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Quality of Living worldwide city rankings 2010 – Mercer survey


United Kingdom , London


 

London, embargoed from publication until 00.01 hrs (BST) Wednesday, 26 May 2010

  • European cities continue to dominate the top of the ranking
  • Vienna remains at the top, Baghdad at the bottom
  • Calgary is first in the new Eco-city ranking

 

Regional focus

 

Americas
Europe
Middle East and Africa
Asia Pacific
City rankings

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 in the rankings.

 

Mercer conducts the ranking to help governments and multi-national companies 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 an index score of 100.

 

Mercer’s Quality of Living index list was revised and now covers 221 cities compared to 215 last year, which means direct trend comparison will not be possible until 2011. The new selection includes prominent capital and other major cities from across the world currently available in Mercer’s database and better reflects where companies are sending their expatriate employees in the current business environment.

 

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,” Mr Parakatil said.

 

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. In the US, the highest ranking entry is Honolulu at position 31, followed by San Francisco at position 32. Singapore (28) is the top-scoring Asian city followed by Tokyo at 40. Baghdad, ranking 221, remains at the bottom of the list.

 

“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 Mr 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."

 

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 in second place (score 145.1) and Ottawa and Helsinki in joint third (score 139.9).  Wellington in New Zealand (5), Minneapolis (6), Adelaide (7) and Copenhagen 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 (see attached table).

 

Mr 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,” said Mr Parakatil.

Americas

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.

 

Mr 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). Mr Parakatil commented: “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).

Europe

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).

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.

 

Mr 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.”

Asia Pacific

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. At 26, Canberra is new to the index. Singapore remains the highest-ranking Asian city at 28, followed by Japanese cities Tokyo (40), Kobe and Yokohama (both at 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).

 

Mr Parakatil commented: “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.

 

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Notes for Editors

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. Further information is available from Mercer Client Services in Warsaw, on +48 22 434 5383. Alternatively, please visit Mercer Quality of Living Survey page.

 

The list of rankings is provided to journalists for reference, and should not be published in full. The top 10 and bottom 10 cities in either list may be reproduced in a table. Data was largely collected between September and November 2009 and is regularly updated to take account of changing circumstances. In particular, the assessments are revised in the case of significant political, economic and environmental developments.

 

Updated index
Mercer’s database of cities contains more than 420 cities. For 2010, the number of cites appearing in the yearly published rankings was increased from 215 to 221. This new roster provides a more well-rounded global perspective. In particular, better coverage is now offered for African, Middle Eastern and Central Asian cities. Many of the additions are gaining popularity as expatriate destinations.

 

Expatriates in difficult locations: Determining appropriate allowances and incentives
Companies need to be able to determine their 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.

 

  • Quality of living or “hardship” allowances compensate expatriates for decreases in the quality of living between their home and host locations.
  • By contrast, 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 whilst a mobility premium is usually independent of the host location. Some multi-national companies combine these premiums but the vast majority of international companies provide them separately. The latter approach is deemed to be clearer and more transparent.

 

Mercer hardship allowance recommendations
Mercer evaluates local living conditions in all the 420 cities it surveys worldwide. Living conditions are analysed according to 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories:

 

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

 

The scores attributed to each factor allow for city-to-city comparisons to be made. The result is a quality of living index that compares the relative differences between any two locations. For the indices to be used in a practical manner, Mercer has created a grid that allows companies to link the resulting index to a quality of living allowance amount by recommending a percentage value in relation to the index.

 

Disclaimer

The information and data obtained through the Quality of Living Reports (the “Reports”) are for information purposes only and are intended for use by multi-national organizations and government agencies that transfer employees from one country to another. They are not designed or intended to use as the basis for foreign investment or tourism. In no event will Mercer be liable to for any decision made or action taken in reliance of the results obtained through the use of, or the information and/or data contained in or provided by, 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, but not limited to, representations and implied warranties of quality, accuracy, timeliness, completeness, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.

 

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City rankings

Top 50 cities: Quality of living ranking

Base City: New York, US (=100)

 

 

