Eight of the top ten are in Europe, with the highest city in the US coming at 29th — San Francisco.

Vienna tops the charts for the 8th year consecutively. Image via Pixabay.

Every year, Mercer, the world’s largest human resources consulting firm, creates their most livable cities ranking. City infrastructure plays a key role in determining a city’s “livability”, with easy access to transportation, reliable electricity and drinkable water also being major factors. Traffic congestion, pollution, public services, social environment, schools, and even access to international flights are considered.

The best cities

This year, much like in previous years, Europe dominates the rankings. Despite growing political instability, Europe keeps ensuring a great standard of living for its residents. For the 8th year straight, Vienna was crowned the most livable city, with Switzerland’s Zurich coming in second place. Interestingly, it was Central more than Western Europe that did well. Munich came in 4th, followed by Dusseldorf (6), Frankfurt (7), Geneva (8), Copenhagen (9), and Basel, a newcomer to the list, in 10th place. The only two non-EU cities in the list are Auckland (3) and Vancouver (5). For Asia, the best city seems to be Singapore (25) while in South America, Montevideo ranks best (79). Sydney came in at 10th.

In North America, Canada took the best spots. Vancouver (5), followed by Toronto (16) and Ottawa (18) are the best cities to live in on the continent, whereas San Francisco, the best US city, only ranks 29th. Interestingly, it is followed by Boston (35), Honolulu (36), New York (44), and Seattle (45). High crime rates in Chicago and Los Angeles dropped the cities significantly from last year’s ranking to 47th and 58th respectively.

Most European cities remained pretty stable with the notable exception of Brussels (27), which dropped six places largely due to terrorism-related issues. Rome also dropped to 57 due to its inability to tackle waste removal. The lowest ranking cities in the continent are St. Petersburg and Tirana (both ranked 176), along with Minsk (189).

San Francisco was the best ranking US city. Image credits: Basil D Soufi

Dubai (74) continues to rank highest for quality of living across Africa and the Middle East, rising one position in this year’s ranking, followed closely by Abu Dhabi (79), which climbed three spots. UK’s highest city, London, ranks 40th for quality of living, though it ranked 6th for infrastructure.

Ranking the world

Mercer analyzes 450 cities throughout the world, their work being aimed both at citizens and at multinational companies who want to establish new working relationships. Mercer says that their ranking is especially important for companies looking to send workers on international assignments. Asking someone to live in a particular city requires significant compensation, and knowing how well that city fares in terms of quality of living could ensure a just compensation.

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“Economic instability, social unrest, and growing political upheaval all add to the complex challenge multinational companies face when analysing quality of living for their expatriate workforce,” said Ilya Bonic, senior partner and president of Mercer’s Career business.

Mr Parakatil added that they focused most on the aspects which influence the day-to-day experience of inhabitants. It should be kept in mind that this is not a touristic ranking — it’s about people who live in those cities, not travelers.

 “A city’s infrastructure, or rather the lack thereof, can considerably affect the quality of living that expatriates and their families experience on a daily basis. Access to a variety of transport options, being connected locally and internationally, and access to electricity and drinkable water are among the essential needs of expatriates arriving in a new location on assignment. A well-developed infrastructure can also be a key competitive advantage for cities and municipalities trying to attract multinational companies, talent, and foreign investments.”

Here are the factors that determined the rankings:

1.     Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement, etc.).

2.     Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services).

3.     Socio-cultural environment (media availability and censorship, limitations on personal freedom).

4.     Medical and health considerations (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc.).

5.     Schools and education (standards and availability of international schools).

6.     Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transportation, traffic congestion, etc.).

7.     Recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure, etc.).

8.     Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc.).

9.     Housing (rental housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services).

10.  Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters).