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QUALITY OF LIFE

Why are Geneva and Zurich high among world’s ‘most liveable’ cities?

Zurich and Geneva have been ranked once again in the top 10 best cities to live in but not everything is so rosy about life in Switzerland's two big cities.

Why are Geneva and Zurich high among world’s ‘most liveable’ cities?
Photos: Geneva: Image by ChiemSeherin from Pixabay / Zurich: Image by Julian Hacker from Pixabay

Switzerland is the only country in Europe to have two entries in the top 10 in the new Global Liveability Index: Zurich is in the third place and Geneva in the sixth.

The study, carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit rates living conditions in 172 cities based on more than 30 factors. These are grouped into five categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. 

Both cities score high across all categories, with highest marks given for heath care (100), followed by infrastructure (96.4), and stability (95).

The difference, though minimal, between the two cities, lies in the culture and environment category, were Zurich scored 96.3 and Geneva 94.9.

The lowest score both got, 91.7, is for education, which is surprising, as Zurich’s Federal Polytechnic Institute (ETH) has been named the best university in continental Europe for several years running, including in 2022.

READ MORE: Swiss universities still highly ranked but slip in ratings

The overall result, however, is not exactly a surprise, because the two cities (and sometimes also Basel, Bern, and Lausanne) frequently rank in the Top 10 places to live in the world.

Paradoxically, Switzerland’s two largest cities also routinely take top spots as the most expensive places to live in. For instance, both were ranked among the costliest for international residents in a survey published on June 14th.

So the obvious question is, how can two most expensive cities also be among most ‘liveable’?

At least part of the answer may lie in different criteria used to measure the quality of life versus costs.

The concept of quality of life defined by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which was also adapted in Switzerland, includes categories such as  health, education, environmental quality, personal security, civic engagement, and work-life balance.

Swiss cities (and Switzerland in general) scores high in all these categories, which explains the overall top rankings.

The cost of living, on the other hand, is determined by calculating prices of goods and services that are essential parts of individual or household spending.

These prices are totalled and averaged, and indexes are created to help compare costs of living in different locations.

As prices for basic necessities such as housing, health insurance, food, and public transportation, are much higher in Switzerland than in most of Europe, the country always ranks among the most expensive in the world.

However, as The Local explained in a recent article, in order to get a more accurate assessment of the cost of living, prices should be looked at in the context of purchasing power parity (PPP) — that is, the financial ability of a person or a household to buy products and services with their wages.

An in depth analysis by a digital employment platform Glassdoor concluded that in Switzerland (along with Denmark, and Germany) the average city-based worker can afford to buy 60 percent or more goods and services with his or her salary than residents of New York.

READ MORE : EXPLAINED: Why Switzerland’s cost of living isn’t as high as you think

And there’s more to the equation…

Most, if not all, participants in the global quality / standard of living indexes are international residents in each surveyed country — people who are typically high earners and have sufficient income to live well. That skews the results somewhat.

For instance, the Quality of Living Ranking conducted annually by asset management firm Mercer, bases its findings on responses by expatriate employees — people who work in high-level, well-paid executive positions — rather than those in lower-level jobs, like in retail or restaurant sector.

 READ MORE: What is the average salary for (almost) every job in Switzerland?
 
 

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CULTURE

IN PICTURES: Swiss techno Street Parade returns after two-year absence

Hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of a sun-baked Zurich Saturday for the Swiss city's annual techno Street Parade, after a two-year absence due to the coronavirus pandemic.

IN PICTURES: Swiss techno Street Parade returns after two-year absence

But celebrations were marred by the death of a young man who drowned after jumping into the city’s river near the parade. Zurich police said rescuers tried to save the man but it was too late.

Around 850,000 people attended the last event in 2019, and this year, organisers expected between 750,000 and one million.

street parade zurich

Participants celebrate the 29th edition of Street Parade with one reveller holding a sign reading ‘finally, normal people’. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Under a clear blue sky, fans gathered for the start of the free parade for around two kilometres (1.4 miles) along the river in the heart of Switzerland’s financial capital.

revellers at street parade in zurich

This year’s Street Parade gathered several hundred thousands of ravers and electronic music fans. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

As the temperature reached 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit), the river’s banks were full of revellers, many taking the plunge into the water to keep cool.

“I don’t have the right words to describe the atmosphere here, it is fantastic, all the people you know they are so eager to party,” said Patrick, a 26-year-old Master’s student in Zurich, with multi-coloured flowers and glasses on his head.

“You can feel that, you can feel the vibration in the air,” he added.

The highlight of the event is 30 floats known as “lovemobiles”, which are usually brightly decorated trucks with music, DJs and party-goers.

street parade zurich

Revellers jump into Lake Zurich to cool off during the 29th edition of the Street Parade in Zurich. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

More than 200 DJs will play at this year’s event, including international stars Adriatique, Anna Tur, Ida Engberg, Reinier Zonneveld and Syreeta.

After two years marked by the pandemic, the organisers said the parade’s motto was “THINK”.

street parade zurich

Revellers surround one of the 30 ‘lovemobile’ floats at the event. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

“Thoughts are the key to a peaceful coexistence of our cultures, no matter what religion, skin colour, origin or sexual orientation people belong to,” organisers said.

The first edition of Street Parade took place in 1992, drawing a mere 1,000 revellers and only two lovemobiles.

It is now the biggest techno party in Europe.

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