Quality-Of-Living Rankings Spotlight Emerging Cities

Quality-Of-Living Rankings Spotlight Emerging Cities

Mercer Insights

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June 2014



Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey — conducted to help multinational organizations compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments — ranks cities in Western Europe, New Zealand, and Canada among the best in terms of such quality factors as political/social/economic environment, medical/health considerations, and education. The latest edition of the survey, released in early 2014, also recognizes several emerging cities that have been investing heavily in their infrastructures to improve their quality of living and compete for expats with the highest-ranked cities.

Five highest- and lowest-ranked cities

Consistent with past rankings, cities in Western Europe dominate the quality-of-living rankings, with Vienna and Zurich rated first and second in their region and also globally. Among the lowest-ranked cities are Baghdad, Iraq, which ranks last globally; Bangui, Central African Republic; and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (See Figure 1)

Other survey findings

A tale of two Europes

European cities enjoy a high overall quality of living compared to those in other regions, with very high standards of infrastructure and health care as well as political stability and low crime levels. But those cities that received the lowest rankings in the region are found mostly in Eastern Europe, although these locations are trying to improve their infrastructure and internal stability. (See Figure 2)

Asian cities vary widely

Asian cities are improving in quality while others, such as some in China, continue to struggle with pervasive air pollution that impacts living quality. Among the top-ranked locations in Asia, Singapore and cities in Japan (Tokyo, Kobe, Yokohama, and Osaka) dominate. In Australasia, Sydney, Australia, ranks 10th overall, with Wellington, New Zealand, at 12th overall.

Canada dominates in North America

Only one US city — San Francisco — ranked in North America’s top five for quality of living. The rankings in this region were dominated by Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal — all of which ranked in the top 10% globally. North America generally ranks well in terms of infrastructure and availability of consumer goods.

Emerging economies step forward

The Quality of Living Survey cites several emerging cities as rising competitors in terms of living quality. The highest-ranked city in the Middle East and Africa, Dubai, has become a key expat destination, while other cities in this region, Asia, South America, and Europe are strengthening. (See Figure 3)

For more information, visit www.imercer.com/QOL.


Slagin Parakatil (Geneva)
Principal, Global Mobility
+41 22 869 30 79

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