London may win for iPhone earning power over Poland but cost of living much higher

It takes 100 hours longer to earn enough money to buy an iPhone in Poland as it does in the UK.

This insight into earning power by researchers at the financial services company UBS helps to demonstrate why overseas workers find London an attractive city to find a job.

But their findings also show that while the earning potential may be better, London is an expensive city with prices much higher than they are in the place many Londoners once called home.

UBS took 68,000 pieces of data from 71 cities around world to put together an index which looks at costs and the spending power of people working there.

London is ranked as the 5th most expensive city after New York, Zurich, Geneva and Oslo and 6th most expensive if rents are excluded. When it comes to take home pay, the amount we earn after tax, London trails in 11th in the list.

And UBS came up with some interesting measures of spending power. Using a new iPhone as a benchmark they examined how long the average worker would take to earn the cash to buy one. In New York it takes 3 working days. In London it’s 41 hours, in Warsaw 141, but the longest labour was in Kiev.

Iphone earnings

Across the globe it is much quicker to eat a Big Mac than to earn the money to buy one. In London it takes 12 minutes and in Warsaw twice that. In Nairobi it’s nearly 3 hours.

Big Mac earnings

Many can happily avoid the indulgence of a new smartphone or a burger and the real cost of living is measured in essentials such as food and housing.

UBS looked at a shopping basket of 39 common food items including bread, milk, meat, fish and vegetables. Many arriving in London to work will have realised that it is much more expensive to feed the family, unless you have moved from New York or Zurich. The average global price for the basket of goods was $400. Prices were highest in Zurich and lowest in Kiev. London was 8th most expensive of the 71 cities


USB has published the Price and Earnings Index every three year since 1971.

See also

London expensive? Not compared to being an expat in Luanda

What National Insurance really tells us about London’s overseas workforce



How “Millennials” are driving an urban renaissance

listening to music on street-2Young, single, well-educated, well-paid professionals, part of the so-called Generation Y, are driving the resurgence in city centre populations across England and Wales. And while the growth in this group has been slower in London due to the struggle with property prices the heart of the capital has seen an increase by a third in people in their 20s over 10 years.

The growth of city centres is revealed in a study by the research institute the Centre for Cities that looked at 59 cities, including London. While the capital shares many of the findings for other large cities its economy and jobs market mean it has some unique characteristics

City centre residents tend to be better educated and more likely to be managers or senior professionals than those living in the suburbs or the commuter hinterland around a city. This is particularly the case in London. While 37% of city centre dwellers have a university degree in London it is 50%. And two thirds of London’s city centre residents are senior managers, compared to around half in other large cities.

The study says that the “urban renaissance” is being driven by people who want to live near to the amenities that city centre living offers such as being in walking distance to work, cultural attractions and surrounded by other young professionals. But they have to pay a premium to live there.

In the centre of London the high cost of property is acting as a block on the millennial generation. As a result, unlike other cities, it has a similar number of people in the 30-44 age bracket as 20-29. But it is the younger group that has seen the biggest growth.

London’s City Centre Population
Age 0-19 20-29 30-44 45-64 65+ Total
Population 2001 51,338 58,767 67,524 46,012 27,697 251,338
Population 2011 54,660 78,473 78,606 55,782 27,387 294,908
% Change 6.4 33.5 16.4 21.2 -1.1 17.3
cent city-2
Map courtesy of Centre for Cities

The study defined the city centre of London as the area within a 2-mile radius of Holborn and used the census data on small neighbourhoods within boroughs inside this area. (see map)

The study says that the high cost of property within this area has led to a spill over of young professionals into the surrounding suburbs in a way not seen in other cities.

Home ownership is lower in all city centres than suburban areas and the availabily of social housing in the defined area of central London makes social rental a common option.

Most city centre residents live in flats not houses. This is the case for 75% of people in city centres nationally, but 90% in London, according to the study.

London also has a higher proportion of residents born outside the UK than other cities, 45% compared to 35% elsewhere.

Car use, or the lack of it, is the other thing that sets London apart. Cars are used by fewer than a quarter of people for journeys to work in city centres but by only 8% of residents in the centre of London. London has greater use of public transport, bicycles and more Londoners walk to work.

See also

Urban chic or leafy charm? Inner city rentals catch up with affluent areas

More homes packed into built up inner city as growth stalls in outer areas

Jobs concentrated in just 5 of London’s 33 boroughs

London wins plaudits for support of tech sector growth.

City Hall and Tower BridgeLondon has won praise for its “energetic advocacy” of the tech sector and secured second place behind New York in an assessment of initiatives to promote innovation and entrepreneurship among 40 cities globally.

