Cost of Living in Greece
Almost ten years after the global financial crisis, the cost of living in Greece has continued to climb, while wages and available jobs have dropped considerably.  This unceasing contraction of the Greek economy has led to a sharp increase in the percentage of the population living in poverty to 23.2 percent in 2015.

The Greek recession, now on track to become a Greek depression, has devastated personal incomes. A Greek person living in 2014 had the same amount of disposable income that they did in 2003. Due to lost incomes and cut pensions, Greece is, by some estimates, 40 percent poorer than it was before the crisis.

However, it is not just wealth that has suffered. Nearly one million Greeks are unable to afford to pay for healthcare, and many smaller local clinics have closed down. As a result, wait times at larger facilities have increased. Furthermore, scores of workers have been discouraged from entering the workforce. Long-term unemployment has skyrocketed to 20 percent. That number is even higher among young Greeks.

Many families in Greece now rely on the pensions of one or two family members to live and eat. Pensions have been, and are scheduled to be cut due to new austerity measures introduced through the E.U. and International Monetary Fund’s bailouts. There is little money left after these families pay rent for anything else. More than 40 percent of Greeks have fallen behind on utility payments. This rate is the highest in all of Europe.

For many, the cost of living in Greece has become too high. Currently, more than half a million young and educated Greeks have left the country in search of better opportunities elsewhere.  However, there may be hope for those dismayed by the oppressing cost of living in Greece. On July 24, for the first time in three years, Athens has collected on new debt through bond sales.

Athens hopes that the 3 billion euro bond will lead to more investor confidence in the Greek economy. As confidence and credit returns, many are hopeful that people can go back to work and the country can pull itself out of this depression.

Thomas James Anania

Photo: Flickr

Cost of Living in South Korea
South Korea is an East Asian nation often overshadowed by its politically aggressive neighbor, North Korea. However, South Korea deserves recognition itself for its green, hilly countryside, old Buddhist temples, coastal fishing villages and buzzing cities. With its capital, Seoul, the sixth most expensive city in the world, South Korea as a whole has a 5.77 percent higher cost of living than the United States (when rent is not included).

Important factors for estimating the cost of living include housing, gas prices, unemployment rate and the average cost of necessary items. Moon Jae-in won the early presidential election on May 9, 2017, so his administration may make changes that impact these factors.

Housing
Low housing prices and rent help bring down the average cost of living in South Korea, especially in major cities like Seoul. Currently, rent in South Korea is 40.27 percent lower than rent in the United States on average for all cities. For example, rent in San Francisco, the most expensive city in the United States, averages 239 percent more expensive than rent in Seoul, the most expensive city in South Korea.

Gas Prices
Higher gas prices raise the cost of living in South Korea. The average price of a liter of gas, which equates to about one-fourth of a gallon, is $1.28 in Seoul. The average price for a gallon of gas in South Korea at the time of this writing is $4.97, while it is only $2.31 in the United States. The expensive gas prices reflect the high tax on fuels that South Korea imposes.

Unemployment Rate
Another factor that impacts the cost of living in South Korea is the rate of unemployment. Low unemployment can actually increase the cost of living in a city or country. South Korea’s unemployment rate declined to 3.6 percent in July 2017. Moon Jae-in’s administration plans to focus on job creation.

Average Cost of Necessary Items
Finally, South Korea’s higher average cost of necessary items, such as groceries, increases the cost of living in South Korea. Grocery prices in South Korea are currently 24.66 percent higher than in the United States. For example, an average loaf of bread in Seoul costs $14.82.

This combination of factors makes the cost of living in South Korea moderate. While overall it is costlier than the United States, the two countries differ on certain aspects of measurement.

Lauren Mcbride

Photo: Pixabay

Cost of Living in IsraelIsrael, a small country wedged between Africa and Asia, is one that has faced many challenges. The country was created as a Jewish state in 1948, but ever since, it has worked towards developing a strong and stable economy. With this economy, Israel is a country that isn’t the cheapest to live in. Despite the high price tags for things such as housing, transportation and groceries, Israel has easy access and relatively low costs for things such as healthcare and education. Here is a brief rundown on the cost of living in Israel:

What’s Expensive?

