The analysis is part of an annual World-wide Quality of Living Survey, covering more than 350 cities, to help governments and multinational companies place employees on international assignments. Each city is based on an evaluation of 39 criteria, including political, social, economic and environmental factors, personal safety and health, education, transport, and other public services. Cities are ranked against New York as the base city, which has an index score of 100.
Europe and the Middle East
Almost half the top 30 scoring cities are in Western Europe. In this region, Vienna follows Zurich and Geneva in 4th position with a score of 107.5. Other highly-rated cities include Düsseldorf (107.2), Frankfurt (107.0) and Munich (106.8) in positions 6, 7 and 8 respectively. Athens remains the lowest scoring city in Western Europe, scoring 86.8 at position 79.
London is the UK's highest ranking city and is stable at position 39 (score 101.2). The two other UK cities covered in the survey are Birmingham and Glasgow, which both score 98.3 and climb one place to joint 55th position.
Dublin has dropped two places to 24th position, scoring 103.8, mainly due to increased traffic congestion.
As predicted, cities in Eastern Europe such as Budapest, Ljubljana, Prague, Vilnius, Tallinn and Warsaw continue to benefit from incremental score increases and are gradually climbing the rankings.
"The standard of living in many Eastern European cities is gradually improving, as the countries that most recently joined the EU attract greater investment," commented Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer. "Yet cities such as Dubai may still offer a wider variety of facilities demanded by expatriates – for example, well-connected international airports and better opportunities for recreation and leisure activities – compared to many Eastern European cities."
Positions for most cities in Europe and the Middle East are generally unchanged, with the exception of Cairo which has tumbled nine places to position 131 and scores 71.2 due to the political turmoil and terrorist attacks in the city and surrounding area.
Baghdad ranks as the least attractive city for expatriates for a third consecutive year, with a score of 14.5.
Honolulu, the highest ranking city in the U.S., drops two positions to 27th with a score of 103.3. San Francisco remains at 28th position and scores 103.2. Boston, Washington, Chicago and Portland follow in positions 36, 41, 41 and 43 respectively (scores 101.9, 100.4, 100.4 and 100.3) while Houston remains the lowest ranking city in the U.S. at position 68 (score 95.4). Overall, U.S. cities continue to slip slightly or remain stable in the rankings, except Chicago which has moved up 11 places due to decreased crime rates.
"Economies in the developed world tend to be relatively stable overall. Fluctuations in the quality of living in these regions are usually driven by factors such as increased air pollution, crime rates and traffic congestion, or external events like terrorism, disease outbreaks or natural disasters," said Parakatil.
In South America, scores vary considerably due to differences in economic and political stability. "Argentina's steady economic recovery is likely to push its cities up in the rankings in the next few years," commented Parakatil.
Auckland and Wellington have both moved up the rankings from 8th to 5th and 14th to 12th places respectively, mainly due to strong internal stability relative to other cities, while Sydney remains at position 9 with a score of 106.5.
In Asia, Singapore ranks 34th (score 102.5) followed by Tokyo, Japan's highest scoring city, at position 35 (score 102.3). Hong Kong's modern and efficient infrastructure, including its airport (which is considered one of best in the world), has pushed it up from 70th to 68th position with a score of 95.4.
The top-ranking city in China is Shanghai in 103rd place (score 80.1). "Beijing and Shanghai are on the rise and should experience rapid improvements in quality of living in the coming years. This is mainly due to greater international investment driven by the availability and lower cost of labor and manufacturing expertise," explained Parakatil.
Though cities in India generally rank lower than their Chinese counterparts, they are also showing signs of development in the region.
"The quality of living in Indian cites such as Mumbai and Bangalore is increasing slowly but steadily, primarily due to India's improved political relationships with other countries," said Mr. Parakatil. "Investment from multinationals setting up operations in India may prompt further improvements, boost economic growth and contribute to economic stability. In turn, this will encourage the local authorities to focus on improving quality of living standards."
Other low-ranking cities for overall quality of living include Congo in Brazzaville (score 30.3) and Bangui in the Central African Republic and Khartoum in Sudan (30.6 and 31.7).
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