The world's most expensive cities: how does Joburg compare?

30 May 2018 - 13:57 By AFP Relaxnews
Workers in Johannesburg would need to work 36.4 days to buy an iPhone X.
Workers in Johannesburg would need to work 36.4 days to buy an iPhone X.
Image: Elijah Nouvelage / AFP

The Swiss banking capital, Zurich, is still the world's most expensive city, according to the 17th edition of a report from the Swiss bank UBS. When it comes to buying power, however, Los Angeles residents' salaries go furthest.

This UBS ranking, first carried out in 1971, compares salaries and the cost of living in 77 international cities based on a basket of 128 goods and services, as well as the average earnings of 15 professions.

When it comes to prices, Zurich (Switzerland, 1st), Geneva (Switzerland, 2nd) and Oslo (Norway, 3rd) have the world's highest.

Europe is particularly well represented in the top 10 most expensive cities, with Copenhagen (Denmark, 4th), Milan (Italy, 7th), London (UK, 8th) and Helsinki (Finland, 10th).

The USA also has some pricey cities, with New York (5th) and Chicago (9th) both making the top 10.

In Africa, Johannesburg came in as the most expensive city; it ranked 53rd out of the 77 countries included in the report. It was followed by Nairobi (Kenya, 68th), Lagos (Nigeria, 76th) and Cairo (Egypt, 77th).


When it comes to purchasing power, Los Angeles leads the way, with LA residents now able to afford almost a quarter more than New Yorkers. Zurich, despite its high prices, follows in second place, with Miami rounding out the podium.

Things have changed since the previous UBS ranking in 2015, with buying power in Middle Eastern countries notably on the up. 

Johannesburg residents have a stronger purchasing power when compared to the other African cities featured on the list. Coming in 43rd place globally, the City of Gold beats Nairobi (72nd), Cairo (76th), and Lagos (77th).

Note that Lagos and Cairo are also the cities with the lowest prices.


Comparatively, although pricing policy differs from one country to the next, workers in Zurich (the world's most expensive city) would need to work 4.7 days to buy an iPhone X, whereas Joburgers would need to work 36.4 days in order to purchase one. While workers in Lagos (the world's second cheapest city) would need to work for 133.3 days.

The top 10 most expensive cities in UBS's report:

  1. Zurich
  2. Geneva
  3. Oslo
  4. Copenhagen
  5. New York
  6. Tokyo
  7. Milan
  8. London
  9. Chicago
  10. Helsinki

The 10 cities with the strongest purchasing power according to USB's report:

  1. Los Angeles
  2. Zurich
  3. Miami
  4. Geneva
  5. Luxembourg
  6. Chicago
  7. Toronto
  8. Manama
  9. Hong Kong
  10. New York

• Additional reporting by staff reporter.