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Vienna has the best living standard in the world, according to the Mercer 2011 Quality of Living Survey. Zurich and Auckland follow in second and third position, respectively, and Munich is in fourth with Düsseldorf and Vancouver sharing fifth place. Frankfurt is in seventh, followed by Geneva in eighth, while Copenhagen and Bern share ninth place.
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 that Mercer surveys. 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 in Mercer's table.
Mercer conducts the survey to help governments and multi-national companies compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments. Mercer's Quality of Living reports provide valuable information and hardship premium recommendations for major cities throughout the world. Mercer's Quality of Living index list covers 221 cities, ranked against New York as the base city.
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).
Aberdeen and Glasgow both rank 44 and are the highest ranking UK cities on the personal safety list. Birmingham (53) and Belfast (63) both rank higher than London (68).
Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer, commented "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."
"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."
Vienna is the European city with the highest quality of living. German and Swiss cities dominate the top of the ranking, with three cities each in the top 10. Zurich (2) is followed by Munich (4), Düsseldorf (5), Frankfurt (7) and Geneva (8), while Bern shares ninth place with Copenhagen.
In the next tier are Amsterdam (12), Hamburg (16), Berlin (17), Luxembourg (19), Stockholm (20), Brussels (22), Nurnberg (24) and Dublin (26). Paris ranks 30 and is followed by Oslo (33), Helsinki (35) and London (38). Lisbon is number 41, Madrid is at 43 and Rome ranks 52. Prague, Czech Republic (69), is the highest-ranking eastern European city, followed by Budapest, Hungary (73), Ljubljana, Slovenia (75), Vilnius, Lithuania (79), and Warsaw, Poland (84). The lowest-ranking European city is Tbilisi, Georgia (214).
With seven cities in the top 10, European cities also fare well in the personal safety ranking. Luxembourg ranks highest, followed by Bern, Helsinki and Zurich, which all rank second. Vienna (5) is ahead of jointly ranked Geneva and Stockholm (6). In Eastern Europe, Ljubljana (30) and Prague (47) rank highest for personal safety, whereas Moscow (199) and Tbilisi (215) rank lowest.
Parakatil said "European cities in general continue to have high standards of living, because they enjoy advanced and modern city infrastructures combined with high-class medical, recreational and leisure facilities. But 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."