Europe still top for quality of living in 2010
European cities continue to dominate the top of the ranking, with 16 cities in the world’s top 25 for quality of living, according to Mercer. Calgary is first in a new ‘eco-city’ ranking, while London ranks 63.
Vienna retains the top spot as the city with the world’s best quality of living, according to the Mercer 2010 Quality of Living Survey. Zurich and Geneva follow in second and third position, respectively, while Vancouver and Auckland remain joint fourth.
Mercer conducts the ranking to help employers compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments. The rankings are based on a point-scoring index, which sees Vienna score 108.6 and Baghdad 14.7. Cities are ranked against New York as the base city, with a score of 100.
Mercer’s Quality of Living revised index list now covers 221 cities compared to 215 last year. The new selection includes prominent capitals and other major cities from across the world currently available in Mercer’s database, and better reflects where companies are sending their expat employees in the current business environment.
Adequate expat compensation
Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer, commented: “As the world economy becomes more globalised, cities beyond the traditional financial centres are emerging as attractive places in which to expand or establish a business. Cities in many emerging markets, such as in the Middle East or Asia, have seen a significant influx of foreign companies and their expatriate employees in recent years.”
“To ensure their expatriates are compensated appropriately and an adequate hardship allowance is included in their benefits package, companies seek a clear picture of the quality of living in these cities. We have reviewed our index to reflect these developments and it now better represents the cities that most interest our clients.”
European cities continue to dominate amongst the top 25 cities in the index. In the UK, London ranks at 39, while Birmingham is at 55 and Glasgow at 57. Two new cities have been added for the UK, Aberdeen at 53 and Belfast at 63. In the US, the highest ranking entry is Honolulu at position 31, followed by San Francisco at position 32. Singapore at 28 is the top-scoring Asian city followed by Tokyo at 40. Baghdad, ranking 221, remains at the bottom of the list.
Impact of economic crisis
“Quality of living standards remained relatively stable on a global level throughout 2009 and the first half of 2010, but in certain regions and countries the economic recession had a noticeable impact on the business climate,” according to Parakatil.
“Despite the economic downturn and companies’ efforts to contain costs, quality of living and hardship premiums remain important means of compensating expatriates for differences in living conditions. However, companies are more inclined to review the measurement of such allowances to ensure they are cost-effective."
New 'eco-city' ranking
This year’s ranking also identifies the cities with the best eco-ranking based on water availability and drinkability, waste removal, quality of sewage systems, air pollution and traffic congestion. Calgary is at the top of this index (score 145.7), followed by Honolulu (score 145.1) and Ottawa and Helsinki in joint third place (score 139.9). Wellington in New Zealand (5), Minneapolis (6), Adelaide (7) and Copenhagen (8) fill the next four slots, while Kobe, Oslo and Stockholm share ninth place. Port-au-Prince in Haiti ranks at the bottom of this table with a score of only 27.8.
Parakatil commented: “A high-ranking eco-city optimises its use of renewable energy sources and generates the lowest possible quantity of pollution (air, water, noise etc). A city’s eco-status or attitude toward sustainability can have significant impact on the quality of living of its inhabitants. As a consequence these are also pertinent issues for companies that send employees and their families on long-term assignments abroad, especially considering the vast majority of expatriates are relocated to urban areas.”
“A certain standard of sustainability is essential for city living and forms a very important part of its inhabitants’ quality of living. Though a high standard of living may be taken for granted in certain cities, a lack thereof is much more noticeable and can even lead to severe hardship.”
Europe has 16 cities amongst the world’s top 25 cities for quality of living. Vienna retains the highest ranking both for the region and globally and is again followed by Zurich (2), Geneva (3) and Düsseldorf (6). The lowest-ranking Western European cities are Leipzig (64) and Athens (75). In the UK, London is the highest-ranking city at 39, followed by newcomer to the list Aberdeen (53), Birmingham (55), Glasgow (57) and Belfast (63).
Levels of quality of living continue to improve in Eastern Europe, with most index scores increasing slightly. Prague is the highest-ranking city at 70 and its index score increased from 93.9 to 94.8 in 2010. Budapest follows in position 73 and Ljubljana in 77.
In the eco-city index, Nordic cities fare particularly well with Helsinki (3) the highest-ranked in the region, followed by Copenhagen (8) and Oslo in joint ninth place with Stockholm. “Nordic cities do particularly well because the modern parts of most of them have been designed with potential environmental impacts in mind,” said Mr Parakatil. Aberdeen (19) is the highest-ranking UK eco-city, followed by Belfast (30), Glasgow (47), London (63) and Birmingham (64).
Canadian cities still dominate the top of the index for this region with Vancouver (4) retaining the top spot, followed by Ottawa (14), Toronto (16) and Montreal (21). Calgary ranks 28 on the overall quality of living ranking.
Honolulu (31) is the city in the US with the highest quality of living, followed by San Francisco (32) and Boston (37). Chicago and Washington share position 45 and New York – the base city – is in position 49. Newly added cities Philadelphia and Dallas are ranked 55 and 61, respectively.
In Central and South America, Point-à-Pitre, capital of Guadeloupe and new to the index this year, ranks the highest for quality of living at 62. San Juan in Puerto Rico follows at 72 and Buenos Aires at 78. Havana (192) and Port-au-Prince (213) are the lowest-ranking cities in the region.
Parakatil commented: “Quality of living remained stable in North American cities. However, in South and Central America a general decline is witnessed mostly due to political instability, economic woes and energy shortages in certain countries. High levels of crime also remain a major problem in many of the region’s cities.”
Canadian and US cities are strongly represented at the top of the eco-city ranking, both for this region and globally. Calgary grabs the top spot globally with a score of 145.7, closely followed by Honolulu (score 145.1) in second. Ottawa is in third position with a score of 139.9 and Minneapolis follows in sixth place (score 137.8). Parakatil noted: “Calgary’s top ranking is down to its excellent level of service on waste removal, sewage systems, and water drinkability and availability, coupled with relatively low air pollution.”
The highest-ranking Central and South American city is again Pointe-à-Pitre (49), followed by San Juan (69) and Montevideo (70).
Middle East and Africa
Dubai (75) in the United Arab Emirates and Port Louis in Mauritius (82) are the region’s cities with the best quality of living. Abu Dhabi (83), Cape Town (86) and Tunis (94) follow and are, along with Victoria in the Seychelles (95), Johannesburg (96) and Muscat in Oman (100), the region’s only other cities in the top 100. Following the revision of the index a selection of cities from this region has been added, including Doha in Qatar (110), Rabat in Morocco (112), Banjul in Gambia (164) and Abuja in Nigeria (205).
Baghdad (221) remains at the bottom of the table, though its index score has increased slightly (from 14.4 to 14.7 in 2010). A lack of security and stability continue to have a negative impact on Baghdad’s quality of living and its score remains far behind that of Bangui (27.4) in the Central African Republic which is second to last.
In the eco-city index, most of the region’s cities rank below 100. The highest-ranking cities are Cape Town (30), Victoria (38), Muscat (48), Johannesburg (54) and Abu Dhabi and Dubai (in joint 65). Antananarivo in Madagascar (217) is at the bottom of the list with an eco-city score of 39.7, while Baghdad is at 214, scoring 40.5.
Parakatil commented: “The lack of adequate modern infrastructure in some of the African cities combined with relatively high air pollution explains why many of them are ranked below 100.”
Auckland (4) retains its position as the highest-ranking city for quality of living in the region. Sydney follows at 10, Wellington at 12, Melbourne at 18 and Perth at 21. Canberra, at 26, is new to the index. Singapore remains the highest-ranking Asian city at 28, followed by Japanese cities Tokyo (40), Kobe and Yokohama (joint 41), Osaka (51) and Nagoya (57). The region’s lowest-ranking cities are Dhaka in Bangladesh (206) and two cities new to the list: Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan (209) and Dushanbe in Tajikistan (210).
Parakatil noted: “Quality of living declined in a few countries in Asia between the start of 2009 and 2010. Increasing threats of violence and terrorism, coupled with natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons and cyclones have had a negative impact on the quality of living in Asian cities. This may result in higher hardship allowances for expatriates sent to these countries.”
With a score of 138.9, Wellington (5) is the highest-ranking eco-city in the region followed by Adelaide (7), Kobe (9), Perth (12) and Auckland (13). Dhaka in Bangladesh (220) ranks lowest with a score of 30.9.
Mercer / Expatica