Welcome to the second article of ELM’s ‘Top Cities to Live and Work Abroad’ series. Last week we looked at the best cities of North America, which included Vancouver, San Francisco, and Toronto. This week we’ll be looking at the top cities to live and work abroad in South America. The cities that made it to our final list are: Sao Paolo, Buenos Aires, and Bogotá.
Introducing the Cities
Let’s take a look at the cities.
Sao Paolo is the most populous and most ethnically diverse city in Brazil. It is located in the Serra do Mar part of the Brazilian Highlands, and is only 70 kilometres away from the Atlantic Ocean. The city enjoys a humid subtropical climate, and has hot, humid summers, and cool winters. Sao Paolo is a culturally, rich city, that serves as the business and financial capital of Brazil.
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina. The city’s great geographical location has turned it into one of the busiest ports in South America. Through the Rio de la Plata (River of Silver), Buenos Aires serves as a distribution hub for the southeastern region of South America. The City is the cultural, financial, industrial, and business capital of Argentina. Its climate is comparable to Sao Paolo. Its culture is highly influenced by Europe, and the city is often referred to as ‘the Paris of South America’. Tango originally comes from Buenos Aires.
Bogotá is the largest and most populous city of Colombia, and also one of the most stunning cities in South America. Situated on a plateau in the Andes Mountains at a height of 2630 metres above sea level, Bogotá is the third highest located capital city in the world. The city enjoys a subtropical highland climate, and has very unpredictable weather. The weather can change dramatically on a single day. Bogotá is also known for its many universities and libraries, and is known as ‘the Athens of South America’.
Quality of Living
Due to several factors, such as economic and political instability, and energy shortages, South America has done worse in Mercer’s Quality of Living survey than other years. Even so, the scores of South American cities rarely make it to the top 50 of Mercer’s survey.
The highest ranking city of this week is Buenos Aires at 78, followed by Sao Paolo and Bogotá, 117 and 132 respectively. Even though Bogotá ranks the lowest, it has improved its ranking through the years. This is mainly attributed to the city’s improved security.
It is good to keep in mind that the cities that normally score better are mid-sized cities in developed countries with high political and social stability, low population density, and large amounts of recreational activities.
Winner – Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires ranks fairly higher than the other two cities on the Mercer ranking. Add to that the amazing European architectural style, and amazing entertainment activities, and you can start to understand why so many people enjoy living in Buenos Aires.
Cost of Living
Last week we used both Mercer’s ranking and the Economist’s ranking to determine the cost of living in the three cities. However, because The Economist doesn’t take into account the price of housing into consideration, we will only be using Mercer’s Cost of Living survey for this article and the following ones.
According to Mercer’s Cost of Living survey, Buenos Aires is by far the cheapest city to live in. Buenos Aires is ranked at 161. On the other end, we see that Sao Paolo is one of the most expensive cities to live and work abroad in the world. It is ranked by Mercer at 21. Most Brazilian cities are amongst the most expensive cities in South America. Bogotá, which is ranked at 66, is somewhere in between. It is quite amazing to see the difference in cost of living between the three South American cities.
Winner – Buenos Aires
Brazilian cities have become far more expensive, partly due to the strengthening of the Brazil’s currency, the Real. From our list, it is quite clear that Buenos Aires is the cheapest city of the three.
South America is home to some of the biggest economic centres in the world. However, one of the main problems that defines South American cities is the gap between the poor and the rich. Many countries like Argentina and Brazil are making a lot of progress in this department, but it is going to remain a problem in the short-term. This is something that everyone considering living in South America should take into account.
As was mentioned above, Buenos Aires is the business capital of Argentina. The City’s GDP is around 260 Billion Euros, which is roughly 60% of Argentina’s total GDP. It is the financial, industrial, and commercial centre of Argentina. The most important business sector of Buenos Aires is the service sector, which accounts for 75% of the city’s economy. The largest services are financial services, business services, and real estate services, which account for about a third of Buenos Aires’ economy. Manufacturing and construction are also important sectors of the city’s economy, accounting for about 15% of GDP. The unemployment rate has come down to around 7% and the economy of Buenos Aires is expected to grow in 2011 by at least 4% and no more than 6%.
Bogotá is the main business centre of Colombia. It doesn’t overpower the other Colombian cities the way that Buenos Aires does with other Argentinean cities, or the way that Toronto does in Canada, but it remains the main industrial and economic centre of Colombia. The main growing economic sectors in Bogotá are construction and tourism. However, like in Buenos Aires, around three quarters of the city’s GDP is provided by service activities. The most important industries in Bogotá are the chemical, textile, pharmaceutical, food, and metal industries. The main international partners of Bogotá are the United States, and the European Union. The city’s main export goods are agricultural goods, accounting for about a third of total exports. Bogotá’s GDP is around 70 Billion Euros and has an unemployment rate of 8.6%. Its economy is expected to grow by 3.5 to 4.5 percent in 2011.
Sao Paolo is, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the 10th richest city in the world. In recent years, Sao Paolo has started a major transformation from an industrial economy to a service economy, based on service and business activities for Brazil. Sao Paolo is also an important player in South America in terms of scientific and technological research, containing several universities in the region. This accounts partially for the large number of foreign multinationals based in Sao Paolo, for these companies are always looking for talent and innovation. This is in complete contrast with other Brazilian cities. Sao Paolo has a GDP of about 280 Billion Euros, which is expected to grow in 2011 by about 4 percent, and has an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent.
Winner – Sao Paolo
It was a difficult one to call, but we decided that overall, the economic environment in Sao Paolo was the best, followed very closely by Buenos Aires. The fact that the unemployment rate is lower, and that it is a main centre of science and innovation in South America, gave Sao Paolo the edge.
Overall Winner – Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires has the best quality of living, and is the cheapest of the three cities to live in. That is a great combination. On top of that, the economic environment in Buenos Aires wasn’t too far behind Sao Paolo. Overall, its great location, cultural richness, and great living conditions, make Buenos Aires one of the best places to live and work abroad.
Honorary Mention – Cordoba
Often overshadowed by Buenos Aires as a destination for international workers and students, the lovely city of Cordoba is this week’s honorary mention. Located in the centre of Argentina, and often referred to as the heartland of Argentina, Cordoba used to be the capital city of the country (not to be confused with Cordoba, in the south of Spain). It was better located to communicate and trade with other countries like Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. It lies close to one of the biggest mountain ranges in South America, Las Sierras de Cordoba, which makes it great for mountain climbing, mountain biking, and other outdoor sports. On top of that, Cordoba is a university city, with great nightlife, and many cultural attractions. Cordoba has a lot to offer, and its central location makes it a great spot to see different places in the centre of South America.
Next week ELM will look at the top cities to live and work abroad in Europe. Please send us your recommendations of the cities you would like to see in our article. We will try to read all your emails and comments. We would like to thank everyone for all the emails and recommendations that they sent us last week, they really help.
Joseph Cavanna, ELM Team