The cost of living in Israel can be high, especially in a nice area. For the Israelis, that means living in the center of the country, Jerusalem, which comes at a high price. In order to purchase a two-bedroom apartment in Jerusalem, one must pay a little less than half a million dollars. Additionally, the down payment required in Israel is normally 40 percent. Due to this high price tag, many people in the country find it difficult to afford their ideal home.

After securing the perfect home, Israelis are faced with the challenge of transportation. While the country does have public transit, it is known for being unreliable. The next option is purchasing a car, but this is unrealistic for many people who are living on a budget. The price of cars in Israel are drastically more expensive than other places in the world. For example, in order to buy a Volkswagen Golf, one must be able to pay about $38,000 plus about $7 per gallon of gas. In contrast, the same car would cost about $20,000 in the U.S.

The cost of living in Israel continues to be a challenge when faced with the everyday task of going to the grocery store. Monthly expenses for food and other grocery items cost the average person about $540 in Israel. In comparison, Europeans pay about $427 a month for their groceries. While this amount is a lot in itself, what makes it even more challenging is the low monthly income for most people. The average salary for an Israeli is less than $3,000 per month, making it hard to afford the steep costs of other necessities within the country.

What’s Cheap?

While many commodities within the country come with a hefty cost, the people of Israel are fortunate to have some basic things such as healthcare and education that come at a reasonable price. Israel’s healthcare system is praised by many around the world. The people of Israel have approximately 3-6 percent of their paycheck removed for healthcare, allowing for most of their medical needs to be covered by taxes. Additionally, all citizens receive the same healthcare for the same price, with extra costs for things such as going to the emergency room, remaining low.

Another positive toward the cost of living in Israel is the low expense for education. Parents who send their children to public school only end up paying a couple hundred dollars a year and those who send their kids to private schools, less than a couple thousand. When students then go to college, the annual cost of tuition is less than $3,000, making education accessible to many people throughout the country.

While the cost of living in Israel isn’t cheap all together, the country strives towards making things that are the most vital to their people affordable. When it comes to things such as living in the best part of the city or being able to purchase your own car, many people in Israel find the price to be too high. That being said, the price tag on healthcare and education is made easy for anyone, even those who struggle with finances.

Olivia Hayes

Photo: Flickr

Cost of Living in AngolaAccording to Mercer’s Annual Cost of Living Index, Luanda, the capital of Angola, is the world’s most expensive city. Renting a two-bedroom apartment costs $6,800 a month on average.

Around half of Angolans live on less than $2 a day, which raises the question: how has the cost of living in Angola become so unreachable to most of the population?

Several factors have produced the current economic situation. The Angolan Civil War, which lasted from 1975 until 2002, destroyed the country’s infrastructure. As a result, importing and exporting is a laborious and expensive process. The country’s business elite, who largely control the import companies, have made little attempt to bring down costs from which they profit.

Angola’s large expat population helps explain why the country is able to sustain its status as more expensive than Singapore or Hong Kong, despite the bulk of the population living in extreme poverty. Angola has Africa’s second-largest oil reserves and as a result, a large expat population based in Luanda has high levels of expendable income.

Post-civil war, Angola’s GDP grew at an astronomical rate, reaching 23 percent growth in 2008, buoyed by a flood of foreign investment. Housing and infrastructure failed to keep up. This has left the cost of living in Angola at its current unattainable level, with only Luanda’s expat population able to afford it.

Extreme poverty has indeed declined by one-third since the civil war, but economic inequality has grown exponentially throughout Angola’s oil boom. For rural Angolans, the country’s economic windfall has done little, aside from making the capital city an inaccessible place of extreme expense. The rural poverty rate stands at 57 percent, compared to 19 percent among urban Angolans.

