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Cost of living

Statistics released by the European Union in 2002 showed that Switzerland was the third most expensive country in Europe, after Norway and Iceland. The Swiss pay particularly high prices for meat, cooking oil, fish and vegetables.

Nevertheless, Swiss wages take the cost of living into account. A survey of 71 cities round the world carried out by the Swiss bank UBS in 2006 showed that it takes less time for workers in Switzerland to earn enough to buy a loaf and a hamburger than it does in many other countries.


Food and clothing accounts for an ever smaller proportion of household budgets, dropping from 16% in 1992 to 12% in 1998 to just under 11% in 2005.

Housing is expensive, and most people live in rented accommodation. Switzerland has by far the lowest rate of owner occupiers in Europe: in 2000 only 34.6% of homes belonged to the people who lived in them.

Taxation is relatively low in comparison with the neighbouring countries. On the other hand, the Swiss spend a lot on insurance, including compulsory health insurance, which alone accounts for over 5.6% of their expenditure. They spend another 5% on private insurance; the more people have, the more they want to - or must - insure.

Important items in the household budget

Important items in the household budget
Items Percent
Source: Federal Statistical Office (2005)  
food and beverages 7.7%
alcohol and tobacco 1.2%
clothing and shoes 2.9%
housing and energy 16.9%
furnishing and maintenance 3.2%
health care 4.0%
transport and communications 9.9%
entertainment, recreation, culture 12.5%
taxes 13.7%
insurances (pension, health, private insurances) 22.2%
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