London cheaper option for expats in global cost of living rankings

Credit card payment-2Living in London as an expat has become a more attractive choice on the basis of the cost of living in 375 global cities.

London has moved down from 12th to be 17th most expensive city to live and work as an expatriate in the annual rankings by HR and consulting company Mercer.  But it is still the most expensive city in Europe with the exception of those in Switzerland – Zurich, Geneva and Bern are higher up the cost league.

Other UK cities have also become comparatively cheaper.  Aberdeen has move down to 85 from 82 last year and Birmingham is 96th in 2016 compared to 80th in 2015.  Mercer say that the strength of the pound against the dollar in the past 12 months has been a factor as dollars are used as the base currency for calculations.

The most expensive city in the world for an expat is Hong Kong, according to Mercer research. Last year’s most expensive city, Luanda, drops to second place.  Five of the top ten are Asian cities, three of them in China.

Mercer Cost of Living Survey 2016 – 10 most expensive
City Country Continent
1 Hong Kong China Asia
2 Luanda Angola Africa
3 Zurich Switzerland Europe
4 Singapore Singapore Asia
5 Tokyo Japan Asia
6 Kinshasa Dem Republic of Congo Africa
7 Shanghai China Asia
8 Geneva Switzerland Europe
9 N’Djamena Chad Africa
10 Beijing China Asia

In Europe, apart from the Swiss cities and London, the only cities in the top 50 globally are  Copenhagen, Paris and Dublin.

Mercer Cost of Living Survey 2016 – Europe’s most expensive
City Country
Zurich Switzerland
Geneva Switzerland
Bern Switzerland
London UK
Copenhagen Denmark
Paris France
Milan Italy
Vienna Austria
Rome Italy
Oslo Norway

The survey looks at the cost of 200 items in each city including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.  The cost of housing helped push Hong Kong to the top of the rankings, but London comes out as expensive for a number of everyday purchases.

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Source data

See also

London expensive? Not compared to being an expat in Luanda

How London compares for the cost of public transport

London may win for iPhone earning power over Poland but cost of living much higher

Americans back on top as London’s biggest visitors

River Tower Br ShardAmericans were London’s leading overseas visitors last year after 8 years of being outnumbered by the French.

The surge from the States helped make 2015 another record-breaking year for the capital as, predicted by Urbs.  Data from Visit Britain shows that the capital welcomed 18.5 million people from around the world for leisure, education, business and family visits.

2.1 million of those visitors, or 11.5%, came from America, narrowly beating the French, although visitor numbers from France were also slightly up on 2014. Polish visitors pushed into the top 10 for the first time in 2015.

tourist data graph .001-2

As well as being the largest group, Americans also spent the most. Of the £11.9 billion the city generated from tourism, nearly a tenth came from American wallets alone last year.

London’s highest spending European visitors were French, with a total spend of £762 million. But on an individual basis the big spenders are from the Gulf countries of the Middle East. While the average London visitor spent £640, those from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia spent nearly five times that amount.

The ease of a hop across the Channel or a trip through the Tunnel means the French still account for more of London’s short-stayers than anyone else. 1.2 million French people came to the city for ‘le weekend’ and a trip lasting one to three nights.

The longest stayers came from Australia – 1.57 million of them stuck around for at least two weeks following presumably long-haul journeys for most of them. Despite the Australian’s extended time here, they trail other countries closer to home on tourist numbers and expenditure, including Germany, Italy and Spain.

As home to most of the UK’s biggest tourist attractions, it is no surprise that London’s main draw for visitors continues to be as a holiday destination. Half of those who came to the city from abroad did so for leisure. Internationally, London also remains a popular destination to do business, with 20% of those coming here on work commitments.

Irish and Polish family networks around London also seem to have grown in strength in the past year. Not only did their visitor numbers increase by almost one third and one fifth respectively, but as many as 39% of Irish and Polish visitors were in the capital to see family and relatives.

Source data

See also

Good news for tourists and Londoners as city dominates for visitor attractions

Tourists biggest users of Boris Bikes

How London’s choice of nightlife compares to other cities

A tenth of Londoners won’t get a vote but may feel the impact of the EU referendum

flag waving-2For a tenth of the people who live in London the debate about whether the UK should leave the EU has a very different dynamic.  They are the 860,000 people from the 27 EU nations who live and work in the capital.  For them the question is not about the future of the UK should it decide to leave, but whether a UK outside the EU would mean that many of them would have to go home if the UK restricted free movement of labour.

The most detailed guide to the various groups of EU nationals in London is the 2011 census which showed that there were 711,000 people living in the capital who were born in EU nations. The most recent population estimates show that this had grown to 860,000 by 2014.

The largest growth is in the so-called A2 nations, Romania and Bulgaria, who were allowed free access to work in the UK at the start of 2014.  Between 2011 and 2014 their numbers went up by 60% to 116,000.

The countries from the old Eastern block, the so-called A8 nations, which includes Poland, experienced the lowest rate of growth of 10.5% between 2011 and 2014.

The core EU nations, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain, grew by 20%, driven largely by people coming from southern Europe, as previously reported by Urbs.

The Annual Population Survey does not break down population groups below 10,000 so there is no precise data for 9 of the EU nations.  Of the remaining 18 only 2, Ireland and Germany have a lower population now than in 2011.

Romania is the country with the largest increase in numbers from 2011 to 2014, but the largest growth rate is in people from Latvia, up by 143% and Denmark, up 103%.

EU pop numbers table

The largest groups of non-UK EU citizens in London are people from Poland and Ireland.

There are 178.000 Poles in London, up from 158,000 in 2011. Polish people have come to live and work across the UK and less than a quarter of them are based in London. The census shows that most have settled in Ealing, Haringey, Brent and Houslow.

Born Poland

The Irish also favour Ealing and Brent. There were 130,000 in London in 2011 but the most recent estimate is that has fallen to 100,000.

Born in Ireland

Romanians now make up the third largest EU group in London. Their numbers have swelled from 45,000 at the time of the census to 84,000 in 2014, when they were allowed to come to the UK freely to work.  The census data shows that most were living in Brent, Harrow and Newham.

Born in Romania

The fourth largest European group currently are Italians. The 2014 population survey showed there were 79,000 living in London compared to 62,000 at the time of the census in 2011. At that time there were more French people than Italians, 64,000 of them, but  the French population has grown more gently since, to 72,000 in 2014.

Born in Italy

Born in France

After France and Italy the sixth largest population is from another core EU member, Germany. The 2014 survey indicates there are 52,000 in the capital, down from 55,000 in 2011.

Born in Germany

Financial problems in Southern Europe lie behind the rise in migration from Spain and Greece. Both countries saw a rise in their populations in London between 2011 and 2014 with an increase of 8,000 Spaniards and 10,000 Greeks.

Born in Greece

Born in Spain

Lithuanians were the 9th largest group in 2014 and their numbers have gone up slightly since 2011. The much bigger growth from the Baltic states is people from Latvia. At the time of the 2011 census the largest portion of the 9,500 were in Newham, alongside the Lithuanians. There are now more than 24,000 Latvians in the capital.

Born in Lithuania


Latvia map

Estonia map

Bulgarians, like Romanian were allowed to work freely in the UK from 2014.  Their numbers have risen more modestly from 27,000 to 32,000.  In 2011, the largest groups of Bulgarians were found in Haringey, Waltham Forest and Newham.

Born in Bulgaria

The Republic of Cyprus is an EU member so all Cypriots have EU status, including those from the north of the island, which is not controlled by the government.  London’s Cypriot commnity is heavily concentrated in Enfield.

Cyprus map

The Portuguese population has grown more modestly than other Southern Eurpeans countries since the census. In 2011 the population was focused around Stockwell in the borough of Lambeth.

born in portugal


Hungary was one of the A8 nations that gained EU membership in 2004.  The UK allowed A8 nations immediate access to the work here. In 2011 there were just under 18,00o. That has risen by 4,000.

Hungary map

In 2011 the Dutch numberd around the same as the Hungarians.  The population had grown to 19,000 by 2014.


Born in Netherlands

The number of Danes in London has more than doubled since 2011, though they still only number 16,000.  There used to be twice as many Swedes as Danes in London but the Danes now outnumber their fellow Scandinavians.

Born in Denmark

Born in Sweden

The Czech Republic has about twice the population of its former national bedfellow, Slovakia, but in London the Slovaks outnumber the Czechs. The data from the 2011 census shows they tend to live in the same neighbourhoods.

Slovakia map


Czech map

The Annual Population Survey doesn’t carry details on the smaller populations  from the EU nations but from the census we can see how they were spread across London in 2011.

Belgium map

Austria map

Finland map

Malta map

Croatia map

Slovenia mapLuxembourg


Source data

See also

London is more diverse than the UN or Fifa

London’s unique language landscape where 26% don’t speak English at home

Poles and Pakistanis help shape the multi-cultural make up of the city


How London compares for the cost of public transport

Taxi Bus Tube-2-1London is the third most expensive for public transport out of 71 cities globally, according to a survey by the financial services company UBS.

As part of its annual prices and earnings survey UBS looked at the cost of getting around a city. In order to get a like-for-like comparison the company took the cost of a single ticket on an underground system, bus or tram for a journey of 10 kilometres or 10 stops.