The government is looking for resolutions and bringing down prices on basic foods has been made a priority. If this is successful, Angola’s cost of living can become less of a burden on its largely poverty-stricken population, who are currently shut out of the new wealth the country is enjoying.

Jonathan Riddick

Photo: Flickr

Cost of Living in FinlandFinland is a Scandinavian country with a population of 5.5 million people. While known for its excellence in education and civil liberties, Finland also has a high cost of living. Near the end of the twentieth century, Finland was announced the world’s most expensive country. Fortunately, the situation has improved. Prices and the cost of living in Finland have decreased since the turn of the century.

According to calculations by the Global Property Guide, a bundle of goods and services costing one dollar in the U.S. would cost $1.03 in Finland. While this is lower than the U.K. and other Scandinavian countries, it is higher than most countries in the European continent.

While housing is usually reasonably priced, certain items drive up the cost of living in Finland. The country has a state-run monopoly on alcoholic beverages, which helps keep prices at 172 percent of the European average. Other items are similarly pricey. Food tends to cost 120 percent of the European average, which is due in part to a significant value-added tax. The average cost of a Coke or Pepsi is $2.44, while the average McDonald’s combo meal is $8.18. A gallon of milk costs about $4.10.

Finns bring home slightly more money in their paychecks than workers in the U.S. The average monthly salary in Finland is about $3,854, while the average monthly salary in the United States is $3,769.

As in most countries, the cost of living varies depending on where you live. The cost of living in the capital of Finland, Helsinki, is significantly more expensive than living in the rural areas. Housing prices in Helsinki are double the prices in the rest of Finland.

While Finns benefit from higher wages and quality education, the cost of living remains higher than in the U.S. or most European countries. Finns don’t seem to mind, though, seeing as Finland was recently ranked the fifth happiest country in the world.

Brock Hall

Cost of Living in the United Kingdom

The cost of living in the United Kingdom tends to vary depending on the location, but can be affordable. In the U.K., a large amount of an individual’s salary will be spent on rent. On average, renting a furnished, two-bedroom apartment will cost about £1,900 per month ($2,607) in an expensive location such as London.

When it comes to the cost of transportation, if one wanted to purchase a Volkswagen Golf (or equivalent) off-the-lot and brand new with no extras, it would be £18,364 ($24,317). However, if an individual prefers the more economical option of public transportation, the United Kingdom is served by a nationwide network of trains as well as long distance buses. With the growth of airlines becoming more and more relatively low-cost in Europe, it is also possible to fly to various cities in Europe at a reasonable cost.

The cost of living in the United Kingdom is less burdened by one of Britain’s greatest assets: the National Health Service (NHS). As of now, healthcare in the U.K. is free to all British citizens, as well as expats from countries such as Australia, New Zealand and EU member states.

Unfortunately, according to Business Insider, the cost of living in the United Kingdom, after Brexit, is finally causing regular Brits to feel the pinch of the slowdown of Britain’s economy, which grew by just 0.3 percent in the second quarter. This is causing individuals to spend less, slowing the consumer boom that had propelled the nation’s economy for the past few years.

In particular, Wales is now facing the cost of living “squeeze.” According to BBC, Andy Haldane, who sits on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, said that certain issues like economic inactivity need to be tackled in Wales; “the pay is flat but the price of goods has gone up… and issues there have included affordable housing, the living wages, mortgages, poverty and transport.”

Sara Venusti

Photo: Pixabay

Cost of Living in DenmarkDenmark is known for its high taxation and social spending as a significant portion of its budget, but it may be a lesser known fact that the cost of living in Denmark is among the highest in the world.

As of 2017, the cost of living in Denmark was ranked sixth in terms of its consumer price index (including rent), which is currently at 65.83. The consumer price index is a calculation of the average prices of rent and consumer goods and services within the country. Though this number is high, it pales in comparison to the two other Nordic nations that are also listed as being in the top ten most expensive countries to live. Namely, Iceland, which was ranked third with a CPI index of 92.79, and Norway, ranked fourth with a CPI index of 76.70.

