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Money goes far in Zurich and Geneva

Money buys more in Zurich and Geneva

(Keystone)

Zurich and Geneva residents face some of the steepest bills in the world for goods and services but high wages give them more purchasing power than any other city.

The UBS Prices and Earnings study throws up the interesting statistic that people in the two Swiss cities must work around 15 minutes to buy a Big Mac burger compared with a global average of 35 minutes.

The latest such survey by Switzerland's biggest bank compares wages and the price of 122 domestic products and services in 71 cities on all continents. Goods include food, drink, clothing, rent and heating bills, while services encompass medication, haircuts and a trip to the cinema.

Zurich maintains its top place in the purchasing power charts since the last survey in 2003, but slips from pole position to third in the earnings tables behind the Danish and Norwegian capitals, Copenhagen and Oslo. It also climbs one place to become the fourth priciest city in the world.

Geneva closes the gap on Switzerland's biggest city by ranking as the sixth most expensive place to live, up four places. To counter this, workers are now the fourth-best paid and remain the purchasers with second largest clout.

Top Scandinavians

"The Scandinavian cities [Copenhagen and Oslo] have moved ahead in the wage comparison table because they have stronger currencies. Switzerland has also seen interest rate rises recently," report editor Simone Hofer told swissinfo.

"But Zurich and Geneva have more purchasing power because of lower taxes and social security bills."

The report notes that that the relatively high wages of public sector workers in comparison with other cities also drive up the mean standard of living in Switzerland.

The difference in prices between Zurich and Geneva for goods is negligible, but services cost ten per cent less in Geneva, according to the report.

UBS has published the Prices and Earnings study every three years since 1971. Zurich and Geneva have consistently appeared in the top ten of all three rankings (price of goods, gross wages, purchasing power) in all editions.

"They have been quite stable. There have been some movements, but nothing to turn the world upside down," said Hofer.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen

Key facts

2006 UBS Price and Earnings Report findings:

Price comparison: Zurich 4th, Geneva 6th
Wage comparison: Zurich 3rd, Geneva 4th
Domestic purchasing power: Zurich 1st, Geneva 2nd
Big Mac index: Tokyo 10 minutes, Los Angeles 11, Zurich 15, Geneva 16, Bogota 97.

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In brief

Zurich and Geneva regularly score high marks in charts to measure the relative quality of life in the world's cities.

Mercer Human Resource Consultancy rated the two cities as the best places in the world for expatriates to work in a study published earlier this year.

Foreign Direct Investment magazine came to the same conclusion when it measured 89 rivals for potential as business locations.

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