Rank 2010 City Country Qol index 2010
1 VIENNA AUSTRIA 108.6
2 ZURICH SWITZERLAND 108
3 GENEVA SWITZERLAND 107.9
4 VANCOUVER CANADA 107.4
4 AUCKLAND NEW ZEALAND 107.4
6 DUSSELDORF  GERMANY 107.2
7 FRANKFURT  GERMANY 107
7 MUNICH GERMANY 107
9 BERN SWITZERLAND 106.5
10 SYDNEY  AUSTRALIA 106.3
11 COPENHAGEN DENMARK 106.2
12 WELLINGTON NEW ZEALAND 105.9
13 AMSTERDAM NETHERLANDS 105.7
14 OTTAWA CANADA 105.5
15 BRUSSELS BELGIUM 105.4
16 TORONTO CANADA 105.3
17 BERLIN GERMANY 105
18 MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA 104.8
19 LUXEMBOURG LUXEMBOURG 104.6
20 STOCKHOLM SWEDEN 104.5
21 PERTH AUSTRALIA 104.2
21 MONTREAL CANADA 104.2
23 HAMBURG  GERMANY 104.1
24 NURNBURG GERMANY 103.9
24 OSLO NORWAY 103.9
26 CANBERRA AUSTRALIA 103.6
26 DUBLIN IRELAND 103.6
28 CALGARY CANADA 103.5
28 SINGAPORE SINGAPORE 103.5
30 STUTTGART  GERMANY 103.3
31 HONOLULU UNITED STATES 103.1
32 ADELAIDE AUSTRALIA 103
32 SAN FRANCISCO UNITED STATES 103
34 PARIS FRANCE 102.9
35 HELSINKI FINLAND 102.6
36 BRISBANE AUSTRALIA 102.4
37 BOSTON UNITED STATES 102.2
38 LYON FRANCE 101.9
39 LONDON UNITED KINGDOM 101.6
40 TOKYO JAPAN 101.4
41 MILAN ITALY 100.8
41 KOBE JAPAN 100.8
41 YOKOHAMA JAPAN 100.8
44 BARCELONA SPAIN 100.6
45 LISBON PORTUGAL 100.3
45 CHICAGO UNITED STATES 100.3
45 WASHINGTON UNITED STATES 100.3
48 MADRID SPAIN 100.2
49 NEW YORK CITY UNITED STATES 100
50 SEATTLE UNITED STATES 99.8

 

 

Top 50 cities: Eco-City ranking

Base City: New York, US (=100)

 

*Eco-City Ranking 2010 includes the following criteria: Water availability, water potability, waste removal, sewage, air pollution and traffic congestion.

 

Rank 2010 City Country Eco-city index* 2010
1 CALGARY CANADA 145.7
2 HONOLULU UNITED STATES 145.1
3 OTTAWA CANADA 139.9
3 HELSINKI FINLAND 139.9
5 WELLINGTON NEW ZEALAND 138.9
6 MINNEAPOLIS UNITED STATES 137.8
7 ADELAIDE AUSTRALIA 137.5
8 COPENHAGEN DENMARK 137.4
9 KOBE JAPAN 135.6
9 OSLO NORWAY 135.6
9 STOCKHOLM SWEDEN 135.6
12 PERTH AUSTRALIA 135.3
13 MONTREAL CANADA 133.6
13 VANCOUVER CANADA 133.6
13 NURNBERG GERMANY 133.6
13 AUCKLAND NEW ZEALAND 133.6
13 BERN SWITZERLAND 133.6
13 PITTSBURGH UNITED STATES 133.6
19 ZURICH SWITZERLAND 133.5
19 ABERDEEN UNITED KINGDOM 133.5
21 CANBERRA AUSTRALIA 133.3
22 SINGAPORE SINGAPORE 132.4
23 BRISBANE AUSTRALIA 131.6
23 WASHINGTON UNITED STATES 131.6
25 MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA 131.5
25 GENEVA SWITZERLAND 131.5
25 BOSTON UNITED STATES 131.5
28 DUSSELDORF GERMANY 130.7
28 MUNICH GERMANY 130.7
30 CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA 129.4
30 BELFAST UNITED KINGDOM 129.4
32 LYON FRANCE 129.3
33 DUBLIN IRELAND 128.9
34 HAMBURG GERMANY 128.8
34 STUTTGART GERMANY 128.8
34 PHILADELPHIA UNITED STATES 128.8
37 YOKOHAMA JAPAN 128.7
38 VICTORIA SEYCHELLES 128.5
39 TORONTO CANADA 127.1
39 AMSTERDAM NETHERLANDS 127.1
41 BRUSSELS BELGIUM 126.8
41 LEIPZIG GERMANY 126.8
43 ST. LOUIS UNITED STATES 126.6
44 VIENNA AUSTRIA 126.2
44 LUXEMBOURG LUXEMBOURG 126.2
46 SYDNEY AUSTRALIA 125
47 GLASGOW  UNITED KINGDOM 124.7
48 MUSCAT  OMAN 124.2
49 POINTE-A-PITRE GUADELOUPE 123.8
50 NAGOYA JAPAN 123.1
50 OSAKA JAPAN 123.1
50 FRANKFURT GERMANY 123.1

 

 

Mercer is a leading global provider of consulting, outsourcing and investment services. Mercer works with clients to solve their most complex benefit and human capital issues, designing and helping manage health, retirement and other benefits. It is a leader in benefit outsourcing. Mercer’s investment services include investment consulting and investment management. Mercer’s 18,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., which lists its stock (ticker symbol: MMC) on the New York, Chicago and London stock exchanges. For more information, visit www.mercer.com

 


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