By Miral Fahmy
SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - It pays to work in Switzerland: employees in Zurich and Geneva have the highest net wages in the world, a study by banking group UBS shows, while those in India's Mumbai take home the lowest.
The Swiss cities were also ranked among the top five most expensive in the world in the bank's 2009 "Price and Earnings" international study.
"With its extremely high gross wages and comparatively low tax rates, Switzerland is a very employee-friendly country," the Swiss bank said in a statement.
"No other cities allows workers to take home more income at the end of the month than Zurich and Geneva."
The study, published every three years, compares the income and purchasing power of employees in 73 cities across the globe, highlighting wide discrepancies in wages between different regions, and even within the same country.
The biggest gaps were found in Asia, the study said, with Tokyo ranking as one of the world's five costliest cities while the capitals of developing countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines and India were all at the bottom of the price range.
Oslo was this year's most expensive city, based on a standardized basket of 122 goods and services, followed by Zurich, Copenhagen, Geneva, Tokyo and New York.
When rents are factored in, however, New York rises to the top spot, the study said.
This year, the bank said currency fluctuations caused by the global economic crisis affected the rankings of several cities, most notably London, which was the second most expensive city in 2006, but which fell nearly 20 places following the pound's drop earlier this year.
The analysis involved more than 30,000 data points, collected by several independent observers in each city, in March and April, the bank said. All amounts were converted into a single currency before being compared.
The world's cheapest places to live were Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur, Manila in the Philippines, and India's Delhi and Mumbai. But the average employee in many of these cities, as well as Jakarta and Nairobi, gets paid some of the world's lowest salaries which have between 11 percent and 15 percent of the purchasing power of a salary in Zurich.
"An average wage-earner in Zurich and New York can buy an iPod nano from an Apple store after nine hours of work. At the other end of the spectrum, workers in Mumbai need to work 20 nine-hour days, roughly the equivalent of one month's salary," the study said.
Working hours also varied in the cities surveyed, with the study finding that on average, people in Asian and Middle Eastern cities work much more than the global average of 1,902 hours per year. Overall, the most hours are worked in Cairo, followed by Seoul, while the least hours worked were in Lyon and Paris.
For the full UBS "Prices and Earnings" study click on www.ubs.com/research