Ashgabat, a city with a population of one million people in Central Asia, has topped a 2021 cost-of-living survey by consultancy firm Mercer.
The annual report ranks 209 cities based on the cost of living expenses such as housing, transport and food. It helps global companies to figure out how much they should pay expatriate employees when they relocate.
The city in Asia nudges Hong Kong out of the top spot into second place, followed closely by Beirut in Lebanon and Tokyo in Japan. Jean-Philippe Sarra of Mercer told AFP news agency that ‘high local inflation’ explained Ashgabat's rise to first from second in last year's survey, much different to most of the other cities in Mercer's top 10, which are business hubs whose success has affected economic growth.
What about other countries, where do they stand?
Beirut, the capital of Lebanon jumped from 45th place last year to 3rd in the 2021 survey and three Swiss cities finished in the top 10, including Zurich which dropped to fifth place. Shanghai climbed one spot to number six; Beijing rose to ninth and Singapore took seventh place.
UK cities ranged from the most expensive to some of the cheapest for global workers, with London coming in at number 18 and Birmingham at the other end of the scale at number 121. Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek was ranked as the least expensive city for foreign employees in the world.
Data from global IPMI provider William Russell highlights the eye-watering cost of seeking healthcare abroad, with cancer-related treatment coming out the most expensive.