Urbs Media looked at the data paying particular attention to 20 cities with strong connections to London or those in countries that had significant migrant populations living and working in the UK.  (See the table below).

Copenhagen is the most expensive for public transport, followed by its Swedish neighbour, Stockholm, and then London.  New York and Paris are both cheaper, but people who have moved to the capital from Warsaw, Bucharest, or New Delhi will notice a big price difference.  Kiev has the cheapest public transport of any city surveyed.

The results do not take account of the lower prices for season tickets, which would reduce the cost in London and in other cities too.  Nor does it factor in the quality or reliability of the service.

City Public Transport ($US) Taxi fare ($US)
Berlin 2.89 14.78
Bucharest 0.46 3.31
Copenhagen 4.63 15.43
Dublin 3.31 11.35
Geneva 3.12 20.58
Hong Kong 1.28 3.65
Johannesburg 0.79 6.34
Kiev 0.16 1.59
London 4.04 10.09
Madrid 1.98 11.35
New Delhi 0.37 1.54
New York 2.75 11.67
Oslo 3.80 32.10
Paris 1.95 12.43
Rome 1.62 14.24
Stockholm 4.17 18.56
Sydney 2.58 11.52
Toronto 2.43 15.88
Vilnius 0.90 4.52
Warsaw 0.91 5.64

London comes out a little better for the cost of taking a taxi. Looking at the price of a 5 kilometre cab ride within the city, New Delhi offers the cheapest option. London is more expensive than Hong Kong, Bucharest and Warsaw, but cheaper than Sydney, New York, Paris, Rome, Madrid or Berlin.  But none compare to the astronomical cost of a cab ride in Oslo – three times the price of London.

UBS conducted the survey in March and April 2015.  It has carried out the price and earning survey annually since 1971.

Source data

See also

London may win for iPhone earning power over Poland but cost of living much higher

The way we spend our cash – more rent, less alcohol, healthier eating

London expensive? Not compared to being an expat in Luanda

Poor sustainability and high cost public transport mar global cities win

London leads Europe but dwarfed by US tech hubs for venture capital investment

NIghtime office pcruciatti shutterstock_163124849-2

Photo: pcruciatti|

London enjoys a reputation as a dynamic home to business start-ups, particularly in the technology sector. But while the city may be leading Europe it accounts for just 2% of global capital investment funding.

Data gathered by the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s School of Management shows that the start-up sector was powered by $42 billion of venture capital investment in 2012 – the most recent available data. London attracted $842 million.

While venture capital investment is becoming more global, the sector is still dominated by the US with cities and metro areas on both the East and West coasts attracting 70% of funding. The San Francisco Bay area, which includes Silicon Valley, attracts a larger proportion than either Europe or Asia.

Amid this US dominance, London is ranked 7th in the list of venture capital investment put together by the Instiitute. Beijing is the only other non-US city in the top 10.

City/Metro area
Venture Capital Investment
(US millon dollars)
1 San Francisco £6,471 15.4%
2 San Jose $4,175 9.9%
3 Boston $3,144 7.5%
4 New York $2,106 5%
5 Los Angeles $1,450 3.4%
6 San Diego $1,410 3.3%
7 London $842 2%
8 Washington DC $835 2%
9 Beijing $758 1.8%
10 Seattle $727 1.7%

London fares quite well in these rankings because it is a large and dynamic city. The growing mega cities of China and India have a similar advantage. But London fares less well when investment is considered on a per capita basis. London then slips to 39th in the global rankings with around $60 per head. In San Jose it is more that $2,000 and many smaller US cities jump into the top 20.

London also falls behind some other UK and European cities in the par capita calculations.  Edinburgh, Bristol and Liverpool have all succeeded in attracting more venture capital per head of population.  But their populations and total investments are a fraction of size of London.

The UK capital still dominates Europe for total investment with Paris trailing in second with $449 million.  While there is a greater global spread of money the bulk is still concentrated on large urban centres, and that will continue to be to London’s advantage.

Source data

See also

London flies flag for West as East leads global growth ranking

Economic growth carries risk for culture and creativity, says report

London’s smart, but not smart enough


Mapping Londoners: Born in Russia

London has been a magnet for wealthy Russians in recent years with many investing in expensive property, and in one case buying a football club. This influx of super rich was documented at the start of 2015 in the aptly titled BBC programme Rich, Russian and living in London.

The data from the 2011 census shows that 60% of Russians who are registered as resident in London live in central areas. Their love of expensive properties in Mayfair and Chelsea is reflected by the fact that Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea are the boroughs with the largest numbers of Russian residents.

Camden, Barnet and Tower Hamlets all have communities of around 1,000.   Other boroughs have groups in the hundreds giving a total of 16,575, the 49th largest non UK-born population in the city.

