Date posted: 30/07/2019 5 min read

The best places to live in 2019 – and the worst

Vienna tops and Baghdad is bottom of Mercer’s 2019 Quality of Living City Rankings. So how much pay would lure you to Harare?

In Brief

  • Vienna tops the Mercer Quality of Living City Rankings for the 10th year; Auckland is number three.
  • All Australian and NZ major cities are in the top quartile of the quality of life rankings.
  • This can help Australia- and New Zealand-based employers attract international talent.

By Christopher Niesche

Imagine you’ve been angling for an overseas posting, and your boss comes back with the good news that something has opened up. But instead of one of the cities you had in mind – London, New York or Singapore – they think you’ll be a great asset to the Harare office.

How to begin weighing up the pros and cons of this potential new home town? And what sort of pay package would you ask for to take such a posting?

A good place to start is to know that the Zimbabwean capital sits at 210 on the 2019 Mercer Quality of Living City Rankings. Less attractive than Kenya’s Nairobi at 186, but more attractive than Sudanese capital Khartoum in 227th spot.

Karla Costa, Mercer’s global mobility practice leader in the Pacific, says the city rankings are used to calculate what sort of hardship allowance to pay when moving staff overseas, to compensate for a less comfortable lifestyle. A global cost of living index, produced by Mercer, is also used as part of the compensation calculations.

But the rankings are also very useful for professionals, such as chartered accountants, who are keen to get an idea what their quality of life might be like in a foreign city and what sort of compensation is needed to live comfortably in different locations.

Vienna tops the 2019 Mercer Quality of Living Index

The latest Quality of Living City Rankings places Austrian capital Vienna at the top of the Mercer ranking for the 10th consecutive year. Baghdad ranks last at 231.

For its index, Mercer takes into account factors including recreation, housing, the economic environment, public services and transport, schools and education, the socio-cultural environment and medical and health considerations. Key questions include: How is the city driving growth and building global awareness? Is it well connected with communication and transport infrastructures? Do its amenities attract a well-educated pool of talent to live there?

In 2019, all the major Australian and New Zealand cities maintain rankings in the top quartile. But while high quality of life rankings are a clear competitive advantage for Australia- and New Zealand-based employers when it comes to attracting international talent, there remains room for improvement, the report finds.

Auckland ranks third in the Mercer Index

Australia is without a city in the top 10. Sydney slipped from 10th place to 11th in the rankings due to increasing traffic congestion. Melbourne fell from 16 to 17, while Perth, Adelaide and Canberra all retained their respective rankings at 21, 29 and 30. Brisbane jumped from 37 to 35.

Australian cities score well in safety, climate, medical and health services, and quality housing, however some disappointing scores for traffic congestion and availability of international flights dragged down overall results.

Melbourne scored lower than Sydney on natural environment, with lower winter temperatures and a higher vulnerability to bushfires and flooding. However, the air pollution ranking was better.

New Zealand fared better overall, with Auckland maintaining third place and Wellington coming in at 15. Christchurch did not receive a publicly listed ranking.

“A highly stable political and social environment, strong medical and health services and quality housing are the top three contributing factors for Auckland’s third ranking in the Quality of Living Rankings,” Costa says. Auckland and Wellington also performed exceptionally well for sport and leisure activities.

However, she says Auckland’s traffic congestion and New Zealand’s nationwide low score on the availability of international flights and international schools were holding the city back from rising further.

Personal safety in cities a priority for employees

Knowing that you and your family will feel safe is another major factor for many professionals when considering whether to accept an offer to relocate.

For the first time, Mercer has compiled a separate ranking on personal safety that analyses cities’ internal stability, crime levels, law enforcement, limitations on personal freedom, relationships with other countries and freedom of the press.

Luxembourg ranks as the safest city, followed equally by Helsinki, Basel, Zurich and Bern. In Western Europe, a few cities, such as Athens, Madrid and Paris, have suffered a decline in personal safety ratings due to recent terror attacks.

No North American cities ranked in the top 10 for safety. Damascus in Syria had the lowest personal safety ranking, at 231.

“No North American cities ranked in the top 10 for [personal] safety.”

Auckland and Wellington ranked extremely well in personal safety, with the cities sharing ninth place.

Major Australian cities also ranked well, with Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney sharing 24th place, while Adelaide and Brisbane both ranked at 48. 

Read more:

Mercer Quality of Living Survey 2019

Find out the 2019 city rankings