Living in the Gulf Gets More Expensive

09/17/2012 9:45 am EST

Focus: GLOBAL

A recent cost-of-living survey puts Dubai much closer to the top of the list, although it still has a ways to go to catch up with high-cost places like New York and Zurich, writes Lucy Barnard of The National.

The cost of living in Dubai is rising rapidly compared with that in other countries, an international cost of living survey revealed yesterday.

According to the latest global study by UBS, Dubai is now the 22nd most expensive city in the world—five places higher on UBS's rankings than it was last year—and still the most expensive city in the Middle East.

However, prices in the city remain comparatively lower than they were in UBS's 2009 study, when the city came 19th in the world.

Researchers at the Swiss bank ranked the 72 most expensive cities in the world by comparing the cost of a basket of goods and services in May. It included food, groceries, hygiene and health-care products, household devices, and transport.

It found prices in Dubai were now 78.1% of those in New York, more expensive than cities such as Amsterdam, Doha, Miami, Hong Kong, and Moscow. The Norwegian capital Oslo and the Swiss city Zurich are at the top of the list, while the Indian cities New Delhi and Mumbai sit at the bottom. Doha, Qatar, was ranked 36th.

The average monthly cost of a basket of food in Dubai stood at Dh1,781 ($484), according to the study, 12.2% less than the same basket would cost in New York, where it fetched $552. In London, it cost only $436, while in expensive Zurich it cost $704 and in Delhi just $208.

When the cost of renting a home was included in the findings, Dubai jumped to joint 12th most expensive city in the world alongside Frankfurt, overtaking both Rome and Chicago—despite the fact that apartment rents in the Emirates are now an estimated 30% lower than in 2009. Average monthly rents in the city stood at $2,449, while house prices were about $3,950 per square meter.

As prices climbed, demands for wage increases also rose. UBS found the average hourly wage in Dubai stood at $16.19, making the city the 33rd highest payer in the world in terms of gross earnings, with wage levels 49.6% of the New York average. However, when tax was taken into consideration, this jumped to 64.2% of the average New Yorker's take-home pay.

When both prices and wages were taken into consideration, the study found Dubai residents had the 27th highest purchasing power in the world, placing the city ahead of Barcelona and Brussels but well behind high-paying cities such as Zurich and Sydney.

The study also found on average, employees in Dubai would have to work for 46.5 hours to be able to afford an iPhone 4S and 12 minutes to buy a Big Mac. By contrast, in Zurich, the highest-paying city, workers had to put in just 22 hours to buy an iPhone and 13 minutes to buy a Big Mac, while in Delhi the average employee would have to work for 369.5 hours to buy an iPhone and more than an hour to buy a Big Mac.

On average, workers in Dubai clocked up 2,096 working hours a year—538 more than Parisians, but 169 fewer than workers in Delhi.

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