As regular as the movement in one of the country’s famous luxury watches, Switzerland is again home to the world’s most expensive cities.
The Alpine nation took four of the top five slots after Hong Kong, ranked fourth in 2019, slipped down to sixth following another year of social unrest.
The Swiss capital Bern leapfrogged the Asian metropolis to nestle behind Zurich (2), Geneva (3), and Basel (4) in fifth place, in the annual survey by international recruitment specialists ECA International
The index, published this week, measures the cost of living in cities around the world for expatriate workers.
Ashgabat retained its title of the world’s most wallet-busting city. Although more likely to be the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question than a dream destination for many, the Turkmenistan capital has become a staple on these lists over the last year.
The secretive oil-rich Asian state’s capital holds the world record for the highest concentration of white marble buildings. This is scant distraction for residents though as the slump in gas prices triggered a currency collapse and economic crisis, resulting in hyperinflation and food shortages.
Switzerland’s continued domination of the rankings is less surprising. A medium cappuccino at a café in Zurich costs $5.98, compared to $4.56 in New York, $5.01 in Hong Kong, and $3.66 in London, as an example of the price disparities.
Hong Kong might have been expected to have fallen further down the list due to the ongoing and at times violent political demonstrations seen on its streets over the past year. But ECA International’s Steven Kilfedder said it has been in part shielded from the economy being closely tied to the US dollar, which is “performing well”.
“Hong Kong also avoided a form of crippling lockdown from Covid-19 experienced elsewhere in the world, which will have helped its economy despite months of political unrest in the city,” he added.
Elsewhere in the top 10, Tokyo remained in seventh place, while Yokohama moved up to tenth from fourteenth last year, underlining the continued high cost of living in Japan. They bookended Israel’s Tel Aviv in eighth, up from ninth last year, and Jerusalem, which climbed from thirteenth to ninth.
The US had two cities in the top 20, with Manhattan, which ECA International strips out from the rest of New York City, in sixteenth, up from 21 last year. Honolulu, Hawaii, was a new entrant in twentieth.
“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,” Kilfedder said.
The rest of the top 20 is dominated by Asian cities, with Japan’s Osaka (12) and Nagoya (13), coming in ahead of Singapore (14) and Macau (15). South Korean capital Seoul (17) and Shanghai (19) in China complete the Asian quotient. Norway’s Oslo (18) and Harare (11) in Zimbabwe, another country suffering from hyperinflation, complete the top 20.
The ECA International cost of living survey focuses on the day-to-day goods and services individuals pay for. These range from groceries to basics, such as household goods, and general expenses, incorporating clothing, electrical appliances, meals out, gym membership, and alcohol and tobacco. It excludes accommodation, utilities, and school fees, as the company says these are “usually compensated for separately in expatriate packages”.
The data covers price changes between March 2019 and 2020, and this is the sixteenth year that the survey has been carried out.