Western European cities dominate Mercer’s new safety ranking as trade tensions and populist undercurrents continue to dominate the global economic climate

While trade tensions and populist undercurrents are acknowledged as key influences impacting the global economic climate, the 21st annual Quality of Living survey from Mercer shows that many cities around the world still offer attractive environments in which to do business.

The company, a subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, a leading global professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people, says international businesses “are under more pressure than ever” to get their overseas operations right and the best “understand that the quality of living is an essential component” of a city’s attractiveness for businesses and mobile talent.

Once again the Austrian capital, Vienna, tops its latest business ranking, the 10th consecutive year it has held the position, closely followed by the Swiss city of Zurich. In joint third place are Auckland, Munich and Vancouver – the highest ranking city in North America for the last ten years. Singapore (#25), Montevideo (#78) and Port Louis (#83) retain their status as the highest ranking cities in Asia, South America and Africa respectively.

Mercer’s authoritative survey is accepted as being one of the most comprehensive of its type in the world and is conducted annually to enable multinational companies and other organisations to compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments. In addition to valuable data on relative quality of living, Mercer’s survey provides assessment for more than 450 cities throughout the world.

This year, Mercer also provides a separate ranking on personal safety, which analyses cities’ internal stability; crime levels; law enforcement; limitations on personal freedom; relationships with other countries and freedom of the press. “Personal safety is the cornerstone of stability in any city, without which business and talent cannot thrive,” it says.

Western Europe dominates the rankings, with Luxembourg named as the safest city in the world, followed by Helsinki and the Swiss cities of Basel, Bern and Zurich in joint second. According to Mercer’s 2019 personal safety ranking, Damascus ranked bottom in 231st place and Bangui in the Central African Republic scored second lowest in 230th place.

CHART – There is a general North/South geographic split between the top and bottom ten cities in the rankingSource: Mercer Quality of Living survey

The Blue Swan Daily looks more closely at the latest survey from a regional perspective.

In Europe, alongside Vienna, Zurich and Munich heading up the global rankings a further ten cities are ranked among the world’s top 20 spots. The major European capitals of Berlin (#13), Paris (#39) and London (#41) remained static in the rankings this year, while Madrid (#46) rose three places and Rome (#56) climbed one. Minsk (#188), Tirana (#175) and St Petersburg (#174) remained the lowest ranking cities in Europe this year, while Sarajevo (#156) rose three places due to a fall in reported crime.

In North America, Canadian cities continue to score highest with Vancouver (#3) ranking highest for overall quality of living, as well as sharing the top spot with Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Calgary for safety. Almost all US cities covered in the analysis fell in the rankings this year, with Washington DC (#53) the biggest faller. The exception was New York (#44), rising one place as crime rates in the city continue to fall. Detroit remains the US city with the lowest quality of living this year, with the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince (#228) the lowest in all the Americas.

In South America, Montevideo (#78) again ranked the highest for quality of living, whilst continued instability saw Caracas (#202) fall another nine places this year for quality of living and 48 places for safety, making it the least safe city in the Americas. The quality of living remained broadly unchanged from last year in other key cities, including Buenos Aires (#91), Santiago (#93) and Rio de Janeiro (#118).

In the Middle East, Dubai (#74) continues to rank highest for quality of living across the Middle East, closely followed by Abu Dhabi (#78); whereas Sana’a (#229) and Baghdad (#231) rank lowest in the region. The opening of new recreational facilities as part of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision saw Riyadh (#164) climb one place this year, and a decline in its crime rate and a lack of terrorist incidents over the last twelve months saw Istanbul (#130) rise four places.

In Africa, Port Louis (#83) was the city with the best quality of living and also its safest (#59). It was closely followed for overall quality of living by the South African cities of Durban (#88), Cape Town (#95) and Johannesburg (#96), though these cities still rank low for personal safety. Conversely, Bangui (#230) scored the lowest for the continent and also ranked lowest for personal safety (#230).

CHART – Taking into account 39 factors affecting the quality of living, Mercer has ranked the top five most desirable cities for international employees across world regionsSource: Mercer Quality of Living survey

In Asia, Singapore (#25) has the highest quality of living, followed by the five Japanese cities of Tokyo (#49), Kobe (#49), Yokohama (#55), Osaka (#58), and Nagoya (#62), and then Hong Kong (#71) and Seoul (#77), which rose two places this year as political stability returned following the arrest of its president last year.

Across South East Asia, other notable cities include Kuala Lumpur (#85), Bangkok (#133), Manila (#137), and Jakarta (#142); and in mainland China: Shanghai (#103), Beijing (#120), Guangzhou (#122) and Shenzhen (#132). Safety continues to be an issue in the central Asian cities of Almaty (#181), Tashkent (#201), Ashgabat (#206), Dushanbe (#209) and Bishkek (#211).

In Southern Asia, the Indian cities of New Delhi (#162), Mumbai (#154) and Bengaluru (#149) remained unchanged from last year’s ranking for overall quality of living, with Colombo (#138) topping the ranking. Chennai ranks as the region’s safest city (#105), while Karachi (#226) is the least safe.

Looking finally into the Pacific, New Zealand and Australia continue to rank highly in quality of living, with Auckland (#3), Sydney (#11), Wellington (#15), and Melbourne (#17) all remaining in the top 20. Australia’s major cities all rank within the top 50 for safety, with Auckland and Wellington topping the safety ranking for Oceania in joint 9th place.