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Swiss cities dominate list of most expensive locations in the world for expats

Press Release   •   Jun 07, 2017 14:21 BST

  • UK cities fall dramatically by up to 68 places and out of top 100 global rankings
  • Weak GBP causes Central London to drop to 132nd, its lowest ever ranking recorded by ECA International
  • Strengthened rouble leads to Moscow climbing the global rankings by 125 places
  • Luanda, Angola, takes the global top spot this year

ECA International (ECA) today reveals that Zurich is the most expensive city in Europe for expatriates in the latest Cost of Living rankings. Despite little change in prices compared with the previous year, Swiss cities continue to dominate the global top 10 – with Zurich 3rd, Geneva 4th, Basel 5th and Bern 6th.

“The comparative strength of the franc has contributed to Switzerland remaining as one of the most expensive countries surveyed in the world. Despite prices hardly rising in the previous year, Swiss cities dominate the top of the rankings,” said Steven Kilfedder, Production Manager, ECA International.

Published by ECA, the world's leading provider of information, software and expertise for the management and assignment of employees around the world, the Cost of Living Survey compares a basket of like-for-like consumer goods and services commonly purchased by international assignees* in over 460 locations worldwide. The survey allows businesses to ensure that their employees’ spending power is maintained when they are sent on international assignments. ECA International has been conducting research into cost of living for over 45 years.

European highlights:

UK cities have dropped as many as 68 places from last year – their lowest ever recorded

Central London is now 132nd in the world, down from 65th last year, its lowest ever recorded since ECA first began publishing the Cost of Living rankings over 10 years ago. Central London sits just above Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, in the global rankings, and has now been overtaken by Rio de Janeiro (88th), Bangkok (116th) and Dublin (120th).

“Thanks to the weakened pound UK businesses are paying more to send staff to work overseas, but it is cheaper to bring staff to the UK,” stated Kilfedder. “UK locations have seen the most dramatic decline in Europe this year and the fifth-largest decline in the world - behind cities in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Egypt and Ghana in Africa. All ranked UK cities have dropped below regional rivals Paris, Berlin and Brussels in the Cost of Living rankings.”

Edinburgh has fallen to 165th, Cardiff is now ranked at 175th and Belfast has dropped to 186th in ECA’s ranking.

Strengthened rouble leads to Moscow climbing the global rankings

The strengthened rouble has led to Moscow climbing the global rankings by 125 places this year to 56th. However, it has a long way to go to reach the heights of five years ago when it was ranked 13th in the world. St Petersburg has also shot up the rankings this year, joining Moscow in the European top 20 and climbing 105 places in the global rankings – now sitting in 118th place.

The relative decline of the euro between surveys has seen most Eurozone locations fall in the global rankings with French, Dutch and German destinations among those falling most in the past year. Berlin has seen the most significant decline in mainland Europe, falling by 28 places to 122nd place.

Global highlights:

Luanda is now the most expensive location in the world for expats

Luanda has risen from 8th position last year to top ECA’s global rankings this year.

“The cost of goods typically purchased by international assignees in Luanda, which was already high due to poor infrastructure and high oil-fuelled demand, has been pushed much higher in the last year. The Angolan kwanza is increasingly overvalued, which pushes up relative costs, while the continued weakness of the black-market exchange rate has also inflated the price of imported goods,” added Kilfedder.

Australia climbs the cost of living rankings

Sydney remains the most expensive city in Australia. It currently ranks 50th in the global rankings, up from 70th place last year. All ranked locations within Australia rose in our global rankings this year, with Adelaide rising the most, by 34 places to 75th position – although it is still the cheapest ranked location in Australia.

South American cities re-enter the top 100 most expensive in the world

Caracas, in Venezuela, climbed a dramatic 252 places in the past 12 months, and is now ranked 9th in the world, “though this ranking is likely to change considerably in upcoming Cost of Living Surveys given ongoing exchange-rate volatility,” added Kilfedder.

Buenos Aires (35th), Sao Paulo (85th), Rio de Janeiro (88th) and Montevideo (97th) also re-entered the top 100 most expensive locations in the world, with Brasilia reaching 103rd, up 106 places since last year.

Although falling a few places this year to 23rd globally, Manhattan remains the most expensive location in North America for expatriates.

Hong Kong is the world’s second-most expensive location for expatriates

Hong Kong is up one place from second position in the regional rankings. From a global perspective, it has climbed seven places to become the second-most expensive location for expatriates – its highest ever rankings on both fronts. Since 2011, Hong Kong has risen steadily in both the regional and global rankings.

All surveyed locations in China remain in the top 100 most expensive in the world, with Shanghai peaking at 13th position. Even though all ranked Chinese cities fell in the global rankings this year, they’re far more expensive than five years ago – with cities there rising by over 52 places on average.

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European regional top 20 most expensive locations for expatriates (including global ranks)

Location Regional rank 2017 Regional rank 2016 Regional rank: 1 year difference Global rank 2017
Zurich 1 1 0 3
Geneva 2 2 0 4
Basel 3 3 0 5
Bern 4 4 0 6
Oslo 5 5 0 12
Stavanger 6 7 1 22
Copenhagen 7 6 -1 31
Helsinki 8 8 0 39
Stockholm 9 9 0 48
Moscow 10 52 42 56
Gothenburg 11 10 -1 79
Paris 12 12 0 92
Brussels 13 13 0 108
Vienna 14 16 2 113
Antwerp 15 18 3 117
St Petersburg 16 61 45 118
Dublin 17 19 2 120
Berlin 18 15 -3 122
Amsterdam 19 21 2 125
Munich 20 20 0 126

Global top 10 most expensive locations for expatriates
Country Location Ranking 2017
Angola Luanda 1
Hong Kong Hong Kong 2
Switzerland Zurich 3
Switzerland Geneva 4
Switzerland Basel 5
Switzerland Bern 6
Japan Tokyo 7
Korea Republic Seoul 8
Venezuela Caracas 9
Sudan Khartoum 10

Notes to Editors

* 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.

For further press information, please contact:

James Davis

Marketing, PR and Communications

T +44 (0)20 7351 5000

About ECA's Cost of Living Survey

ECA International's Cost of Living surveys are carried out in March and September using a basket of day-to-day goods and services commonly purchased by assignees. The data used above refers to year-on-year movements between ECA's March 2012 to 2017 surveys. ECA’s Cost of Living Survey rankings began in 2005.

Cost of living indices are used by ECA clients to calculate cost of living allowances for assignees. The survey covers:

Food: Groceries; dairy produce; meat and fish; fresh fruit and vegetables

Basic: Household goods; recreational goods; general services; leisure services

General: Clothing; electrical goods; motoring; meals out; alcohol and tobacco

Certain living costs such as accommodation rental, utilities charges (electricity, gas, and water), car purchases and school fees are not included in the survey. Such items can make a significant difference to expenses but are usually compensated for separately in expatriate packages.

This comparison of cost of living was calculated on a base composed of various developed countries and is used to reflect an international lifestyle. Other indices available from ECA reflect specific city-to-city comparisons and different levels of shopping efficiency.

ECA's blog provides updates and commentary on currency, inflation and expatriate cost of living. Follow the blog here:

About ECA International (

ECA International is the market leading provider of knowledge, information and technology that enables businesses to manage their international reward programmes.

Partnering with thousands of clients on every continent, we provide a fully integrated suite of quality data, specialist software, consultancy and training. Our unparalleled insights guide clients as they mobilise their most valuable resource: people.

We make the complex world of international mobility simple, providing clients with the expertise and support they need to make the right decisions - every time.

ECA International: Mobility solutions for a world that’s constantly moving.

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