Eight German cities appear on Mercer's latest quality of living list, including Frankfurt (shown here).
Living overseas is really glamorous — right? Maybe. As I noted in my recent post, “The Best Foreign Retirement Havens,” spending even several months at a time in a foreign country isn’t for everybody.
While that story was geared to folks who are dialing back, Mercer’s annual quality of living worldwide city rankings is designed for people who are working abroad — and for their employers. The rankings will interest retirees too, of course, but in the employment context they’re used to develop compensation packages for people with international assignments.
To come up with a list of 221 cities, Mercer evaluated local living conditions in more than 460 urban centers worldwide. It analyzed living conditions according to 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories that cover everything from personal freedom, availability of international schools and recreation; to access to consumer goods.
Experienced travelers will not be surprised to find that Europe dominates the top of the list, with 15 cities among the top 25 for quality of living. Vienna ranks highest; in fact the rest of the top 10 for Europe are dominated by German and Swiss cities.
“Factors such as internal stability, law enforcement effectiveness, crime levels and medical facilities are important to consider when deciding on an international assignment, and the impact on daily life that could be encountered by the expatriate in overseas placements,” says Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer. European cities score high not only because of increased stability and rising living standards, but also based on advanced city infrastructures,
which Mercer ranked separately this year for the first time.
Austria's capital Vienna was rated the best city to live by Mercer
Eight out of the top 10 cities with highest quality of life are located in Europe
(CNN) -- Vienna, famous for its hundreds of museums, 2000 parks and of course its roasted coffee, is the best place on the planet to live, according to Mercer's 2012 Quality of Living Index. This year's latest accolade makes Vienna number one in the world for the fourth year in a row.
The annual survey by the global human resources consulting firm points not just to Austria's qualities but to much of the region's virtues. Eight of the report's top 10 cities are in Europe. Zurich is the world's second most livable city while three German cities -- Munich, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt -- follow close behind.
"Overall, European cities continue to have high quality of living as a result of a combination of increased stability, rising living standards and advanced city infrastructures," said Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer. This is despite economic turmoil, political tension and high unemployment in some European countries.
Australian, New Zealand and Canadian metropolises round out the top ten list.
The world's top 30 cities of the Mercer 2012 index
1. Vienna, Austria (Language: GERMAN)
2. Zurich, Switzerland (Language: Mostly GERMAN; some FRENCH)
12. Amsterdam, Netherlands (One of the Languages: GERMAN)
13. Wellington, New Zealand
14. Ottawa, Canada
15. Toronto, Canada
16. Berlin, Germany (Language: GERMAN)
17. Hamburg, Germany (Language: GERMAN)
17. Melbourne, Australia
19. Luxembourg, Luxembourg (One of the Languages: GERMAN)
21. Perth, Australia
22. Brussels, Belgium (One of the Languages: GERMAN)
23. Montreal, Canada
24. Nuremberg, Germany (Language: GERMAN)
25. Singapore, Singapore
26. Canberra, Australia
27. Stuttgart, Germany (Language: GERMAN)
28. Honolulu, U.S.
29. Adelaide, Australia
29. (tie) Paris, France
29. (tie) San Francisco, U.S.
Mercer's survey results are based on an analysis of local living conditions comprising 39 factors in 10 categories. Political considerations include government stability and crime rates. Economic factors take into account banking services and currency exchange laws. Health considerations include access to medical care and pollution levels. Transport, housing and recreation are also taken into account.
City scores help multinational companies calculate compensation packages for the employees they dispatch overseas. A lower score often correlates into a better compensation package that includes hardship allowances, according to Mercer.
Countries with unstable governments or undergoing civil strife tend usually have lower scores. Eight African cities dominate the bottom ten in this year's survey.
"The ongoing turmoil in many countries across North Africa and the Middle East has led to serous security issues for locals and expatriates," says Mercer's Parakatil. "Companies need to be able to proactively implement mitigation plans, such as emergency repatriation, or adjust expatriate compensation packages accordingly."
Around the word and on a regional basis, the cities that score the lowest are the following: