Zurich overtook Tokyo as the world's most expensive city for the first time in 20 years, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's latest Worldwide Cost of Living Survey.

An index swing of 34 percentage points propelled the Swiss city up four places compared to last year to overtake the Japanese megacity, which slid to No. 2. The other Swiss city surveyed, Geneva, saw a 30 percentage point rise in the cost of living to move up six places into joint third along with Osaka, Japan.

The Economist survey compared the cost of living in 140 cities in 93 countries. It's created primarily to enable human resources line managers and expatriate executives to compare cost of living and calculate fair compensation policies for relocating employees. Published twice a year, the study looks at the prices of goods and services such as food, transportation utilities, private schools, and domestic help.

New York is used as the base for The Economist survey with a score of 100. Zurich and Tokyo scored 170 and 166 respectively, indicating that they are about 70% and 66% more expensive to live in than New York.

Though Switzerland has long been home to some of the priciest places to live, the dramatic upswing in rankings is likely due to the heavy investment in the Swiss franc - seen as a safe currency outside of the embattled Eurozone.

The top ten costliest cities were divided equally between Europe and Asia-Pacific. No North American cities broke the top 10. New York dropped 11 spots to tie for 47th with Chicago, below Los Angeles.

Vancouver, Canada overtook U.S. cities to become the most expensive city in North America at No. 37.

While Japan has long been on top of the list, the emergence of Australian cities and Singapore is a more recent phenomenon.

Sydney, for example, was 25% cheaper to live in than New York a decade ago. Now it's 47% pricier and the seventh costliest in the world. In total, five Australian cities made it into the top 20.

Exchange rates have been the greatest influence for the Australian cost of living, with the Australian dollar seeing its value to the U.S. dollar double in a decade, survey editor Jon Copestake said in a statement.

Chinese cities are also increasingly expensive, with Shanghai surpassing New York by two places to rank No. 42.

Yet, the Asia-Pacific region is also home to the majority of the world's cheapest places to live.

At the bottom of the list were Muscat, Oman; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Algiers, Algeria; Kathmandu, Nepal; Panama City, Panama; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; New Delhi, India; Tehran, Iran; Mumbai, India; and Karachi Pakistan.

Press start to look at the complete list of the world's 10 most expensive places to live.

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