European cities remain the best place to work and live

07 March 2016 5 min. read
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European cities are the top destinations for international companies sending staff on assignments, providing a safe, cultural, stable and well developed environment for expats. Vienna comes in as the globe’s number one most liveable city, followed by Zurich and Auckland. On the other side of the ranking, Baghdad in Iraq and Damascus in Syria are the least liveable cities, both suffering from the ravages of violence.

For the past 18 years Mercer has released its global quality of living index. This year’s report, titled ‘2016 Quality of Living Rankings’, explores 230 global cities for their liveability and attractiveness for expats. The survey is designed to provide global governments and major companies with detailed information to improve their decision making around the placement, and fair compensation, of expat employees on international assignments.

The survey itself involves the measurement of 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories for each location. Factors include the political and social environment, economic environment, socio-cultural environment, medical and health considerations, schools and education, public services and transportation, recreation, consumer goods, housing, and natural environment. The weighting of each category is based on their respective importance set by expats.

Top ten cities vs bottom 10 cities

The top and bottom
The top ranked city for 2016 is Vienna, the capital of Austria. The city has been the top contender in the past seven rankings, keeping its position on the back of relatively cheap housing, a strong safety profile, a lively culture as well as a strong public transport profile. The Swiss capital Zurich comes in second, where it too stood in 2014, providing expats with a strong cultural heritage as well as world class facilities and strong social and economic conditions. Auckland, New Zealand, comes in third – the ‘City of Sails’ provides expats with a high standard of education, relaxed lifestyle and stability. The quality of its infrastructure including transport and the quality of health care let it down however. Munich in Germany comes in fourth, followed by Vancouver in Canada. In this years’ ranking Germany performed particularly well, picking up three spots in the top ten.

On the other side of the scale are the bottom ten lowest ranked cities. These include a number of African continent entries, in often war-torn countries, including Kinshase in the Democratic Republic of Congo at 222, Brazzaville in Congo at 223, Khartoum in Sudan at 226, and Bangul in the Central African Republic at 229. The devastation of war, insurgency and political infighting sees Baghdad, Iraq, on the bottom of the list at 230. Syrian capital Damascus does not fare much better at 224, while Yemen’s Sana’a – with a proxy war and internal strife still raging – too does poorly. 

Western European capitals perform relatively well, with Copenhagen, Denmark, at 9, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, coming in at number 11, while Berlin, Germany, holding 13th spot. Luxembourg, the capital of the state Luxembourg, comes in at 19, while Stockholm makes number 20. Paris was the only city to see a big move since the previous year, falling 10 spots to 37 from 27 on the back of security concerns following the recent terrorist acts within the French capital.

Top five cities by regions

Top cities by region
In terms of regions, Europe ranks by far the highest, with its top five cities all within the top ten globally. The US does relatively poorly in the report in terms of its North American placements, with most of the cities in the region that rank well found in Canada. South America performs relatively poorly with most of its cities ranked about 100. East Asia, particularly Japan, has a relatively strong performance – many of the cities find themselves in the top 50. Singapore stands at 26, while Eastern Europe, as well Africa and the Middle East, have cities in the range of 70 to 90.

Personal safety rankings to vs bottom ten cities

Safest cities
The consulting firm also explores the safety profile of the top 10 and bottom ten cities involved in the survey. Luxembourg is the safest city surveyed. Switzerland has three cities in the top ten, with Bern and Zurich second equal, while Geneva comes in sixth. New Zealand has two placements in the top 10, with Auckland and Wellington holding a tied 9th spot.

The bottom 10 cities are found in the Middle East and Africa. Baghdad again comes in last place, while civil and insurgency torn Damascus is second to last. Nairobi in Kenya comes in at 224, while Libya’s Tripoli takes the 218th spot.

Slagin Parakatil, Principal at Mercer and responsible for the quality-of-living research, remarks: “Ensuring that the needs of expatriates and their families are met wherever work takes them is an essential part of talent retention and recruitment strategies for most multinationals. Managing safety and health issues is of utmost importance, especially for employees who relocate with a family. Our surveys enable companies to take adequate precautions for them.”