Swiss cities dominate expat cost of living rankings

The latest Cost of Living survey by ECA International suggests that only expats with deep pockets should consider relocating to Switzerland.

Swiss cities occupied the top four places in the rankings, with Zurich being named the world’s most expensive location for expatriates.

“The relative strength of the franc has contributed to Switzerland becoming the most expensive country surveyed for expatriates,” said Steven Kilfedder, ECA’s Manager for Cost of Living and Remuneration Services. “Despite prices falling in the previous year, Swiss cities have moved to the top of the rankings. The cities that were ranked higher in the September 2014 survey, Luanda, Oslo and Stavanger, have all become cheaper in comparison as their currencies have weakened significantly.”


Outside of Switzerland, Chinese cities have also climbed the rankings significantly. A total of 14 Chinese cities now rank in the global top 50 most expensive locations. Shanghai is now ranked the most expensive city in the Asia-Pacific region, while the city – along with Beijing and Hong Kong are all ranked in the top ten most expensive cities globally.

Last year’s most expensive city, Luanda, has fallen to 5th place this year, but remains the most expensive African location surveyed in 2015.

The euro’s depreciation between surveys has seen all Eurozone locations drop down the global rankings with French, Belgian and German locations among those falling hardest. Paris has fallen from 47th place to 68th while Munich falls out of the global top 100 to 110th place, down 43 places from last year. Elsewhere, Brussels has also fallen 29 places this year to 86th place.

Central London is now one of the top ten most expensive cities in Europe – a significant rise from three years ago when it was outside of the top 80 ranked locations. Although, like many currencies, sterling has weakened against the US dollar between annual surveys, it has strengthened against a number of other major currencies during the year.

Sydney Harbour

Elsewhere, Australian locations continue to fall significantly down the rankings – a reflection of the weakened Australian dollar as growth there slows. Sydney remains the most expensive city in Australia, ranking 80th globally (it was 27th last year.

Manhattan is the most expensive location in North America for expatriates. The strengthening of the US dollar between surveys has seen locations across the United States climb the rankings. Manhattan has risen to 15th place globally, up from last year’s 38th spot.

ECA International has been conducting research into cost of living for more than 40 years. It carries out two main surveys per year to help companies calculate cost of living allowances so that their employees’ spending power is not compromised while on international assignment.

The surveys compare a basket of like-for-like consumer goods and services commonly purchased by assignees in over 450 locations worldwide. Certain living costs, such as accommodation rental, utilities, car purchases and school fees are usually covered by separate allowances. Data for these costs are collected separately and are not included in ECA’s cost of living basket.


Ten most expensive cities for expats (last year’s ranking

1. Zurich, Switzerland (4th)
2. Geneva, Switzerland (5th)
3. Bern, Switzerland (6th)
4. Basle, Switzerland (7th)
5. Luanda, Angola (1st)
6. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (11th)
7. Shanghai, China (12th)
8. Beijing, China (13th)
9. Hong Kong, China (26th)
10. Seoul, South Korea (8th)

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