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Cost of living: The most – and least – expensive cantons in Switzerland

Cost of living: The most - and least - expensive cantons in Switzerland
Valais is th best canton for families — and it's beautiful too. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP
Switzerland is notoriously expensive, but some cantons and towns are cheaper to live in than others. A new study shows where they are.

For many people, choosing a place to live is one of life’s most important decisions.

“Money plays a crucial role, as do location and infrastructure, the availability of suitable properties, emotional criteria and personal connections”, according to a new study by Credit Suisse released on Tuesday.

The bank’s economists looked at more than 120,000 sample households in Switzerland, basing their calculations on the so-called Regional Disposable Income indicator (RDI).

For each locality, RDI assesses “financial burdens” such as taxes, health insurance premiums, rents, property prices, as well as costs of childcare, public transportation and utilities.

Not surprisingly, they found that the cost of living is highest in urban centres particularly in the cities of Geneva and Zurich.

However, given Switzerland’s small size and transport infrastructure, “there are numerous municipalities with a commuting time of no more than 30 minutes from these urban centres – making them considerably more appealing places to live from a financial perspective”.

READ MORE: Why is Switzerland so expensive?

So what are the least expensive places to live in?

As the map below shows, Appenzell Innerrhoden has the lowest cost of living for the average household, followed by Uri and Glarus. Next are Schaffhausen, Jura, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Valais and Thurgau.

On the other hand, Geneva has the highest cost of living, followed by Basel-City, Vaud, Zurich, Basel-Country, Zug, and Neuchâtel.

Typically, the expensive cantons are the ones where most of the jobs are and where many international residents live.

A study carried out in 2020 showed that the largest number of foreigners are living in big Swiss cities and urban centres, as well as areas surrounding them.

As The Local reported at the time, “Two researchers from the University of Geneva, who conducted the study, found a strong foreign presence in and around large cities, which are close to economic centres and job opportunities — such as the shores of Lake Geneva or Lake Zurich”. 

Valais is the cheapest canton for families

To assess where families fared best, Credit Suisse calculated regional variations in childcare costs, and other family-specific parameters such as taxes and child allowance. 

“On balance, Valais offers the cheapest living conditions for couples with children compared with other cantons” the study found.

On Thursday, The Local will follow up with an article  about how to choose in which canton to live according to one’s needs and financial possibilities.

READ MORE: How much should you save for a ‘comfortable’ retirement in Switzerland?


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