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Accountancy hubs: balancing quality of life with cost

26th March 2014

MGI World Accountancy hubs: balancing quality of life with cost

Would you rather be an accountant in Zurich or Singapore? The decision is not always yours - in fact most of us have to take where we live and get with on with life.

But two recent reports highlight how financial centres are among some of the best places to live in the world, but also among the most expensive.

Singapore: expensive but loved

Singapore is the world’s most expensive city, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The city, a vitally important financial hub and centre for accounting for the whole region, managed to replace Tokyo at the top of the rankings. Soaring utility bills and the exchange rate combined to make the city the priciest.

Despite the costs, Singapore is loved by its inhabitants, both expats and locals. In fact the city has the highest quality of living in Asia, according to Mercer’s 2014 Quality of Living rankings. While coming 25th internationally, it was well clear of its Asian rivals, with Tokyo the next in the region at 43rd.

Zurich: a tale of two cities

Zurich may be one of the world’s most expensive locations, but it also offers a superb quality of life. It came second globally in Mercer’s rankings, beaten only by Vienna. The Swiss financial hub was ranked by EIU as the fourth most expensive city, but that does not seem to be hindering its position as a great place to live. In fact, being expensive does not preclude a city delivering high on other things; indeed the two can actually go hand in hand.

In terms of quality of life, Europe seems to come out on top. Munich, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf all made the top ten, while Vienna ranked highest.

Slagin Parakatil, senior researcher at Mercer, said: “European cities enjoy a high overall quality of living compared to those in other regions. Healthcare, infrastructure, and recreational facilities are generally of a very high standard. Political stability and relatively low crime levels enable expatriates to feel safe and secure in most locations.”

But Europe can be costly. London, one of the great accounting hubs, was the 16th most expensive location. But that was well behind Paris and Oslo, which were second and third respectively.

Switzerland in particular seems to rank high in terms of cost. With Zurich second in the EIU study, Geneva was seventh.

Australia is another region where costs and quality of living seem to collide. Sydney is the world’s fifth most expensive city, while Melbourne was eighth. But as anyone living in either of these two locations would attest, the quality of life is extremely high. Sydney only ranked tenth in Mercer’s quality of life index, but that could be down to a number of factors that are specific to expats, rather than reflective of the local population’s experiences.

Over in New Zealand, Auckland was third highest scoring city for quality of life globally. And it came in at 17th in the cost of living survey, making it a pretty decent bet for overall living standards.

North America is comparatively cheap - New York was top for the whole of the Americas in 26th. But US cities don’t offer the quality of life seen in Canada. Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal all placed above the top US city, San Francisco.

The Middle East and Africa appear a harder sell; at 73rd globally Dubai was top of the quality of life survey for the region. Cape Town was down in 90th.

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