Helsinki ranks among world's most expensive cities
ECA International assay sees Helsinki rise one place to 13th despite weaker euro
A recent survey by the lifestyle magazine Monocle placed Helsinki right at the top of the pile in its list of the top 20 most liveable cities [we will examine this accolade in our weeklies tomorrow], but before the locals have had much time to digest this snippet of information comes the news that everyone was well aware of anyway: Helsinki is also among the world's most expensive cities.
The Finnish capital rose one place to 13th in the list compiled annually by ECA International, a London-based consulting agency that describes itself as "the world's leader in the development and provision of solutions for the management and assignment of employees around the world".
Tokyo once again heads the table, and Sydney looks to have been among the highest fliers, jumping from 29th last year to 16th now.
Several other Australian cities made sharp moves upwards, with costs rising owing to the strong local currency.
Helsinki's position has not been helped by the commensurate weakening of the euro, although this has been noticed in the rankings of Berlin (35th from 25th in 2010) and Paris (20th from 16th), for instance.
By comparison with New Yorkers, people in Helsinki have to spend 13% more on food and as much as 56% more on clothing.
Personal hygiene products cost 15% more, but on the other hand general living costs and internet access come cheaper for the Helsinki residents.
For some unexplained reason, New York City appears to be limited to Manhattan, which is ranked 44th. London does not even feature in the top 50.
Europe's most expensive city is Oslo, which took 2nd place behind Tokyo in the global figures. The top two cities were unchanged from last year.
Of the other Nordics, Stockholm comes in behind Helsinki in 17th and has gone up three places, while Copenhagen has seen a contrary development, falling four places to rest only just above Helsinki as the 12th most costly place to live.
Living costs have risen most sharply in Switzerland, which has Zürich, Geneva, and Bern in the top ten and Basel in 11th, but it appears as though even in Africa one can find very expensive places to live, as Luanda in Angola shows up in an exalted 7th place and Libreville in Gabon also features in the Top 20.
Around the world, large companies and their various units do pay attention to studies such as ECA's or similar ones by Mercer Human Resource Consulting or the Economist Intelligence Unit, and they have a significant impact on companies' future planning.
ECA International's cost of living indices are calculated based on surveys carried out twice a year in March and September, and using a basket of everyday goods and services, but excluding accommodation, utilities (electricity, water, and gas, etc.), car purchases, and school fees, as these significant items are generally accounted for in separate ex-pat packages.
Such comparisons can be used to help to determine the salary levels for employees who are sent on assignments abroad.
One arguable flaw in the surveys, at least insofar as they relate to the real locals on the ground, is that local natives probably have ways and means of buying goods and services more cheaply than newly arrived ex-pats (on the most primitive level simply by being able to read "special offer" advertisements or by being more aggressive in looking for good deals), but equally this goes for all cities everywhere.
The Top Ten (the top 50 most expensive cities are listed in the ECA link):
Previously in HS International Edition:
Helsinki is the sixth most expensive shopping city worldwide (9.12.2010)
ECA International press release