The most expensive cities, are they really worth it?

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In 2016 the average price of a loaf of bread (1kg) for some of the most expensive places to live in the world are,: London at $2, Zurich $6, New York $8, Geneva $7. With the global economy becoming more integrated and the movement of labour more flexible, it is interesting to explore a range of cities that you could potentially offer you the most fulfilling life.

 London seems like such a good proposition being voted best city to live in, being the second biggest ‘power city’ (economy, R&D, cultural interaction, liveability, environment) and ranks number 1 for human capital and number 5 for business activity according to Global Sherpa. However the city has rapidly increasing housing prices- highest rent in Europe, accounting for 50.4% of average earnings and high transportation costs. There is a large gulf between what a city can offer and what the citizens can realistically afford; as such, the economic well being of the citizens is not fairly represented and so lets explore what else there is out there!

The rhetoric of GDP per capita is arguably not the best indicator of truly standard of living and as the subsequent drive for higher wages is responsible for the high inflation in cities such as London. There needs to be a shift in focus to measures such as The Human Development Index, which considers health, education and income. Based on a broader consideration of standard of living I have identified 3 categories for cities – expensive but not justifiably so, expensive but worth it and opportunity cities.

Expensive, and not justifiably so

Beijing– 122.9% of average earners income is spent on rent, high pollution levels, it is extremely overcrowded; having the same metropolitan area size as London but having 1 million more people in the area

Hong-Kong- small and expensive accommodation, densely populated with 8 million people living in an area the size of Tyneside and has bad pollution levels


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Expensive, but worth it

Toronto– the fairly low ranking of 70 out of 131 for cost of living is offset by its overall performance in safety, liveability, business environment, and democracy and food security.

Helsinki- high cost of living is countered by high wages, and also is ranked as the 3rd most eco-friendly city.

 Stockholm– has one of the highest standards of living ratings, low cost of local goods and services relative to pay and is highly regarded for its sustainability and natural environment. Furthermore, according to PwC the city is regarded highly for ease of doing business and tax efficiency.

Dublin– some of the highest average wages in Europe, great food produce, economy is also thriving with all the tech giants Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter all being present and are most importantly the producers of Guinness.

Tel-Aviv– tech-hub with a plethora of start-ups, great beaches, thriving nightlife and is a centre for education and academia.

Melbourne- despite it being one of the most expensive cities, it has an admirable cultural and outdoor lifestyle, world-class healthcare, and best education provider in Asian-Pacific

Opportunity cities

Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.- an average of only 22% of income goes towards housing, which is incredibly low! The city offers more than 70 of the Fortune 500 companies, as well as a high concentration of companies in the following industries- space exploration, missile defence and biotechnology

Tehran, Iran- recent removal of sanctions in the country, significantly increasing its oil exports as well as being connected to the global financial system, has given this city some real potential

Gabarone, Botswana- only gained independence in 1960s it is politically stable and a sound economy, evidenced by de Beers (biggest diamond company) moving its operations to the country from London, it has a growing tourism industry, regarded as being safer than South Africa, an African city with tremendous potential.

By Kieran Savage



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