Middle East expat hubs rise in latest Mercer cost of living ranks

27 June 2019 Consultancy-me.com

Mercer’s annual cost of living report has landed and some of the most prominent Middle Eastern cities have again shot up the list. 

Clocking up a quarter of a century of coverage, Mercer’s 25th annual cost of living survey has seen the Middle East’s leading economic hubs – Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh – once again rocket up the rankings. Conducted with an expatriate focus, Mercer’s latest survey measured over 200 comparative prices across a vast range of products and services in 500-plus cities to arrive at its final ranking of 209 global cities.

In at 21st: Dubai, which has climbed up the rankings again after having fallen from 19th to 26th last year on the back of a depressed local real estate market. Likewise, Abu Dhabi (where Mercer launched a new office last year) has shot up seven places to 33rd overall, while Riyadh, after having already jumped from the 52nd to 45th spot in 2018, has again experienced a significant cost of living hike – now ranked at 37th worldwide.

Despite the rising rankings, two local Mercer leaders have suggested that professionals with an eye to moving to the region shouldn’t be deterred. “Due to the strong performance of the US Dollar versus the Euro, the countries with currencies which are pegged to the USD, like the UAE dirham, have risen in the ranking compared to most of the European cities,” explained Mercer MENA global mobility consultant Vladimir Vrzhovski in an interview with The National.

Middle East expat hubs rise in latest Mercer cost of living ranks

Thus, the UAE is relatively more expensive, but not on the ground. Vrzhovski continued; “The UAE imports a lot of goods from Europe and China, for example, so technically those imports have become cheaper hence the local prices have come down significantly. So, this is in fact a very relative ranking because while from an outside perspective the UAE has become more expensive, at the same time we see cheaper products based on the US dollar performance.”

Vrzhovski further noted the healthy local compensation packages, and UAE real estate prices which also continue to fall – a factor likewise cited by Mercer Saudi Arabia career business leader Najla Najm. “While cities in Saudi Arabia have risen up the rankings for cost of living, we’ve seen a fall in property prices that might balance the overall increase. Overall the rise is reflective of the country’s success pursuing the diversification agenda set out in Vision 2030.”

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Lebanon’s capital Beirut and Manama in Bahrain ranked 53rd and 57th respectively, while Amman, of Jordan, placed in 75th and Saudi Arabia’s second largest city Jeddah rounded out the top 100 worldwide - with Omani capital Muscat, at 103rd, the last of the Middle Eastern entrants in the top half of the list. At the other end of the scale in MENA was Tunis, which was assessed as the cheapest for expats worldwide.

“In a skill-focused economy driven by digital disruption and the need for a globally connected workforce, deploying expatriate employees is an increasingly important aspect of a competitive business strategy for global companies,” concluded Ilya Bonic, President of Mercer’s Career business. “There are numerous personal and organizational advantages for sending employees overseas, including career development, global experience, new skill-sets, and re-allocation of resources.