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2014 Quality of Living worldwide city rankings – Mercer survey


United States , New York


 

 

  • European cities dominate the top of the list for highest Quality of Living
  • Vienna takes the top spot, Baghdad ranks lowest 

More View Quality of Living Survey homepage


Vienna is the city with the world’s best quality of living, according to the Mercer 2014 Quality of Living rankings, in which European cities dominate. Zurich and Auckland follow in second and third place, respectively. Munich is in fourth place, followed by Vancouver, which is also the highest-ranking city in North America. Ranking 25 globally, Singapore is the highest-ranking Asian city, whereas Dubai (73) ranks first across Middle East and Africa. The city of Pointe-à-Pitre (69), Guadeloupe, takes the top spot for Central and South America.

 

Mercer conducts its Quality of Living survey annually to help multinational companies and other employers compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments. Two common incentives include a quality-of-living allowance and a mobility premium. A quality-of-living or “hardship” allowance compensates for a decrease in the quality of living between home and host locations, whereas a mobility premium simply compensates for the inconvenience of being uprooted and having to work in another country. Mercer’s Quality of Living reports provide valuable information and hardship premium recommendations for over 460 cities throughout the world, the ranking covers 223 of these cities.

 

Political instability, high crime levels, and elevated air pollution are a few factors that can be detrimental to the daily lives of expatriate employees their families and local residents. To ensure that compensation packages reflect the local environment appropriately, employers need a clear picture of the quality of living in the cities where they operate,” said Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer.

 

Mr Parakatil added: “In a world economy that is becoming more globalised, cities beyond the traditional financial and business centres are working to improve their quality of living so they can attract more foreign companies. This year’s survey recognises so-called ‘second tier’ or ‘emerging’ cites and points to a few examples from around the world These cities have been investing massively in their infrastructure and attracting foreign direct investments by providing incentives such as tax, housing, or entry facilities. Emerging cities will become major players that traditional financial centres and capital cities will have to compete with.”

 

Europe


Vienna is the highest-ranking city globally. In Europe, it is followed by Zurich (2), Munich (4), Düsseldorf (6), and Frankfurt (7). “European cities enjoy a high overall quality of living compared to those in other regions. Healthcare, infrastructure, and recreational facilities are generally of a very high standard. Political stability and relatively low crime levels enable expatriates to feel safe and secure in most locations. The region has seen few changes in living standards over the last year,” said Mr Parakatil.

 

Ranking 191 overall, Tbilisi, Georgia, is the lowest-ranking city in Europe. It continues to improve in its quality of living, mainly due to a growing availability of consumer goods, improving internal stability, and developing infrastructure. Other cities on the lower end of Europe’s ranking include: Minsk (189), Belarus; Yerevan (180), Armenia; Tirana (179), Albania; and St Petersburg (168), Russia. Ranking 107, Wroclaw, Poland, is an emerging European city. Since Poland’s accession to the European Union, Wroclaw has witnessed tangible economic growth, partly due to its talent pool, improved infrastructure, and foreign and internal direct investments. The EU named Wroclaw as a European Capital of Culture for 2016.

 

Americas


Canadian cities dominate North America’s top-five list. Ranking fifth globally, Vancouver tops the regional list, followed by Ottawa (14), Toronto (15), Montreal (23), and San Francisco (27). The region’s lowest-ranking city is Mexico City (122), preceded by four US cities: Detroit (70), St. Louis (67), Houston (66), and Miami (65). Mr Parakatil commented: “On the whole, North American cities offer a high quality of living and are attractive working destinations for companies and their expatriates. A wide range of consumer goods are available, and infrastructures, including recreational provisions, are excellent.

 

In Central and South America, the quality of living varies substantially. Pointe-à-Pitre (69), Guadeloupe, is the region’s highest-ranked city, followed by San Juan (72), Montevideo (77), Buenos Aires (81), and Santiago (93). Manaus (125), Brazil, has been identified as an example of an emerging city in this region due to its major industrial centre which has seen the creation of the “Free Economic Zone of Manaus,” an area with administrative autonomy giving Manaus a competitive advantage over other cities in the region. This zone has attracted talent from other cities and regions, with several multinational companies already settled in the area and more expected to arrive in the near future.

 

Several cities in Central and South America are still attractive to expatriates due to their relatively stable political environments, improving infrastructure, and pleasant climate,” said Mr Parakatil. “But many locations remain challenging due to natural disasters, such as hurricanes often hitting the region, as well as local economic inequality and high crime rates. Companies placing their workers on expatriate assignments in these locations must ensure that hardship allowances reflect the lower levels of quality of living.