Born in Russia

More recent data from the Annual Population Survey (a little less reliable than the hard numbers of the census) indicates that the number of Russians in London is declining. It suggests that numbers peaked at 18,000 in 2012 but have now fallen back to 11,000.

Source data

See also

Mapping Londoners: Born in Lithuania

Mapping Londoners: Born in the USA

Mapping Londoners: Born in Poland

More population maps




Mapping Londoners: Born in Sweden

For a small country of 9.7 million people, Sweden has quite an impact. From H&M on the high street, Ikea in our homes or Spotify on our music players, Swedish brands are part of British life.

But there are few Swedish people resident in the UK. According to the 2011 census 14,747 of the resident population of London were born in Sweden. That’s about half of all the Swedes in the UK and just 0.2% of Londoners.

Most live centrally, with 10% in Westminster, 1.200 in Kensington and Chelsea and 895 in Camden. Hackney, Richmond and Wandsworth were other favourite boroughs.

Born in Sweden

According to the most recent population estimates, based on the Annual Population Survey, so less reliable than the census, the number of Swedes appears to have fallen and may be down to 10,000 in London.

So some Swedish Londoners may have headed home. Those that remain can keep in touch with the homeland using Skype – that’s a Swedish invention too.

Source data

Mapping Londoners: Born in Denmark

Mapping Londoners: Born in Norway

More population maps


Mapping Londoners: Born in Denmark

The number of Danes who are resident in London appears to be increasing. According to the last census in 2011, 7,870 people said they were born in Denmark. That was around half the number from Sweden.

But the latest estimate from the Annual Population Survey (a little less reliable than the census as it is based on a survey sample) suggests that the number of Danish born Londoners has climbed to 11,000 and is now higher than the Swedish population of the capital by 1,000.

The census data reveals that Danes, like Swedes, choose to live centrally with Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Camden with the largest populations. Hackney, Wandsworth and Ealing are also popular choices to for a home.

Danes are spread a little more evenly across the boroughs than other Scandinavians.

Source data

Mapping Londoners: Born in Sweden

Mapping Londoners: Born in Norway

More population maps


Mapping Londoners: Born in Norway

Norway has a population of around 5.1 million, that’s same as the outer London boroughs, so it is hardly surprising that with a relatively small population few are found in London.

According to the last census in 2011 there are 5,385 people born in Norway who are resident in capital. They are the smallest Scandinavian group, with Swedes outnumbering them 3:1.

As with other Scandinavian nationalities, Westminster is the most popular place to live. The other large group is clustered in Wandsworth and Merton. Apart from that, a semi-circle of central London boroughs from Kensington and Chelsea to Tower Hamlets have the most Norwegian residents.

With such a small group there is no estimate from the Annual Population Survey for how the numbers may have changed since the 2011 census.

Source data


More population maps


Financial sector’s post election confidence helps city pip NY to top ranking

city aerial 2London has notched up another win in the see saw contest with New York to be the world’s leading financial centre. The latest edition of the Global Financial Centres Index, a research project that reports twice a year, places the capital just ahead of its American rival.

But it’s a close contest, as it has been since the index, created by financial research organisation Long Finance, was first published in March 2007. London comes out on top as greater confidence returns following uncertainties created by the Scotland independence referendum and the general election.

The index is based on a survey questionnaire of 3,200 financial sector professionals plus data from the UN, World Bank and the World Economic Forum. It is scored out of 1,000 and London won by just 8 points.

The assessment is split into 5 categories: business environment, financial sector development, infrastructure, human capital, and reputational and general factors. London came top in each category after losing to New York in 3 of them last time.

After London and New York the top 5 is completed by Asian cities – Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo, with Seoul in 6th place. Zurich is the only other European financial centres in the top 10, which is completed by North American cities.

Global Finance Centres Index

Geneva, Frankfurt and Luxembourg make the top 20 but Paris only manages 37th place. Sydney ranks at 15 with Dubai a place below.

In building the index, assessments are only included from people from outside each centre to avoid any home preference. Respondents from North American and the Middle East are most positive about London, while those from Latin America, Asia/Pacific and Western Europe view it less favourably.

Analysis of the data split into industry sectors shows London comes top with respondents in investment management, banking, government and regulation, and professional services. It is only beaten by New York for those in the insurance sector.

The data also reveals that bigger companies favour New York, just, but those with fewer than 2000 employees rate London more highly.

The longer-term trends in the index show that the dominance of Western Europe and North America is being eroded as Asia/Pacific grows, particularly through the rise of China.

Stability has been key to the success of leading financial centres and the researchers point out that the strongest ones are successful, cosmopolitan cities in their own right.

See also

Economic clout helps London to another global cities crown

London flies flag for West as East leads global growth ranking

NY beats London in economic power