London lost out to its American rival for a lack of leadership and digital capability. There’s no chief technology officer for the city and no consistent digital channel for Londoners to interact with services, which are split across different boroughs.

But the city authorities are praised for support for the Tech City initiative, backing apprenticeships in the tech sector and the Mayor gets a mention for including start-ups on international trade visits, such as the one to Boston in February this year.

The assessment is made in the City Initiatives for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a project aimed at helping policy makers in cities across the world develop the best strategies to foster new enterprises to deliver jobs and economic growth.

See also

London flies flag for West as East leads global growth ranking

Tech start ups more diverse than Silicon Valley but women struggle for funding

The researchers looked at three main categories – how open a city is to new business and ideas, how is the infrastructure optimised for business growth, and how a city offers leadership by building innovation into its own activities.

London was the highest overall performer when it came to openness, which considered how the cities operated as regulators of business; how they promoted themselves and their firms; and how they performed as customers through making their procurement processes open to small businesses.

The report says, “High-performing city governments lead by example, by taking a clear view on how they want to support innovation, and then using data and engaging with citizens to do so.

“London only narrowly lost out to New York City at the top of the rankings. It was a consistently strong performer across all areas of analysis, and its silver medal is well deserved.”

The top 5 cities were:

  1. New York
  2. London
  3. Helsinki
  4. Barcelona
  5. Amsterdam

The City Initiatives for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship is carried out in partnership by NESTA, Accenture and Future Cities Catapult.

Source data

London expensive? Not compared to being an expat in Luanda

Money changing handsIf you are one of the thousands of people from overseas who has come to live and work in London the city can seem expensive, but count your blessings that you have not been posted to Luanda. The Angolan capital is the most expensive place in the world to live as an expatriate, according to an annual study carried out by the HR company Mercer. London comes in at 12th in its cost of living rankings for 207 cities.

The bad news for those settling in London is that the only place in Europe they could have chosen that is more expensive is Switzerland. Zurich, Geneva and Bern all come ahead of London in the rankings.

Mercer measures the cost of 200 goods and services that include housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. Prices are measured against a baseline set by New York and currency movements are measured against the US dollar.

The Angolan capital, Luanda, topped the list for the third year in a row. Mercer says that despite being a generally inexpensive city imported goods that expats would expect are pricey and finding secure living conditions comes at a high cost. It is 1 of 2 African cities in the top 10 that also includes 5 Asian cities and 3 in Europe – all of them Swiss.

Mercer Cost of Living Survey 2015
City Country Continent
1 Luanda Angola Africa
2 Hong Kong China Asia
3 Zurich Switzerland Europe
4 Singapore Singapore Asia
5 Geneva Switzerland Europe
6 Shanghai China Asia
7 Beijing China Asia
8 Seoul South Korea Asia
9 Bern Switzerland Europe
10 N’Djamena Chad Africa
11 Tokyo Japan Asia
12 London United Kingdom Europe

Mercer says that Switzerland proved so expensive due to the strength of the Swiss Franc against the Euro.

London held its position at 12th. The next most expensive European city after London was Oslo at 38 followed by Paris at 46.

Asian cities climbed the rankings. Mercer points out that the high placing of Hong Kong owes much to the fact that the Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the US dollar which drove up the cost of living locally.

The strengthening dollar made US cities more expensive for expats but the highest placed American city is New York at 16.

Source data

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Poor sustainability and high cost public transport mar global cities win

London ranked as top global city destination


Poor sustainability and high cost public transport mar global cities win

High panoramaLondon scored poorly in the criteria covering the quality of life while winning the Cities of Opportunity global rankings by PwC. It came bottom of the list of 30 cities for the cost of public transport and scored poorly for sustainability.

The rankings by the international professional services company examines cities in 10 different categories that were determined by 59 data points and a survey of 15,000 of PwC’s staff around the globe. The company split the 10 categories into 3 broad areas – Tools for a Changing World, Quality of Life and Economics. As reported by Urbs, London topped the rankings for the first time with good scores in the first and third broad areas. But it was often marked down in judging quality of life.

There were 4 categories in the quality of life part; Transport and Infrastructure covered public transport, housing and construction; Health, Safety and Security looked at health care and crime; the Natural Environment and Sustainability considered recycling, air pollution and public park spaces; and Demographics and Livability looked at issues such as cultural vibrancy and attractiveness for relocation.

London came equal sixth in the first two categories. While its public transport system won accolades for efficiency and reliability it is the most costly among the 30 cities.

But it is in the scoring for the natural environment and sustainability that London slipped down, coming fourteenth. It achieved low scores for air pollution, recycling levels and, perhaps surprisingly, for its public parks.

