London: Vienna has the best living standard in the world, according to the Mercer 2011 Quality of Living Survey. Zurich and Auckland follow in second and third position, respectively, and Munich is in fourth with Düsseldorf and Vancouver sharing fifth place. Frankfurt is in seventh, followed by Geneva in eighth, while Copenhagen and Bern share ninth place.
European cities represent over half the cities amongst the top 25 in the ranking . London (38) is the highest-ranking UK city and is followed by Birmingham (52), Aberdeen (54) and Glasgow (56). Belfast (63) is the lowest-ranking of the UK cities that Mercer surveys. Globally, the cities with the lowest quality of living are Khartoum, Sudan (217), Port-au-Prince, Haiti (218), N'Djamena, Chad (219), and Bangui, Central African Republic (220). Baghdad, Iraq (221) ranks last in Mercer's table.
Mercer conducts the survey to help governments and multi-national companies compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments. Mercer's Quality of Living reports provide valuable information and hardship premium recommendations for major cities throughout the world. Mercer's Quality of Living index list covers 221 cities, ranked against New York as the base city.
This year, the survey separately identifies those cities with the highest personal safety ranking based on internal stability, crime levels, law enforcement effectiveness and the host country's international relations. Luxembourg tops this personal safety ranking, followed by Bern, Helsinki and Zurich — all ranked at number two. Vienna ranks fifth, while Geneva and Stockholm both rank sixth. Baghdad (221) is the world's least safe city, followed by N'Djamena, Chad (220), Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire (219), Bangui, Central African Republic (218), and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (217).
Aberdeen and Glasgow both rank 44 and are the highest ranking UK cities on the personal safety list. Birmingham (53) and Belfast (63) both rank higher than London (68).
Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer, commented: "Companies need to keep on top of current developments to ensure that their compensation packages remain competitive and continue to motivate expatriate employees. That means reviewing major events, such as social unrest, economic turmoil or natural disasters and their impact on the success of overseas placements.
"The top-ranking cities for personal safety and security are in politically stable countries with good international relations and relatively sustainable economic growth. Most of the low-scoring cities are in countries with, civil unrest, high crime levels and little law enforcement," said Parakatil.
Canadian cities dominate the top of the ranking for this region. Vancouver (5) has the best quality of living and is followed by Ottawa (14), Toronto (15) and Montreal (22). Honolulu (29) and San Francisco (30) are the highest-ranking US cities. In Central and South America, Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe (63), ranks highest, followed by San Juan, Puerto Rico (72), and Montevideo, Uruguay (77). Port-au-Prince, Haiti (218), ranks lowest in the region.
Canadian cities also dominate the higher end of the personal safety ranking for this region, with Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver all ranked jointly at 17. In the United States, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston and San Francisco all rank 53. Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe (40), is again the highest-ranking city in Central and South America, followed by Nassau, Bahamas (66), San Juan, Puerto Rico (79), and Panama City, Panama (92). At the other end of the personal-safety scale, Caracas, Venezuela (205), Port-au-Prince, Haiti (202), Bogotá, Colombia (196), and Kingston, Jamaica (192), rank lowest in the region.
Parakatil said: "The disparity in living standards between North and South America is still considerable. Though a number of South and Central American countries have experienced positive change, political and safety issues predominate in the region. In particular, drug trafficking, drugs cartels and high levels of street crime, combined with natural disasters, continue to impair the region's quality of living."
Vienna is the European city with the highest quality of living. German and Swiss cities dominate the top of the ranking, with three cities each in the top 10. Zurich (2) is followed by Munich (4), Düsseldorf (5), Frankfurt (7) and Geneva (8), while Bern shares ninth place with Copenhagen.
In the next tier are Amsterdam (12), Hamburg (16), Berlin (17), Luxembourg (19), Stockholm (20), Brussels (22), Nurnberg (24) and Dublin (26). Paris ranks 30 and is followed by Oslo (33), Helsinki (35) and London (38). Lisbon is number 41, Madrid is at 43 and Rome ranks 52. Prague, Czech Republic (69), is the highest-ranking eastern European city, followed by Budapest, Hungary (73), Ljubljana, Slovenia (75), Vilnius, Lithuania (79), and Warsaw, Poland (84). The lowest-ranking European city is Tbilisi, Georgia (214).
With seven cities in the top 10, European cities also fare well in the personal safety ranking. Luxembourg ranks highest, followed by Bern, Helsinki and Zurich, which all rank second. Vienna (5) is ahead of jointly ranked Geneva and Stockholm (6). In Eastern Europe, Ljubljana (30) and Prague (47) rank highest for personal safety, whereas Moscow (199) and Tbilisi (215) rank lowest.
Parakatil said: "European cities in general continue to have high standards of living, because they enjoy advanced and modern city infrastructures combined with high-class medical, recreational and leisure facilities. But economic turmoil, high levels of unemployment and lack of confidence in political institutions make their future positions hard to predict. Countries such Austria, Germany and Switzerland still fare particularly well in both the quality of living and personal safety rankings, yet they are not immune from decreases in living standards if this uncertainty persists."
Auckland (3) is the highest-ranking city for quality of living in the Asia-Pacific region and is followed by Sydney (11), Wellington (13), Melbourne (18) and Perth (21). The highest-ranking Asian cities are Singapore (25) and Tokyo (46). Hong Kong (70), Kuala Lumpur (76), Seoul (80) and Taipei (85) are other major Asian cities ranked in the top 100. Meanwhile, Dhaka, Bangladesh (204), Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (206), and Dushanbe, Tajikistan (208), rank lowest in the region.
At 8, Singapore ranks highest for personal safety, followed by Auckland and Wellington — both ranked 9. Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney all rank 25, and all the Japanese cities on the list (Tokyo, Kobe, Nagoya, Osaka and Yokohama) rank 31. The region's lowest-ranking city for personal safety is Karachi, Pakistan (216).
"As a region, Asia Pacific is highly diverse. Countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore dominate the top of both our general and personal safety rankings, in part because they have been continuously investing in infrastructure and public services," Mr Parakatil commented. "In general, the region has seen a greater focus on city planning. Nevertheless, many Asian cities rank at the bottom, mainly due to social instability, political turmoil, natural disasters such as typhoons and tsunamis, and lack of suitable infrastructure for expatriates.
Middle East and Africa
Dubai, UAE (74), ranks highest for quality of living across the Middle East and Africa and is followed by Abu Dhabi, UAE (78), Port Louis, Mauritius (82), and Cape Town, South Africa (88). Johannesburg ranks 94 and is followed by Victoria, Seychelles (95), Tel Aviv (99), Muscat, Oman (101), and Doha, Qatar (106). Africa has 18 cities in the bottom 25, including Bangui, Central African Republic (220), N'Djamena, Chad (219), Khartoum, Sudan (217), and Brazzaville, Congo (214). Baghdad (221) is the lowest-ranking city both regionally and globally.
At 23, Abu Dhabi has the highest personal safety ranking in the Middle East and is followed by Muscat (29), Dubai (39), and Doha (67). Port Louis (59) and Victoria (79) are the only African cities in the top 100. Elsewhere in the region, Tunis, Tunisia, ranks 140, Casablanca, Morocco, is at 147 and Cairo ranks 176. At 185, Algiers is followed by Tehran (188), and towards the bottom of the list is Tripoli (204). In terms of personal safety, Baghdad (221) is the lowest-ranking city regionally and globally, along with N'Djamena, Chad (220), Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire (219), Bangui, Central African Republic (218), and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (217).
Parakatil said: "The recent wave of violent protests across North Africa and the Middle East has temporarily lowered living standards in the region. Many countries such as Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen have seen their quality of living levels drop considerably. Political and economic reconstruction in these countries, combined with funding to serve basic human needs, will undoubtedly boost the region as a key player in the international arena."
He added: "Currently, expatriates and locals need to exercise extreme caution when going about their everyday activities in the most dangerous cities. The roots of unrest vary from country to country, and many places remain volatile. So companies should ensure they monitor the impact this might have on their local expatriates. Furthermore, employers should review their expatriate strategies to ensure they contain specific safety measures such as secure accommodation and effective communication channels if evacuation becomes necessary.
"It is also worth noting that some of this region's cities, including Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Muscat, rank quite high on the personal safety list. This is mainly due to their internal stability and low crime levels."
The worldwide rankings are produced annually from the most recent Worldwide Quality of Living Survey, conducted by Mercer. Individual reports are produced for each city surveyed. Comparative quality-of-living indexes between a base city and a host city are available, as are multiple-city comparisons.
The full survey is available here.