Swiss cities among costliest for expats

Swiss cities occupy four of the top five places in the latest ECA International survey of the most expensive cities for overseas assignees to live.

David-Sapsted-030720b
The global mobility specialists' new Cost of Living Survey rates Ashgabat in Turkmenistan as the costliest city for expats, but with Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern hot on its heels.The survey, which compares a basket of like-for-like consumer goods and services commonly purchased by international assignees in more than 480 locations worldwide, was conducted in February and March when many countries were battling the first phase of Covid-19 outbreak.The pandemic and concerns over slowing growth in China led to a weakening of the yuan, resulting in a lower ranking for several Chinese cities. The slowdown in China also affected Australasian currencies and, consequently, the cost of living in their cities. Steven Kilfedder, production manager at ECA International, said: “The Chinese economy was hit dramatically by the lockdown measures put in place at the end of 2019. Similarly, as Australia and New Zealand are heavily reliant on trade with China, we can see the rippling effect in the cost of goods and services in these locations."This is also a sign of consumer nervousness, which we are likely to see in other countries around the world in the coming months.“In the short term we expect to see inflation drop in various countries around the world as demand weakens and the lower price of oil filters through the economy. Exceptions may be seen in countries where currency falls push up import prices, or budget shortfalls mean subsidies are cut or taxes rise, like in Saudi Arabia which is tripling VAT to 15 per cent.”The survey reveals that US and Canadian locations comprise almost a third of the world’s most expensive locations, with the US having 29 cities in the top 100, led by New York ranked 16th in the list. ECA points out that, two years ago, there were only ten North American locations in the top 100.“As the US and Canadian economies strengthened in the past year, the value of their respective currencies has been pushed up and so, too, has the cost of goods and services for visitors and expats,” said Mr Kilfedder.London, in 94th place, enters the top 100 in the world - and the top 20 in Europe - for the first time in four years, overtaking several European locations including Antwerp, Strasbourg, Lyon and Luxembourg City, as well as most major cities in Australia.“Heading into the survey the UK was more optimistic over the economy than in the recent past, after a budget promising increased spending and clarity over Brexit which boosted the pound from previous lows," said Mr Kilfedder."At the time, the UK seemed well placed to avoid the worst of the pandemic but after 14 weeks of lockdown and facing the biggest recession in modern times and limited progress on Brexit trade negotiations, the pound has returned to previous lows. Although a lot can change, UK cities may well struggle to retain the higher place in the ranking in our next survey.”Several locations drop in the rankings this year amid protests and political unrest, including Colombia, Hong Kong and Chile, while pandemic-ravaged Iran remains home to the cheapest city for expats: Tehran.ECA International Cost of Living Survey top 20:1. Ashgabat2. Zurich3. Geneva4. Basel5. Bern6. Hong Kong7. Tokyo8. Tel Aviv9. Jerusalem10. Yokohama11. Harare12. Osaka13. Nagoya14. Singapore15. Macau16. New York17. Seoul18. Oslo19. Shanghai20. Honolulu

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory