These Are the Most Expensive Cities for Working Abroad in 2021

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The most expensive city to live and work overseas in 2021 has been found to be Ashgabat, the capital of Central Asia's Turkmenistan, according to an annual report by asset manager Mercer. 

Ashgabat moved up one place from Mercer's 2020 Cost of Living City index, swapping with Hong Kong, which had topped the rankings for the previous three years. 

Mercer's 2021 index ranked the cost of living in 209 cities, by comparing the cost of more than 200 items in each location, including food, household goods, transportation and housing. 

In the case of Turkmenistan's capital city, Mercer highlighted that inflation had jumped 11% on 2020 and a "lack of foreign currency in the country has impacted the availability and cost of basic grocery items," said Kate Fitzpatrick, Mercer's global mobility practice leader for the U.K. and Ireland. 

The Lebanese capital of Beirut came in as the third most expensive city for expatriates. It jumped 42 places in the 2021 rankings "as a result of a severe and extensive economic depression due to escalation of several crises — the country's largest financial crisis, COVID-19 and the Port of Beirut explosion in 2020." 

Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, was named the least expensive city for expats by Mercer, followed by Lusaka, Zambia and Tbilisi, Georgia. 

In the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Mercer noted how moving overseas for work was evolving from "long-term assignments" to other kinds of moves. This included short-term assignees, international foreign hires, permanent transferees, commuters, international remote workers and international freelancers. 

Here's a rundown of the 10 most expensive cities for expats, according to Mercer's findings. 

The most expensive cities for expats

  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

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