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Belfast rated among world’s cheapest cities but it costs a packet to live in Hong Kong

By Laura Abernethy

Belfast has been named as one of the cheapest UK cities in a list of hundreds of global locations.

Mercer's Cost of Living Survey, which is designed to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for expatriate employees, indicated Belfast was the world's 134th costliest city.

It dropped from 127th place last year and came in lower than London, Aberdeen, Birmingham and Glasgow.

The survey included 209 cities across five continents and measured the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.

All UK cities dropped down the rankings this year. Although London remained in the top 20 costliest cities worldwide at number 17, it fell five places. Aberdeen (85) and Birmingham (96) slipped by seven and 16 places respectively. Further down the list, Glasgow (119) dropped 10 places.

Dublin was the only city in the Republic to feature in the rankings, coming 49th, two places lower than last year.

Kate Fitzpatrick, a senior international mobility consultant at Mercer, said: "While most western European cities have remained stable in this year's rankings, UK cities have fallen.

"However, the drop is not as large as expected, with rental prices keeping UK cities up.

"In the past year, we have observed strong rental accommodation prices increase in Aberdeen, and to a lesser extent in Belfast.

"Although there has been only a slight increase in the average rental price in London, this cost remains at the higher end of the scale when compared to cities worldwide."

New York was used as the base city for all comparisons, and currency movements were measured against the US dollar.

Ellyn Karetnick, head of international mobility at Mercer said: "Although the value of the euro has remained steady against the US dollar, the pound has fallen, largely due to Brexit fears. But whilst currency fluctuations will always cause a major impact on costs, local conditions, like high property prices, can counterbalance the impact of currency movements, as demonstrated with UK and with western European cities.

"It is important to understand local costs when deploying employees in countries across the world, and we use the Mercer International basket of goods, based on typical spending patterns representative of expatriates, to help calculate rankings and packages."

Hong Kong topped the list of most expensive cities for expatriates, pushing Luanda, Angola, to second position.

Zurich and Singapore remained in third and fourth positions respectively, whereas Tokyo was in fifth, up six places from last year.

Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo ranked sixth and appeared for the first time in the top 10, up from 13th place.

Other cities appearing in the top 10 of Mercer's costliest cities for expatriates were Shanghai (7), Geneva (8), N'Djamena (9), and Beijing (10).

The survey indicated the least expensive cities for ex-pats are Windhoek, Namibia (209), Cape Town, South Africa (208) and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (207).

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