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The Most Expensive City In SA – Jhb vs CT vs Dbn

Author: Jason Snyman
Date: 2019-02-27
We took a look at global Cost of Living directories going into 2019 to see where South Africa's big cities ranked. Which city is the most affordable, where do people earn the best salaries, and which will cost an arm, a leg and a little of your soul to live in?

Last month, both data group Numbeo and expat portal Expatistan published their Cost of Living directories for 2019. The reports revealed the cheapest and the most expensive cities to live in, across the entire globe.

The indices compare the cost of living in several categories – such as rent, transport, food and entertainment – in cities across the world, relative to a reference city – which was New York for Numbeo and Prague for Expatistan. Both of these reference cities have an index score of 100%. 

It then takes the local purchasing power into consideration. Say, for instance, another city has a rent index of 50%. This means that, on average, the rent in this specific city is 50% more affordable than New York or Prague. If the rent index for another city is 150% - that means that the rent in that city is 50% more expensive than New York or Prague. 

Pretty basic. 

Expatistan’s index takes a look at 327 cities, from Bermuda to Argentina. Numbeo’s index takes a look at 433 cities. This allows us to make some pretty interesting comparisons in cities, all across the world. For instance, the cost of living in Hong Kong is about the same as in London. Living in Madrid will cost you almost 94% more than living in Buenos Aires. 

When we look at Numbeo’s index, we find that Swiss cities, from Basel to Zurich to Lugano, rank among the most expensive in the world – almost 30% more than New York – while cities in India rank among the cheapest. This trend also shows up on the Expatistan index.

But anyway, enough about the rest of the world, let’s get to what everybody came here for.

South Africa.

Where Do South African Cities Rank?

Overall, South African cities rank around the middle when compared to the rest of the globe. In both the Numbeo and Expatistan indices, Pretoria ranked as the most expensive city in the country – comparable to Sao Paulo, Athens or Beijing. 

Johannesburg ranked second, followed by Cape Town. Port Elizabeth and Durban ranked fourth and fifth on Numbeo, and fifth and fourth on Expatistan, respectively. 

This may come as a surprise to many who have lived in both the Western Cape and Gauteng, who know that rent in Cape Town – and the rest of the Western Cape province in general – is ridiculously inflated. 

Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, and it may be a matter of whether or not you’re actually getting what you’re paying for. We have to look at specific data, such as the cost of transport, utilities, rent and entertainment – as well as how much money the people in these cities actually earn.

The table below, provided by Business Tech, gives us the average figure across the five cities mentioned. 

As we can see, the citizens of Johannesburg, on average, earn higher salaries and pay less for transport. This allows them to deal with a slightly higher rental and utilities rate.

Capetonians earn the second highest salary, but almost two thirds of it goes to the exorbitant, disgusting extortion they call rent. The saving grace here is that utilities are a little cheaper and transport costs are next to nothing. Now, anybody who has ever had to put up with the N1 highway from the Northern Suburbs will immediately call shenanigans here, with their R4000 p/m petrol bill, but it has to be assumed that these figures relate to the affordable MyCiti bus routes that run around the city bowl.

Pretoria’s citizens earn a fair enough salary, the third highest, and rental is relatively affordable. The big burden here comes in the form of transport and utilities costs, which such the money right out of these unfortunate people.

Pretoria ranked 199th and 260th among the most expensive cities in the world, on the Expatistan and Nembeo indices, respectively. 

Port Elizabeth citizens earn the lowest salary, but rent, transport and entertainment are practically for free. Living in PE is comparable to living in Iraq, Russia (don’t get excited, it’s just Saint Petersburg), Colombia, Bolivia or Nigeria. 

So. There are your prospects. 

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