 

Asia Pacific


Singapore (25) has the highest quality of living in Asia, followed by four Japanese cities: Tokyo (43), Kobe (47), Yokohama (49), and Osaka (57). Dushanbe (209), Tajikistan, is the lowest-ranking city in the region. Mr Parakatil commented: “Asia has a bigger range of quality-of-living standard amongst its cities than any other region. For many cities, such as those in South Korea, the quality of living is continually improving. But for others, such as some in China, issues like pervasive poor air pollution are eroding their quality of living.

 

With their considerable growth in the last decade, many second-tier Asian cities are starting to emerge as important places of business for multinational companies. Examples include Cheonan (98), South Korea, which is strategically located in an area where several technology companies have operations. Over the past decades, Pune (139), India has developed into an education hub and home to IT, other high-tech industries, and automobile manufacturing. The city of Xian (141), China has also witnessed some major developments, such as the establishment of an “Economic and Technological Development Zone” to attract foreign investments. The city is also host to various financial services, consulting, and computer services.


Elsewhere, New Zealand and Australian cities rank high on the list for quality of living, with Auckland and Sydney ranking 3 and 10, respectively.

 

Middle East and Africa


With a global rank of 73, Dubai is the highest-ranked city in the Middle East and Africa region. It is followed by Abu Dhabi (78), UAE; Port Louis (82), Mauritius; and Durban (85) and Cape Town (90), South Africa. Durban has been identified as an example of an emerging city in this region, due to the growth of its manufacturing industries and the increasing importance of the shipping port. Generally, though, this region dominates the lower end of the quality of living ranking, with five out of the bottom six cities; Baghdad (223) has the lowest overall ranking.

 

The Middle East and especially Africa remain one of the most challenging regions for multinational organisations and expatriates. Regional instability and disruptive political events, including civil unrest, lack of infrastructure and natural disasters such as flooding, keep the quality of living from improving in many of its cities. However, some cities that might not have been very attractive to foreign companies are making efforts to attract them,” said Mr Parakatil.


-Ends-

 

Notes for Editors


Mercer produces worldwide quality-of-living rankings annually from its most recent Worldwide Quality of Living Surveys. 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. Details are available from Mercer Client Services in Warsaw, at +48 22 434 5383 or at www.mercer.com/qualityofliving.

 

The data was largely collected between September and November 2013, and will be updated regularly to take account of changing circumstances. In particular, the assessments will be revised to reflect significant political, economic, and environmental developments.

 

Expatriates in difficult locations: Determining appropriate allowances and incentives


Companies need to be able to determine their expatriate compensation packages rationally, consistently and systematically. Providing incentives to reward and recognise the efforts that employees and their families make when taking on international assignments remains a typical practice, particularly for difficult locations. Two common incentives include a quality-of-living allowance and a mobility premium:

 

  • A quality-of-living or “hardship” allowance compensates for a decrease in the quality of living between home and host locations.

  • A mobility premium simply compensates for the inconvenience of being uprooted and having to work in another country.

 

A quality-of-living allowance is typically location-related, while a mobility premium is usually independent of the host location. Some multinational companies combine these premiums, but the vast majority provides them separately.

 

Quality of Living: City benchmarking


Mercer also helps municipalities assess factors that can improve their quality of living rankings. In a global environment, employers have many choices as to where to deploy their mobile employees and set up new business. A city’s quality of living standards can be an important variable for employers to consider.

 

Leaders in many cities want to understand the specific factors that affect their residents’ quality of living and address those issues that lower their city’s overall quality-of-living ranking. Mercer advises municipalities through a holistic approach that addresses their goals of progressing towards excellence, and attracting multinational companies and globally mobile talent by improving the elements that are measured in its Quality of Living survey.

 

Mercer hardship allowance recommendations


Mercer evaluates local living conditions in more than 460 cities it surveys worldwide. Living conditions are analysed according to 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories:

 

  • Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement, etc.)
  • Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services)
  • Socio-cultural environment (media availability and censorship, limitations on personal freedom)
  • Medical and health considerations (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc)
  • Schools and education (standards and availability of international schools)
  • Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transportation, traffic congestion, etc)
  • Recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure, etc)
  • Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc)
  • Housing (rental housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services)
  • Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters)

 

The scores attributed to each factor, which are weighted to reflect their importance to expatriates, allow for objective city-to-city comparisons. The result is a quality of living index that compares relative differences between any two locations evaluated. For the indices to be used effectively, Mercer has created a grid that allows users to link the resulting index to a quality of living allowance amount by recommending a percentage value in relation to the index.

