Swiss cities remain costly for expats: report

Malcolm Curtis
Malcolm Curtis - [email protected]
Swiss cities remain costly for expats: report
Zurich by night: Europe's most expensive city outside Norway (Photo:Tmesis)

Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern remain the most expensive cities in Europe apart from Oslo and another Norwegian city, according to the latest global ranking from consulting firm ECA International.


Switzerland’s biggest cities are still more affordable than Norway’s capital and Stavanger, but otherwise are more costly places to live in than elsewhere in Europe, the consultant said in its annual report released this week.

However, the Swiss cities, which have recently seen prices drop on the strength of a strong franc, have been overtaken by ones in Japan, Venezuela and Angola as places where the cost of basic goods is the highest, ECA said.

Geneva, which last year was ranked third on the list, has fallen to tenth, while Zurich has dropped to ninth from fifth a year ago.

Bern’s ranking fell to 11th compared to seventh, while Basel is rated 12th, down from ninth.

Tokyo remains the world’s most expensive city, followed by Nagoya, also in Japan, and Oslo.

The ranking is base on surveys taken in May and September for ECA, a company that provides information for international companies to help them manage and assign employees around the world.

The surveys compare the costs of a basket of day-to-day goods and services.

Japanese cities occupied four of the top six spots in the ranking, while Luanda in Angola (fourth, up from 11th) and Caracas, Venezuela (seventh, up from 13th) jumped into the top 10 for the 2012 list.

Overall, variations in economic growth and changes in currency values led to dramatic changes in ECA’s list of expensive cities.

The company said cost of living plummeted in some parts of Europe — Madrid, for example, fell 44 places to 105th on the list.

The costs in Swiss cities were less affected than those in elsewhere in Europe  that “fell in the global ranking as the euro and other European currencies weakened against the US dollar,” ECA said.

Also “prices increased at a slower rate in Europe on average than other regions over the year.”
Meanwhile, costs rose in Chinese cities across the board, while Hong Kong overtook Manhattan on the list in a dramatic move from 32nd, up from 58th a year earlier.

The basket of goods and services compared includes food, drink, tobacco, miscellaneous goods and services, as well as general items such as electrical goods, motoring and meals out.

The surveys do not include accommodation costs, utility charges, car purchases and school fees because these are “usually compensated for separately in expatriate packages”, ECA said.  

Living costs for expats “are affected by inflation, availability of goods and exchange rates,” the company’s report said,  “all of which can have a significant impact on . . . remuneration packages”.


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