Better Off in Europe?

June 10, 2008 ( - Mercer's 2008 Quality of Living survey reveals that European cities dominate worldwide quality of living rankings.

Zurich won the title as the highest ranked city for the second year in a row, followed by Vienna and Geneva (tied for second), then Vancouver and Auckland, Mercer said in a press release. But, if you’re not anxious to cut ties with the U.S., Honolulu was the first U.S. city to appear on the rankings at number 28, followed by San Francisco at number 29.

According to the press release, the cities at the bottom five of the list of 215 are Ndjamena, Chad (211), Khartoum, Sudan (212), Brazzaville, Congo (213), Bangui, Central African Republic (214), and Baghdad, Iraq (215), which retains its position as the city with the lowest quality of living.

The survey also ranks cities on personal safety based on internal stability, crime, effectiveness of law enforcement, and relationships with other countries. Again, European cities dominate, with Luxembourg on top, followed by Bern, Geneva, Helsinki, and Zurich (all tied for second). The safest U.S. cities (all appearing at number 53 on the list) are Chicago, Illinois; Honolulu, Hawaii; Houston, Texas; Lexington, Kentucky; San Francisco, California; and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Not surprisingly, Baghdad ranks as the world’s least safe city followed by Kinshasa, Dem. Rep. of the Congo (214), Karachi, Pakistan (213), Nairobi, Kenya (212), and Bangui, Central African Republic (211).


Canadian cities dominate the rankings in North America. Vancouver (4) has the best quality of living followed by Toronto (15), Ottawa (19), and Montreal (22). Followoing Honolulu and San Francisco in the U.S. are Boston (37), Chicago and Washington, DC (both ranking 44), and New York (49).

Canadian cities also rank best in terms of personal safety – Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver all ranked at 22. In the U.S., following the six that ranked 53 for personal safety, are Boston, Cleveland, Minneapolis, New York, Pittsburgh, and Portland (all at 69), followed by Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle and Washington, DC (all ranking 86). Atlanta and St. Louis rank 101.

In Central and South America, San Juan, Puerto Rico, retains the highest overall ranking at 72, followed by Montevideo, Uruguay, at 76. Port au Prince in Haiti ranks lowest in the region at 202. In terms of personal safety, Santo Domingo has the highest ranking in Central and South America at 92 followed by Panama City (96) and Monterrey, Mexico (99). Bogota, Columbia (207) has the lowest level of personal safety.

Switzerland and Germany are the European countries most represented as having the best quality of living, each with three cities in the top 10, according to Mercer's press release. The lowest ranking European city is Minsk (183) in Belarus. The most dangerous city for personal safety in Europe is Moscow (196).

In the Middle East and Africa, Cape Town (80) in South Africa and Port Louis in Mauritius are the region's cities with the best quality of living, followed by Dubai (83) and Abu Dhabi (87). Of the 25 lowest ranking cities, 19 are from Africa, including Lagos (198) and Port Harcourt (207) in Nigeria and Bangui, Central African Republic (214). Two are from the Middle East - Sanaa, Yeman Arab Republic (207), and Baghdad (215).

For personal safety, apart from Baghdad and Kinshasa, Dem. Rep. of the Congo, Nairobi, Kenya, is the worst ranked (212). Nigerian cities Lagos and Port Harcourt rank equally at 209, and Jerusalem and Beirut both rank 199. Abu Dhabi (33) is the region's best city for personal safety, followed by Dubai (47), and Port Louis, Mauritius (60).

In the Asia Pacific region, Auckland, New Zealand (5) is the city with the best quality of living, followed by Australian cities Sydney (10) and Wellington (12). For personal safety, Pakistan is one of the lowest-scoring destinations with Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore ranked 213, 203 and 192, respectively. Colombo in Sri Lanka appears at 204 while Dhaka, Bangladesh (201), Jakarta (189) and Manila (178) are among the region's cities scoring lowest on personal safety. Singapore is the region's best location for personal safety.

Slagin Parakatil, senior researcher at Mercer, said in the press release: "Businesses face constant challenges in identifying new markets, expanding operations and acquiring and strategically deploying resources. Establishing suitable allowances linked to local costs and quality of living is essential in encouraging expatriate employees with transferable skills to accept international assignments."

Further information and copies of the reports comparing quality of living indexes between a base city and a host city are available from Mercer Client Services at 800-333-3070 or by visiting .