Sat, Aug 12, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Tokyo tops for burger fans

THE PRICE IS RIGHT UBS compared purchasing power in cities around the world and found Taipei about half way up the table when it comes to the cost of living

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wanna Big Mac? Then on average you will need to work for 20 minutes to afford it if you live in Taipei, said UBS, the biggest bank in Europe by assets, in its latest report.

This puts Taipei in 26th spot globally in terms of purchasing power, according to a triennial survey titled Prices and Earnings released by the Swiss bank earlier this week.

The poll uses McDonald's hamburgers as an indicator to measure real purchasing power in 71 major cities worldwide.

"Wages only become meaningful in relation to prices, i.e. what can be bought with the money earned," UBS said.

"A globally available product like a Big Mac can make the real relationship between wages and prices much clearer," the report said.

Despite a high cost of living, people in Tokyo have the strongest purchasing power in the world as they need only work for 10 minutes to afford a Big Mac, followed by Los Angeles' 11 minutes and Chicago and Miami's 12 minutes, the survey said.

New York is ranked fourth with 13 minutes of work for the hamburger, the report said.

On average worldwide, 35 minutes of work buys a Big Mac, according to the report. Using this criterion, Bogota in Colombia has the weakest purchasing power with 97 minutes of work required to buy a Big Mac.

Meanwhile, Oslo, London, Copenhagen, Zurich and Tokyo are the most expensive cities to live in worldwide in relation to a standardized basket of 122 goods and services, UBS said.

In terms of cost of living, Taipei ranked 40th in the world and seventh in Asia, the bank said.

The study also shows that, after taking the cost of housing into account, life is particularly expensive in London and New York.

People who want to incur the lowest living expenses should think about moving to Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Buenos Aires or New Delhi, but they should be prepared to put up with moderate pay considering the wage levels in these cities, according to the survey.

The highest wages are paid in Copenhagen, Oslo, Zurich, Geneva, New York and London, the poll shows.

Differences in wage levels between developed and emerging economies can be great. Workers in 14 representative professions earn a gross hourly salary averaging US$18 in Western Europe and North America, compared with only US$4 to US$5 in the Eastern European and Asian cities polled, the report said.

With lower pay, on average people in Asia work longer hours than Western Europeans, putting in almost 50 days more per year, it said.

Employees in Seoul work the longest hours worldwide with 2,317 hours a year, higher than Taipei's 2,143 hours, while their peers in Paris work only 1,481 hours, the shortest around the globe.

"Europeans have reduced their working hours in the last 30 years in favor of more leisure time," UBS said, suggesting that, on the other hand, Americans and Asians seem to have a higher regard for income.

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