Singapore joined London in a poor performance in this category prompting PwC to remark, “one would expect two cities as sophisticated as Singapore and London to be among the leaders, both regionally and globally, in environmental sustainability.”

In the livability stakes London rated highly as a vibrant cultural hub that was an attractive destination for workers. But for sheer ease and quality of living it was out-pointed by Sydney.

PwC Quality of Life categories
Transport & Infrastructure Health, Safety & Security Environment & Sustainability Demographics & Livability
1 Singapore Stockholm Stockholm/Sydney Sydney
2 Toronto SydneyToronto London
3 Buenos Aires Berlin/Paris San Francisco
4 Seoul Berlin Berlin
5 Paris San Francisco San Francisco Hong Kong
6 London/ Madrid Chicago/London/   Singapore Toronto Singapore
7 Chicago/Los Angeles Paris
8 Stockholm Stockholm
9 Berlin New York Moscow Toronto
10 Dubai Paris Madrid Chicago/             New York
14 London

Source data

See also

Economic clout helps London to another global cities crown

History gives city the edge in adapting to change in future


History gives city the edge in adapting to change in future

St paul's domeLondon is the city best equipped to adapt and thrive in a changing world due it its historical commitment to education, technology and openness to the world, according to PwC in it’s Cities of Opportunity report.

London topped the rankings of 30 global cities for the first time, as reported by Urbs. The cities were ranked under 10 different categories that were determined by 59 data points and a survey of 15,000 of PwC’s staff around the globe. The company split the 10 categories into 3 broad areas – Tools for a changing world, Quality of Life and Economics.

London scored particularly well in the first area. This included 3 of the 10 categories – intellectual capital, technology readiness and city gateway. London gained second spot for intellectual capital but was top in the other two.

The criteria for intellectual capital included the literacy and maths skills, the percentage of people in higher education, world rankings for universities, innovation and the entrepreneurial environment. London rose from sixth place last time. It scored highly for the quality of its universities, but lower for maths skills and literacy.

Technology readiness looked at Internet access, broadband quality, software development and the digital economy. London scored highly for software development and moved up from eighth place overall to share the top spot with Seoul.

As a city gateway giving it global access London won convincingly, according to PwC. It seems that all flights, if not all roads, lead to London as it had the highest passenger flows. It also scored highly not just for being connected to the world but as an attractive destination for tourists and workers.

PwC Tools for changing the world – Top 10 cities
Intellectual Capital Technology Readiness City Gateway
1 Paris London/Seoul = 1 London
2 London Beijing
3 San Francisco Stockholm Singapore
4 Stockholm Hong Kong Hong Kong
5 Toronto New York Tokyo
6 New York San Francisco Madrid
7 Los Angeles Los Angeles Paris
8 Sydney Singapore Dubai
9 Chicago Chicago Shanghai
10 Tokyo Tokyo New York

Source data

See also

Economic clout helps London to another global cities crown


Economic clout helps London to another global cities crown

River Tower Br ShardLondon is the clear winner in a global cities ranking that scored 30 cities in 10 different categories. London won thanks to topping the categories that mark it out as a leading centre of the world economy. It had the highest score as the city with the most economic clout and the best gateway for connecting to other cities. And it was equal first with the South Korean capital, Seoul, in the technology category.

PwC, the multinational professional services firm, put the rankings together. This is the sixth time it has carried out the Cities of Opportunity study. It is the first time that London has come top and PwC said it has done so clearly after losing out to New York in the last rankings in 2012 by a tenth of a percentage point.

PwC global rankings

New York achieved second place without winning any of the 10 categories but by scoring consistently well across the range. Singapore climbed up from seventh place to finish third.   Of the top 10 cities, 9 have held on to a place despite some rises and falls, but Sydney is the only one to fight it’s way into the top flight, at the expense of Tokyo, which slipped to 13.

English is the native language in 6 of the top 10 cities. It is also one of the official languages in Singapore and Hong Kong, and widely spoken in Stockholm. Paris is the sole city in the top 10 to challenge the dominance of the English-speaking world.

Consistency was a key to success for the top 10 cities. London won 3 categories and came second in another 3. It’s lowest performances were for cost and sustainability.


How London scored
Category Position (out of 30)
Intellectual Capacity and Innovation 2
Technology Readiness 1 =
City Gateway 1
Transport and Infrastructure 6 =
Health, Safety and Security 6 =
Sustainability and Natural Environment 15
Demographics and Livability 2
Economic Clout 1
Ease of Doing Business 5
Cost 15

With the exception of Sydney all the cities in the top 10 of the overall rankings managed to be in the top 10 in at least half of the categories.