The reference point of these CPI calculations is the cost of living (including rent) in New York City, meaning that New York City is a baseline equal to 100. That said, this data reflects that the average cost of rent plus the average cost of living in Denmark is 34.17 percent less than the cost of living and rent in New York City.

The country also has a sales tax rate of 25 percent and Danish citizens, in almost all cases, pay more for consumer goods and services. For example, the price of a Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI hatchback in the U.S. is approximately $20,000. In Denmark, this price is about $45,747.33, and the cost of gas is about or $1.59 per liter, or $6.36 per gallon.

Among other comparisons to the U.S., the average price in Denmark for a pair of Levi 501 jeans is about $130, a basic dinner for two in a local pub or diner is about $64 and a 40” flat screen television costs about $603. Also, the median monthly rent for a furnished 480-square-foot studio apartment in an average neighborhood is about $917, in addition to an average of $190 in utilities per person.

Another unique aspect of the Danish economy is that although the average citizen makes about $43,000 per year, they devote between 35 to 45 percent of this to their income taxes, depending on whether they are married, have kids and a few other factors. For those making $67,000 or more per year, a total of 52 percent of their income will go to taxes, and the highest marginal tax rate for the wealthiest is currently 55.8 percent. However, these tax rates are comparatively lower than in the past. Data shows that in 1997, Danes paid a record high top marginal income tax of 65.9 percent, and the rate did not fall below 60 percent until 2009.

Nonetheless, as of August 2016, 60 percent of Danes said that they would oppose tax cuts, 15 percent said they were unsure and only 25 percent favored them. The reason for such a high level of support for high taxation is because most Danes view the taxes as an investment for a better society and an increased quality of life.

Since it is a focus of many Danish policy makers to take into consideration quality of life and overall happiness for their citizens, they ensure that they have a highly funded welfare system. For this reason, it is not surprising that education is entirely free even at the university level and every Danish student gets $900 monthly from the government. This is not only beneficial for young people, but it also relieves parents from having to worry about how they will finance their children’s education.

Denmark also has one of the most generous parental leave policies worldwide, allowing parents up to a total of 32 weeks of funding from the state to tend to their newborns following a birth, as well as free, safe and high quality health care for all citizens.

The Danish labor market is also positively impacted by the welfare model. By practicing an extremely efficient active labor market policy that, among other things, provides job-searching assistance to the unemployed and makes efforts to keep the unemployed actively engaged in searching for a job. In addition to this, if a Danish citizen loses his job, he can receive unemployment insurance for up to four years.

Perhaps it is a combination of these things that has led Denmark to be ranked the happiest nation in the world for the third year in a row, according to the United Nation’s World Happiness report of 2016. The five countries that were ranked directly below Denmark were Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Canada, which is notably significant as all of those countries also impose high taxation and have similar welfare programs in place.

While the cost of living in Denmark is high, and the country is certainly not a flawless, utopian society, it appears to value the well-being of its people over economic growth. Demark can, at a minimum, serve as a role model to the global community when it comes to improving the lives of its citizens.

Hunter Mcferrin

Cost of Living in BotswanaBotswana is a landlocked nation located in southern Africa, surrounded by South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Whilst having a small population of around 2.25 million it should not be underestimated as, according to the World Bank, “a development success story.”

Since its gaining of independence in 1966, Botswana has managed to have over four decades of uninterrupted civilian leadership, with progressive social policy and one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. With all this and more, it is no wonder the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has called Botswana “the most stable economy in Africa.”

Now with Botswana gaining a middle-income status, one may wonder what is the cost of living in Botswana. According to the Mercer’s 2015 Cost of Living report, Botswana was ranked at 189 out of 207 countries. As a whole, Botswana is ranked on the lower end of one of the most expensive places to live in the world. The average price for a one bedroom apartment in the city center costs around 3,000 Pula ($295) as opposed to living outside of the city center where rent would be 2,175 Pula ($214).

