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Mercer’s Latest Quality Of Living Survey Finds San Francisco Is The Top-Ranked City In The United States

Vienna has the world’s best quality of living, according to the Mercer 2015 Quality of Living rankings. Overall, European cities dominate the top of the ranking along with major cities in Australia and New Zealand. Zurich, Auckland, and Munich are in second, third, and fourth places respectively. In fifth place, Vancouver is the highest-ranking city in North America and the region’s only city in the top 10. Singapore (26) is the highest-ranking Asian city, whereas Dubai (74) ranks first across the Middle East and Africa. Montevideo in Uruguay (78) takes the top spot for South America.

In the US, San Francisco (27) is the highest ranking city, followed by Boston (34), Honolulu (36) and Chicago (43). New York City and Seattle rank 44.

Mercer conducts its Quality of Living survey annually to help multinational companies and other employers compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments. Employee incentives include a quality-of-living allowance and a mobility premium*.

Mercer’s Quality of Living Reports provide valuable information and hardship premium recommendations for over 440 cities throughout the world; the ranking covers 230 of these cities.

“Taking a short- or long-term work assignment in a new country is both an exciting and challenging experience for employees and their families,” said Slagin Parakatil, Principal at Mercer. “Cultures, societies, and comparatively different climates, as well as political instability, high crime rates, and poor infrastructure can be difficult to navigate and settle down in for employees and their families. Employers need to assess whether their staff and families will encounter any drop in quality of living when relocating and ensure they are fairly compensated for it.”

Mr. Parakatil added, “As with last year’s survey, we continue to recognise emerging cities that are increasingly becoming competitors to traditional business and finance centres. These so called ‘second-tier emerging cites’ are investing, particularly in infrastructure to improve their quality-of-living standards and ultimately attract more foreign companies.”

Americas

In North America, Canada and the United States continue to offer a high standard of living. Vancouver (5) tops the list for this region, followed by fellow Canadian cities Toronto (15) and Ottawa (16), whereas San Francisco (27), Boston (34), and Honolulu (36) are the highest-ranking US cities. Mexico’s highest ranking city is Monterrey (109), while Mexico City is ranked 126th. The lowest-ranking cities in the North American region are Havana (193) and Port-au-Prince (228).

Steve Nurney, Partner and Mercer’s North America Global Mobility business leader said, “Quality of living remained high in North American cities overall due to the range of consumer goods and services that are available.”

In South America the quality of living varies; Montevideo (78), Buenos Aires (91), and Santiago (93) are the highest-ranked cities, whereas La Paz (156) and Caracas (179) rank lowest. “Economic woes and high levels of crime continue to remain a major problem in many of the region’s cities,” said Mr. Nurney. In Brazil, Mercer has identified Manaus as an emerging city – it is ranked 127th. The city is already a thriving industrial centre and has a free economic zone – its good supply of consumer goods and relatively advanced infrastructure partially counteract the impact of Manaus’ lack of international schooling options for expatriates and remote location.

Europe

Despite concerns about economic growth, the cities of Western Europe continue to offer a stable environment for employees and employers. Vienna (1) is followed by Zurich (2), Munich (4), Düsseldorf (6), and Frankfurt (7). With Geneva and Copenhagen in 8th and 9th places, respectively, Western European cities take seven places in the top 10. The lowest-ranking cities in Western Europe are Belfast (63) and Athens (85).

Cities in Central and Eastern Europe have a wider range of quality-of-living standards. The highest-ranking cities are Prague (68), Budapest, and Ljubljana (both ranked 75th). Emerging city Wroclaw (100), Poland, has a thriving cultural and social environment and good availability of consumer goods. The region’s lower-ranking cities are Kiev (176), Tirana (180), and Minsk (189), with Kiev experiencing a considerable drop in the rankings following political instability and violence in Ukraine overall. In the UK, London (40) is the highest-ranking city, followed by Birmingham (52), Glasgow (55), Aberdeen (57), and Belfast (63).

“UK cities overall enjoy high standards of quality of living and remain stable and attractive locations for businesses,” said Ellyn Karetnick, Principal at Mercer. “Security has been tightened in many major European cities following the terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen and Mercer is closely monitoring any potential impact on the living standard of the expatriates and their families in these locations.”

Asia-Pacific

Asia is the region with the largest range in quality-of-living standards, with the highest-ranking city, Singapore, in 25th place and the lowest-ranking, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in 214th place. Topping the ranking across East Asian cities is Tokyo in 44th place; Other key cities in this part of the region include Hong Kong (70), Seoul (72), Taipei (83), Shanghai (101), and Beijing (118). Notable emerging cities in this part of Asia include Cheonan (98), South Korea, and Taichung (99) in Taiwan. Chinese cities Xi’an and Chongqing (both ranked 142nd) are also emerging as business destinations.

Their main challenges to improving quality-of-living standards are clean water provision and air pollution. However, advances in the telecommunications and consumer sectors have had some positive offsetting effects on their ranking. Behind Singapore, the second highest-ranking city in Southeast Asia is Kuala Lumpur (84); other major cities here include Bangkok (117), Manila (136), and Jakarta (140).

In South Asia, Colombo (132), ranks highest and is followed by emerging Indian cities Hyderabad (138) and Pune (145). Both cities rank higher for quality of living than the country’s more traditional business centres, Mumbai (152) and New Delhi (154). Considerable population increases in Mumbai and New Delhi in recent decades have increased existing problems, including access to clean water, air pollution, and traffic congestion.

In the Pacific, New Zealand and Australian cities are some of the highest-ranked cities globally, with Auckland in 3rd, Sydney in 10th, Wellington in 12th, and Melbourne in 16th.

Middle East and Africa

In 74th place, Dubai ranks highest for quality of living across the Middle East and Africa region.

It is followed by Abu Dhabi (77), also in the UAE, and Port Louis (82), Mauritius. In South Africa, Durban (85) is an emerging city and ranks higher than the country’s traditional business centres, Cape Town (91) and Johannesburg (94). Durban’s higher ranking is mainly due to its high-quality housing, plentiful recreational offerings and good consumer goods availability. However, the city’s crime problems keep it from reaching the top 50. Ranking 230th, Baghdad is the lowest-ranking city in the region and on the overall list.

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