ECONOMY

Athens relatively more expensive than many richer cities

Life can be expensive in two ways: either because prices are high or because incomes are low. In Greece, both conditions exists. The data contained in a study published by Swiss banking group UBS is revealing: Athens may not be among the most expensive cities in the world, but it is a middle-ranking one. However, it ranks well below the middle in purchasing power and wage levels. Impressively, the Greek capital ranks among the cities with the highest level of rent in the world, competing with places whose inhabitants enjoy far higher incomes and where infrastructure is much more developed. Living the good life Despite these drawbacks, Athens, in terms of overall economic well-being, is competitive with London, Paris and Dublin. The economic prosperity, or well-being, index takes account, beyond income levels, of quality of life factors such as free time and leisure activities. Obviously, if income is lower, one must have more free time and leisure in order to compensate. Taking New York City as the base case (100) among the world’s most expensive cities, in terms of prices, the Greek capital ranks in at 37th place with 73, just below Dubai and above Lisbon. The most expensive cities in the world are Olso (121.5), London (110.6), Copenhagen (109.2), Zurich (107.4) and Tokyo (106.8). This, by itself, means little, unless one also looks at disposable income. In terms of gross wages, Athens is at 42.8 (again, with New York at 100), while, in net income, it is at 48.6. Thus, the low level of wages makes us perceive prices as even higher, since purchasing power diminishes. Indeed, in terms of purchasing power, Athens stands at 60.7. This is quite a large discrepancy with the prices index. The biggest purchasing power is found in Zurich, followed by Geneva, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Luxembourg and Dublin. The cities with highest wages are Copenhagen, Oslo, Zurich, Geneva and New York City. High rents Rental levels are also indicative of property prices and both are high in Athens, relative to income levels. An average 3-bedroom flat in Athens is rented at $1,570 per month, about the same price as in Stockholm, Frankfurt and Luxembourg, cities with significantly higher incomes. The top range for a 3-bedroom flat in Athens, about $2,560, is also comparable to these cities. On the other hand, there is a bigger range of prices for smaller apartments. Rents for a 2-bedroom flat range between $650-980, with the average at $790. The average rent in Athens stands at $710, a level higher than Brussels’s and almost double Prague’s. The highest rents are found in London and Tokyo, where a 3-bedroom apartment can rent for as high as $10,000. New York is also quite expensive, as is Hong Kong and, surprisingly, Rio de Janeiro.