Vienna named as the best city in the world for expats to live and work

by Ray Clancy on December 1, 2011

The Mercer 2011 Quality of Living Survey examines living standards for expats around the world

Vienna has the best living standards in the world followed by Zurich and Auckland, according to an annual study that examines the quality of living for expats.

Europe is the top continent with Munich in fourth place, Dusseldorf in fifth, Frankfurt in seventh, Geneva in eighth and Copenhagen and Bern sharing ninth place.

The Mercer 2011 Quality of Living Survey is compiled to help governments and multi-national companies compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments.

It provides valuable information and hardship premium recommendations for 221 major cities throughout the world ranked against New York as the base city.

European cities represent over half the cities amongst the top 25 in the ranking. London (38) is the highest ranking UK city and is followed by Birmingham (52), Aberdeen (54) and Glasgow (56). Belfast (63) is the lowest ranking of the UK cities.

Globally, the cities with the lowest quality of living are Khartoum, Sudan (217), Port-au-Prince, Haiti (218), N’Djamena, Chad (219), and Bangui, Central African Republic (220). Baghdad, Iraq (221) ranks last.

This year, the survey separately identifies those cities with the highest personal safety ranking based on internal stability, crime levels, law enforcement effectiveness and the host country’s international relations. Luxembourg tops this personal safety ranking, followed by Bern, Helsinki and Zurich, all ranked at number two. Vienna ranks fifth, while Geneva and Stockholm both rank sixth.

Baghdad (221) is the world’s least safe city, followed by N’Djamena, Chad (220), Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (219), Bangui, Central African Republic (218), and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (217).

‘Companies need to keep on top of current developments to ensure that their compensation packages remain competitive and continue to motivate expatriate employees. That means reviewing major events, such as social unrest, economic turmoil or natural disasters and their impact on the success of overseas placements,’ said Slagin Parakatil, senior researcher at Mercer.

‘The top ranking cities for personal safety and security are in politically stable countries with good international relations and relatively sustainable economic growth. Most of the low scoring cities are in countries with civil unrest, high crime levels and little law enforcement,’ explained Parakatil.

‘All UK cities rank fairly high for personal safety. The UK’s good international relations and stable internal political situation allow for a relatively secure environment for expatriates. When compared internationally, law enforcement in the UK is efficient and crime levels are relatively low,’ said Milan Taylor, head of Mercer’s data and product services in the UK and Ireland.

‘Within the UK, London rates below its counterparts mainly due to higher crime levels, something that is a common place amongst many of the larger European cities,’ he added.

But Parakatil warned that the current economic turmoil could affect the quality of living in Europe.

‘Economic turmoil, high levels of unemployment and lack of confidence in political institutions make their future positions hard to predict. Countries such Austria, Germany and Switzerland still fare particularly well in both the quality of living and personal safety rankings, yet they are not immune from decreases in living standards if this uncertainty persists,’ he said.

In North America Vancouver is the top city, in Central and South America it is Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe, in Asia Pacific it is Auckland and in the Middle East and North Africa it is Dubai.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Guest December 7, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Vancouver should not be in the list. Cost of housing is outrageous. Most expats are leaving, especially once they have kids, despite having decent salaries.


Guest December 23, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Vancouver is a VERY nice place to live, especially as compared to the study's baseline city New York. If the base city was NOT New York then I would agree Vancouver shouldn't be on the list.


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