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Expats in Switzerland need even deeper pockets

Even with big sales, prices on Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse are still some of the highest in the world © Keystone / Walter Bieri

Three Swiss cities – Zurich, Bern and Geneva – are among the ten most expensive in the world for expatriates, according to the annual Cost of Living survey by consultants Mercer.

Hong Kong remains at the top of the list of 209 countries for the third year in a row. Six of the top ten are in Asia, three in Switzerland and one in the United States.

Zurich moved up one place since last year to 4th, Bern and Geneva both moved up four places to 8th and 9th respectively.

The cheapest cities are the Namibian capital Windhoek (208th) and Tunis in Tunisia (209th).

The data was collected in February and March but owing to the Covid-19 pandemic Mercer conducted further analysis on availability of goods in April and May to verify pricing.

Currency fluctuations

This year’s ranking, published on Tuesday, includes 209 cities across five continents and measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, entertainment and household goods.

It found that specific factors such as currency fluctuations, cost inflation for goods and services, and instability of accommodation prices are essential to determining the cost of expatriate packages for employees on international assignments.

For example, while the global economic downturn took hold during the first part of the year, the strength of the dollar drove up costs for expatriates in US cities. The most expensive US city, New York, moved up from 9th to 6th. Other notable climbers include London (23 to 19) and Moscow (27 to 21).

Health crisis

Mercer said that in the wake of Covid-19, social and economic disruption had spurred organisations to reassess their global mobility programs with a focus on the well-being of their expatriate employees.

“The Covid-19 pandemic reminds us that sending and keeping employees on international assignments is a huge responsibility and a difficult task to manage,” said Ilya Bonic, head of Mercer Strategy.

“Border closings, flight interruptions, mandatory confinements and other short-term disruptions have affected not only the cost of goods and services, but also the quality of living of assignees. Rather than bet on a dramatic resurgence of mobility, organisations should prepare for the redeployment of their mobile workforces, leading with empathy and understanding that not all expatriates will be ready or willing to go abroad.”

Full story here
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