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Mumbai remains most expensive city for expats: Mercer survey

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Mumbai remains the most expensive city for expatriates surveyed in India and among the top 20 in Asia, despite slipping down 18 positions in Mercer’s 2021 annual Cost of Living Survey.

The report finds top Indian cities have dropped in rankings in surveying the most and least expensive cities for expatriates globally. Ashgabat in Turkmenistan tops the list as most expensive city globally, bumping Hong Kong to second position, while Beirut rises 42 positions to third most expensive city. More than half of the top 10 most expensive cities are located in Asia.

The pandemic continues to cause unparalleled disruption to international mobility, as countries continue to struggle with impact from the economic, political and health fallout of the crises. Mumbai, ranked at 78, remains the most expensive city in India, followed by New Delhi (117) and Chennai (158), while Bengaluru (170) and Kolkata (181) are the least expensive cities for expatriates, among those surveyed.

While there is no change in the relative order of cities within India, all three cities of Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai have climbed down in ranking by at least fifteen positions.

“Despite change in price index movements, the rupee weakened against the US dollar over the past year. The relative surge of local currencies of more expensive cities appreciating against the US dollar or having bigger price movements, have pushed Indian cities down in the ranking,” Padma Ramanathan, India global mobility practice leader at Mercer, told ET.

Chennai (158), moving down by fifteen spots in the list is most influenced by its position in the middle of the survey and movement of the neighbouring pack. The city is a popular expatriate destination for its relative affordability in expatriate housing and living environment. Bengaluru (170) has risen only one position, being mostly stable. Kolkata (181) stays put as the least expensive among the surveyed Indian cities, but moving up the rankings by another four spots like in the previous year, indicating some strain on rising expatriate living costs.

The expatriate rental housing market saw fluctuation downwards, impacted by the pandemic-induced mobility slump. However, Mumbai housing rental costs are still among the most expensive worldwide.

“While companies are offering increased flexibility to traditional international employees and managing cost considerations, the world of work is changing, and companies are adapting to new mobility models with inclusive policies for international remote and freelancer workforces, rethinking pay for domestic moves, putting compliance and fair pay practices in focus, assimilating for repatriation and overall well-being at the core of their mobility agenda”, said Ramanathan.

The world’s least expensive cities for international employees, according to the survey, are Tbilisi (207), Lusaka (208), and Bishkek, which ranked as the least costly city at 209.

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