Mercer, a consulting leader that helps other organizations around the world advance the health, wealth and performance of their employees, releases a survey annually that helps multinational companies and other organizations compensate employees when placing them on international assignments. Their survey for the year 2012 evaluates over 221 cities around the world on their quality of living with New York City as the base city and highlights several trends that can add onto what we as designers and urban planners believe makes a city successful and livable.
Read on for the 2012 results.
Perhaps the most vital tidbits that we can glean from the report are as follows:
- European cities continue to dominate the top of the Mercer ranking
- Vienna remains at the very top, while Baghdad lands at the very bottom
- Singapore ranks highest for city infrastructure, Port-au-Prince, Haiti the lowest
- Honolulu and San Francisco are the top-ranked US cities for overall quality of living, but European cities dominate the new city infrastructure ranking
Zurich and Auckland follow in second and third place after Vienna and Munich is in fourth place, followed by Vancouver, which ranked fifth. Düsseldorf dropped one spot to rank sixth followed by Frankfurt in seventh, Geneva in eighth, Copenhagen in ninth, and Bern and Sydney tied for tenth place. African and Middle Eastern cities display the lowest quality of living with Khartoum, Sudan (217), N’Djamena, Chad (218), Bangui, Central African Republic (220) and Baghdad, Iraq (221) ranking last.
Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer, explains that what goes into this yearly evaluation includes “factors such as internal stability, law enforcement effectiveness, crime levels and medical facilities," all of which are important to consider when deciding on an international assignment and can significantly impact the daily life of an expatriate. The exact factors used to evaluate these cities are grouped into 10 categories:
- Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement)
- Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services)
- Socio-cultural environment (censorship, limitations on personal freedom)
- Medical and health considerations (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc.)
- Schools and education (standard and availability of international schools)
- Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transportation, traffic congestion, etc.)
- Recreation (restaurants, theatres, movie theatres, sports and leisure, etc.)
- Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc.)
- Housing (rental housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services)
- Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters)
In addition to these criteria, Parakatil believes that infrastructure plays a very important role in evaluating cities, as a city's infrastructure can generate much hardship for its people if deficient. This year, Mercer even created a separate ranking system that identifies cities with the best infrastructure in terms of electricity supply, water availability, telephone and mail services, public transportation, traffic congestion and the range of international flights from local airports. Singapore led the way with Frankfurt and Munich in second place, followed by Copenhagen (4), Dusseldorf (5) and Hong Kong and London sharing 6th place. The highest ranking American cities in this survey were Atlanta (13), Dallas (15), Washington, DC (22) and Chicago (28).
Going back to the Quality of Living Survey, Mercer's findings have a lot to say about the cities of particular regions. For example, there has been little change among cities in the Americas, with Canadian cities leading as usual; however, some South and Central American cities have advanced in the rankings due to some infrastructural and recreational improvements. Nevertheless, political and security issues, along with natural disasters, continue to plague these developing cities.
Europe has 15 cities among the top 25 due to a combination of "increased stability, rising living standards and advanced city infrastructures." Economic turmoil, political tension and high unemployment in some European countries, however, have continued to be problematic in this region.
There exists a noticeable gap between cities in Asia Pacific where a few cities have improved due to investment in infrastructure and public services, continuously competing in order to attract more multinationals, foreigners, expatriates and tourists. At the same time, however, a considerable number of Asian cities rank in the bottom quartile, mainly due to high political volatility, poor infrastructure and obsolete public services.
Finally, in the Middle East and Africa, no city is ranked higher than 73rd (Dubai). Paraktil attributes this to the ongoing turmoil in many of this region's countries leading to serious security issues for locals and expatriates. “Many countries continue to experience violence through political demonstrations that have sometimes developed into massive uprisings and led to serious instability within the region," he continues. "Countries such as Syria and Mali have seen their quality of living levels drop substantially. Employers should continually monitor the situation in these countries, as circumstances can degrade rapidly.”