 

Mercer Quality of Living Survey 2014 – Top 5 and Bottom 5 Cities by Region


Top 5 and Bottom 5 Cities – North America 

       

Regional Rank 2014

Overall Rank 2014

City

Country

1

5

VANCOUVER

CANADA

2

14

OTTAWA

CANADA

3

15

TORONTO

CANADA

4

23

MONTREAL

CANADA

5

27

SAN FRANCISCO

UNITED STATES

  

1 (lowest in region)

122

MEXICO CITY

MEXICO

2

70

DETROIT

UNITED STATES

3

67

ST. LOUIS

UNITED STATES

4

66

HOUSTON

UNITED STATES

5

65

MIAMI

UNITED STATES

 

Top 5 and Bottom 5 Cities – Central and South America

        

Regional Rank 2014

Overall Rank 2014

City

Country

1

69

POINTE-À-PITRE

GUADELOUPE

2

72

SAN JUAN

PUERTO RICO

3

77

MONTEVIDEO

URUGUAY

4

81

BUENOS AIRES

ARGENTINA

5

93

SANTIAGO

CHILE

  

1 (lowest in region)

221

PORT-AU-PRINCE

HAITI

2

181

TEGUCIGALPA

HONDURAS

3

176

CARACAS

VENEZUELA

4

175

SAN SALVADOR

EL SALVADOR

5

170

MANAGUA

NICARAGUA

 

Top 5 and Bottom 5 Cities – Europe 

       

Regional Rank 2014

Overall Rank 2014

City

Country

1

1

VIENNA

AUSTRIA

2

2

ZURICH

SWITZERLAND

3

4

MUNICH

GERMANY

4

6

DÜSSELDORF

GERMANY

5

7

FRANKFURT

GERMANY

  

1 (lowest in region)

191

TBILISI

GEORGIA

2

189

MINSK

BELARUS

3

180

YEREVAN

ARMENIA

4

179

TIRANA

ALBANIA

5

168

ST. PETERSBURG

RUSSIA

 

Top 5 and Bottom 5 Cities – Asia (excluding Australia and New Zealand)

       

Regional Rank 2014

Overall Rank 2014

City

Country

1

25

SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE

2

43

TOKYO

JAPAN

3

47

KOBE

JAPAN

4

49

YOKOHAMA

JAPAN

5

57

OSAKA

JAPAN

  

1 (lowest in region)

209

DUSHANBE

TAJIKISTAN

2

208

DHAKA

BANGLADESH

3

206

ASHKHABAD

TURKMENISTAN

4

204

BISHKEK

KYRGYZSTAN

5

202

TASHKENT

UZBEKISTAN

 

Top 3 Cities - Australasia

      

Regional Rank 2014

Overall Rank 2014

City

Country

1

3

AUCKLAND

NEW ZEALAND

2

10

SYDNEY

AUSTRALIA

3

12

WELLINGTON

NEW ZEALAND

 

Top 5 and Bottom 5 Cities – Middle East and Africa

    

Regional Rank 2014

Overall Rank 2014

City

Country

1

73

DUBAI

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

2

78

ABU DHABI

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

3

82

PORT LOUIS

MAURITIUS

4

85

DURBAN

SOUTH AFRICA

5

90

CAPE TOWN

SOUTH AFRICA

    

1 (lowest in region)

223

BAGHDAD

IRAQ

2

222

BANGUI

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

3

220

N’DJAMENA

CHAD

4

219

SANA’A

YEMEN ARAB REPUBLIC

5

218

BRAZZAVILLE

CONGO

 

The information and data obtained through the Quality of Living reports are for information purposes only and are intended for use by multinational organisations, government agencies, and municipalities. They are not designed or intended for use as the basis for foreign investment or tourism. In no event will Mercer be liable for any decision made or action taken in reliance of the results obtained through the use of, or the information or data contained in, the reports. While the reports have been prepared based upon sources, information, and systems believed to be reliable and accurate, they are provided on an “as is” basis, and Mercer accepts no responsibility/liability for the validity/accuracy (or otherwise) of the resources/data used to compile the reports. Mercer and its affiliates make no representations or warranties with respect to the reports, and disclaim all express, implied and statutory warranties of any kind, including, representations and implied warranties of quality, accuracy, timeliness, completeness, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.

 

        

About Mercer

        

Mercer is a global leader in talent, health, retirement, and investments. Mercer helps clients around the world advance the health, wealth, and performance of their most vital asset – their people. Mercer's more than 20,000 employees are based in 43 countries, and the firm operates in over 140 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), a global team of professional services companies offering clients advice and solutions in the areas of risk, strategy, and human capital. With over 54,000 employees worldwide and annual revenue exceeding $11 billion, Marsh & McLennan Companies is also the parent company of Marsh, a global leader in insurance broking and risk management; Guy Carpenter, a global leader in providing risk and reinsurance intermediary services; and Oliver Wyman, a global leader in management consulting.

 

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