PwC used 59 data points to judge the 10 categories and additionally used a survey of 15,000 of its own employees around the world to answer questions about living, working and commuting in their city.   The data was sourced from multinational institutions such as the World Bank and IMF, national statistics offices like the ONS in the UK, and commercial data providers.

Source data

See also

London flies flag for West as East leads global growth ranking

London “most influential” global city

London ranked as top global city destination



London ranked as top global city destination


London has been ranked as the world’s top destination for international visitors with an estimated 18.82 million people expected to stay overnight in the city in 2015. London has topped the rankings carried out by Mastercard as part of its Global Cities Destination Index for 5 of the past 7 years.

The index looks at how 132 of the world’s most important cities are connected by air travel, him many international visitors they receive and the amount those visitors spend. Visitor numbers are based on data from governments and tourist boards and the role of some cities, like London, as a flight hub is factored in.

London remains slightly ahead of Bangkok, with global city rivals Paris and New York also in the top 10.

International visitors

The top feeder city for visitors to London is New York, accounting for nearly 1 million people. Amsterdam, Dublin, Frankfurt and Stockholm, make up the top 5, but London has a very diversified source of visitors with 50% coming from 26 different cities. In comparison, 50% of Bangkok’s visitors come from just 13 cities.

London tops the list for spending by international visitors. Mastercard estimates that this will be a little over $20 billion in 2015, that’s 16% above its nearest rival in the spending league, New York.

And London also heads the index as the world’s leading flight hub. Mastercard looked at connectivity and the frequency of non-stop flights to international destinations scoring London ahead of Paris, Dubai, Frankfurt and Istanbul.

Source data

See also:

London “most influential” global city

London flies flag for West as East leads global growth ranking

Amid Heathrow-Gatwick battle smaller airports fuel passenger growth


London “most influential” global city

city towersLondon is the most influential city in the world thanks to its pre-eminence as a global financial capital and its location, according to business publisher Forbes.

While the United Kingdom is described as a “second-rate power” the capital leads the list for global influence judged by 8 criteria.  Researchers ranked cities according to the amount of foreign direct investment they have attracted, the concentration of corporate headquarters, number of business niches they dominate,  ease of air travel to other global cities, strength of services like legal and accountancy, financial services, technology and media power, and racial diversity.

The top five cities were:

  1. London
  2. New York
  3. Paris
  4. Singapore
  5. Tokyo

Location plays an important role in London’s ranking. Forbes says that being outside the US and the eurozone keeps it away from, what it called, “unfriendly regulators”. It has the second best air connections in the world, beaten only by Dubai. And it has a time-zone advantage over American in doing business with Asia.

History and tradition play a part too. Forbes says that London is the birthplace of the cultural, legal and business practices that define capitalism.  As the home of the English language it boasts a powerful position in media and advertising.  London has also become Europe’s leading tech start up city

New York came second in the Forbes list though in separate rankings for economic power and as a smart city, both reported by Urbs, it outperformed London.  The top two were some way ahead of third place Paris in all criteria. Singapore was the leading Asian city outperforming the mega cities of China and Japan. Dubai is the only city in the Middle East to make the top 10, thanks, says Forbes, to its globalisation strategy and a population diversity that has made it the crossroads of the world.

The size of the cities was of less importance. Of the top 10 on the list only 3, New York, Tokyo and Beijing, are ranked in the top 10 of the world’s most populous cities.  The cities of the so-called BRIC nations are becoming more important and Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai are all in the top 20. Poor infrastructure means it will be some time before Brazil and India break into the top flight of these rankings, says Forbes.

Source date

Welcome to the city of the super rich

hThere are more ultra-wealthy people living in London than any other city in the world.  A survey of the location of people identified as Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWIs) found that 4,364 are living in London.  That’s 22% higher than nearest rival Tokyo.  This extremely rich group is defined as people with over $30 million.

Wealth individuals

The rankings are revealed in the Global Cities Survey 2015, part of the annual Wealth Report produced by estate agents Knight Frank.

Worldwide there are 172,850 UHNWIs and their total wealth is $20.8 trillion. (A trillion has 12 zeros). Last year an additional 5,200 people worldwide reached the $30 million level.

In the UK as a whole there are 13,176.  That’s fewer than in the US, Japan, China and Germany.  But at a rate of 17 per 100,000 of the population, the UK has the highest proportion of people in this ultra-wealthy bracket.

London is not only the most popular home to UHNWIs but is also seen as the most important city to them based on business links, economic activity and lifestyle. Using the location information of these individuals plus a survey of wealth managers and private bankers who advise them London holds the top spot, followed by New York, Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai.

For more on London’s place in other global ranking see here and here on Urbs.London