhoek, Namibia

203. Tashkent, Uzbekistan

202. Gaborone, Botswana

201. Karachi, Pakistan

200. Banjul, Gambia

Click here for the complete list of the Cost of Living City Ranking.