Naturally, the cost of living in Botswana changes depending on where a person is living, for example, according to ExpatsArrival, “For expats who choose to settle in Gaborone (the capital city), close proximity to local transport and schools pushes up the price of housing.”

However, we must also understand that while the cost of living may be comparatively small to other nations, the standard of living between the rich and poorer is visibly different. Botswana has a poverty rate of 19 percent, with the majority of poorer areas located in more rural areas. In addition, the unemployment rate in Botswana is 17.8 percent. As a consequence, the World Bank claims that Botswana’s income inequality “is among one of the highest in the world.”

The low cost of living in Botswana is just one of its several attractions. It has a great progressive political system, which has made leaps and bounds on its education system, educating more women and thereby decreasing the fertility rate in Botswana. It has a growing and stable economy much of which is attributed to its export of luxury goods in the form of diamonds. It’s no wonder InterNations claim that “Botswana holds plenty of opportunities for expatriates hoping to start a new life in Botswana.”

Obinna Iwuji

Photo: Flickr

Cost of Living in North KoreaDespite the prevalence of media censorship and manipulation, North Korea carries a reputation of widespread poverty and a less than competitive economy compared to the rest of the world. The growth domestic product (GDP), or market value of all final goods and service from a nation in a given year, is ranked at 197 in the world, and the country’s focus on military showmanship is contrasted with its desperate need for food aid and other forms of economic assistance.

Given such circumstances, the cost of living in North Korea is far below other regions of the world. According to the Korea Institute for National Unification, “the standard of living has deteriorated to extreme levels of deprivation in which the right to food security, health and other minimum needs for human survival are denied…” With more than half of North Korea’s population living in extreme poverty, resources to sustain a basic quality of life are nearly impossible to access.

Indeed, the cost of living in North Korea is unrepresentative of the economic hardship faced by most citizens. Workers typically earn between two and three dollars a month from the government, and mismanagement in currency caused inflation to rise to figures as high as 100 percent. The Public Distribution System (PDS) continues to be the main source of food for more than 18 million people, approximately 70 percent of the population as of 2016, and unreliable electric power and water supply is also common.

Prevalent starvation in the countryside is contrasted with seemingly higher quality life in Pyongyang, the country’s capital. There is a plethora of new high-rise apartments, cheap plastic surgery costing as little as two dollars, and foreign fashion trends. Beneath this lies forced labor as a cheap means to polish the external appearance of the city.

This past year, living conditions worsened as a dry spell from April to late June severely damaged production of rice, maize, potatoes and soybeans, potentially leading to added food shortages. It was determined to be the worst drought the country has faced since 2001. The call for international intervention draws many complications, particularly in regards to the country’s recent activity in nuclear weapons development.

Although North Korea earns foreign currency from the trade of millions of tons of coal with China every year, accounting for a third of all its official exports in 2015, military expenditures remain high, worsening the cost of living in North Korea and suppressing overall quality of life. Ongoing nuclear weapons testing made several countries question whether or not to continue its foreign aid programs in the region. Despite the fact, the United Kingdom and the United States continue sending aid. North Korea received more than £4 million in foreign aid from the U.K. over the past six years, and more than $8 million to assist vulnerable women and children.

Nonetheless, the proliferation of private enterprise, though still officially illegal, made it possible for individuals to generate profit in 2017. Beyond production requirements given directly to the state, farmers and factories are able to seek customers of their own. Six taxi companies now operate in Pyongyang, and Minis, a home-goods store, became the first foreign chain to open in North Korea this past April.

This recent economic growth has broader implications for the North Korean government, potentially undermining arguments supporting socialist superiority over capitalist systems. Information combating widespread propaganda already started slipping in with foreign goods and products. The potential for a better cost of living in North Korea and higher quality of life is increasing, suggesting that the future may just hold fewer poverty constraints and broader human rights opportunities for the country’s citizens.

Katherine Wang

Photo: Flickr