in depth

The cost of living

What does a franc really get you in a country regularly categorised as one of the most expensive places to live in the world?

The cost of living in Switzerland is among the highest in the world, with the cities of Zurich and Geneva recently named the most expensive worldwide.

The Swiss National Bank’s decision on January 15, 2015 to scrap an exchange rate ceiling with the euro made the Swiss franc gain in value and Swiss goods and services even more expensive compared with eurozone countries.

A study by UBS bank published in September 2015 found that Zurich and Geneva top the list of the world’s most costly cities, ahead of New York. 

It costs a Zurich family of three more than $3,600 (CHF3,569 in February 2016) a month to live, based on a basket of 122 goods and services that doesn’t include rent, the report shows. Geneva comes in second at $3,500 per month, followed by New York with $3,340. Rent for a two-bedroom unfurnished apartment averages around $2,390 a month in Zurich. 

Despite those expenses, the highest salaries in the world mean the inhabitants of Zurich and Geneva rank second and third to the residents of Luxembourg in terms of enjoying the greatest purchasing power, UBS said. The average Zurich resident makes above $41 per hour, 21 times more than a person working in Kiev, Ukraine. 

On average, total household expenditure in Switzerland is around 60% higher than the European Union average, according to 2016 Eurostat figuresexternal link.

The Economist uses a “gratifyingly simple” way of calculating purchasing-power parity by using the price of a Big Mac. According to the July 2016 Big Mac Index,external link the Swiss must pay $6.59 for the same burger that would cost $5.04 in the United States.

The Federal Statistical Office has more data available on pricesexternal link.

swissinfo.ch

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