Zurich is most expensive place in Europe for expats, second worldwide

by Ray Clancy on June 9, 2016

The strength of Swiss franc has contributed to Switzerland becoming the most expensive European country for expats and four Swiss cities top the European rankings in a new survey.

The Swiss city of Zurich is the most expensive location in Europe and moves up to second place in the global rankings in the latest Cost of Living survey published by ECA International, provider of knowledge, information and software for the management and assignment of employees around the world.

It is the second year that Zurich has topped the European rankings and the survey also shows that British cities have fallen dramatically in the global rankings with London down 17 places.


The report suggests that the upcoming referendum on the future of the UK in the European Union has created uncertainty that has pushed UK cities down the global rankings due to the weakening pound. London has fallen out of the top 50 most expensive cities in the world to 65th position, down 17 spots from last year.

“Uncertainty due to the UK referendum on EU membership, “Brexit”, has led to a reluctance from foreign investors to hold UK assets which has pushed down the value of the pound,” said Steven Kilfedder, manager of cost of living and remuneration services.

“The weakened pound means that UK businesses are paying more when sending staff to work overseas but it is cheaper to bring staff to the UK,” he added.

All other ranked locations in the UK have tumbled down the global rankings with Edinburgh falling to 102nd place, down from 79th last year. Cardiff is now ranked at 123rd place and Belfast has dropped 32 positions to 143rd in 2016.

The weakening of the Norwegian krone in response to the declining oil sector contributed to Oslo’s continued tumble down the rankings. Oslo was the world’s most expensive location for expatriates surveyed in 2013, it has since fallen to 20th position globally.

The euro’s appreciation between surveys has seen the majority of Eurozone locations rise in the global rankings with Dutch, Belgian and Swedish locations among those rising most.

Amsterdam has risen from 129th place to 117th while Brussels moves further into the global top 100 to 86th place, up 14 places from last year. Stockholm has also risen by 10 places this year to 45th place.

Although prices in Russia have soared since international sanctions were imposed, cities there plummeted down the list of the most expensive locations for expatriates. The rouble, also affected by the fall in oil prices, weakened significantly over the twelve months between surveys outweighing price increases.

Moscow, in 12th position five years ago, is now 181st in the latest global rankings. Moscow has experienced the third most significant fall in the European rankings in the March 2016 survey. The most prominent rise in the global rankings within Europe was seen in Prague, up 24 places from last year to 205th position in 2016.

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.

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