Singapore is the city with Asia’s best quality of living, according to Mercer’s 19th annual Quality of Living survey.
Despite increased political and financial volatility in Europe, many of its cities continue to offer the world’s highest quality of living and remain attractive destinations for expanding business operations and sending expatriates on assignment.
Mercer’s survey also includes a city infrastructure ranking, which saw Singapore take top spot, that assesses each city’s supply of electricity, drinking water, telephone and mail services, and public transportation as well as traffic congestion and the range of international flights available from local airports. Infrastructure plays an important role when multinationals decide where to establish locations abroad and send expatriate workers.
Singapore moved up one spot to 25 and is the highest-ranking Asian city, followed by Tokyo (47), Kobe (50), Yokohama (50), Osaka (60) and Nagoya (63) who have all taken a slight dip in rankings, compared to 2016.
In Greater China, Hong Kong (71) moved down one spot, yet is still the highest of its neighboring cities, including Taipei (85) and Taichung (101), Shanghai (102), Beijing (119), Guangzhou (121), Shenzhen (136) and Chengdu (137).
In Southeast Asia, Kuala Lumpur (86) and Johor Bahru (103) remain unchanged, Bangkok (131) dropped two spots and Manila (135) climbed one spot. Across Asia Pacific, New Zealand and Australia continue to have some of the highest quality of living worldwide.
Auckland and Sydney remain at 3rd and 10th globally, whereas Wellington dropped three spots to 15th, and Melbourne one spot to 16th.
“Economic instability, social unrest, and growing political upheaval all add to the complex challenge multinational companies face when analyzing quality of living for their expatriate workforce,” said Ilya Bonic, senior partner and president of Mercer’s Career business.
“For multinationals and governments it is vital to have quality of living information that is accurate, detailed, and reliable. It not only enables these employers to compensate employees appropriately, but it also provides a planning benchmark and insights into the often-sensitive operational environment that surrounds their workforce.
“In uncertain times, organizations that plan to establish themselves and send staff to a new location should ensure they get a complete picture of the city, including its viability as a business location and its attractiveness to key talent,” Bonic added.
“Asia Pacific offers a multitude of cities with diverse cultures and living experiences. As businesses continue to invest in Asia Pacific to pursue its growth potential, the region continues to be an attractive location for expats looking to take short or long-term work assignments and to invest in their career,” said Mario Ferraro, Global Mobility Leader for Asia, Middle East and Africa (AMEA) at Mercer.
“Given the huge disparity in quality of living standards across the region and the rapid pace of change, more than ever employers need to be well-equipped to understand the local environment, infrastructure and the differences between locations, when relocating and hiring staff in the region.”
“The success of foreign assignments is influenced by issues such as ease of travel and communication, sanitation standards, personal safety, and access to public services,” said Slagin Parakatil, Principal at Mercer and responsible for its quality of living research. “Multinational companies need accurate and timely information to help calculate fair and consistent expatriate compensation – a real challenge in locations with a compromised quality of living.”
Parakatil added, “A city’s infrastructure, or rather the lack thereof, can considerably affect the quality of living that expatriates and their families experience on a daily basis. Access to a variety of transport options, being connected locally and internationally, and access to electricity and drinkable water are among the essential needs of expatriates arriving in a new location on assignment. A well-developed infrastructure can also be a key competitive advantage for cities and municipalities trying to attract multinational companies, talent, and foreign investments.”
Asia Pacific remains a region with great disparities in quality of living. In 25th place, Singapore remains the highest ranking city in Asia and Dushanbe (215) in Tajikistan is the lowest. Singapore’s high quality of living score is attributed to a wide variety of factors, including internal stability, wide availability of consumer goods, availability and quality of housing and low incidence of natural disasters, to mention a few.
In addition, Singapore was ranked as the top location worldwide in terms of infrastructure, with Dhaka being ranked last (214). In Southeast Asia, Kuala Lumpur (86) follows Singapore; other key cities include Bangkok (131), Manila (135), and Jakarta (143).
Five Japanese cities top the ranking for East Asia: Tokyo (47), Kobe (50), Yokohama (51), Osaka (60), and Nagoya (63). Other notable cities in Asia include Hong Kong (71), Seoul (76), Taipei (85), Shanghai (102), and Beijing (119).
In Asia, there is also considerable regional variation in the city infrastructure ranking. The highest-ranked city is Singapore (1), whereas Dhaka (214) is near the bottom of the list. Hong Kong and London share 6th followed by several cities in Japan: Yokohama (12), Tokyo (31), Nagoya (39), Kobe (44) and Osaka (53).
New Zealand and Australia continue to rank highly in quality of living: Auckland (3), Sydney (10), Wellington (15), and Melbourne (16) all remain in the top 20. However, when ranked for infrastructure, only Sydney (8) makes the top ten, with Perth (32), Melbourne (34), and Brisbane (37) also ranking well for infrastructure.
By and large, cities across the Pacific enjoy good quality of living, though criteria such as airport connectivity and traffic congestion are among the factors that see them ranked lower in terms of city infrastructure.
“Cities that rank high in the city infrastructure list provide a combination of top-notch local and international airport facilities, varied and extended coverage through their local transportation networks, and innovative solutions such as smart technology and alternative energy,” said Parakatil. “Most cities now align variety, reliability, technology, and sustainability when designing infrastructure for the future.”
Even with political and economic turbulence, Western European cities continue to enjoy some of the highest quality of living worldwide. Still in the top spot, Vienna is followed by Zurich (2), Munich (4), Dusseldorf (6), Frankfurt (7), Geneva (8), Copenhagen (9), and a newcomer to the list, Basel (10).
In 69th place, Prague is the highest ranking city in Central and Eastern Europe, followed by Ljubljana (76) and Budapest (78). The lowest ranking cities in Europe are St. Petersburg and Tirana (both ranked 176), along with Minsk (189).
Western European cities also hold most of the top ten places in the city infrastructure ranking with Frankfurt and Munich jointly ranking 2nd worldwide, followed by Copenhagen (4) and Dusseldorf (5). London is in 6th place, and Hamburg and Zurich both rank 9th.
Ranking lowest across Europe are Sarajevo (171) and Tirana (188).
Quality of living remain high in North America, Canadian cities take the top positions in the ranking. Vancouver (5) is again the region’s highest ranking city for quality of living. Toronto and Ottawa follow in 16th and 18th place respectively, whereas San Francisco (29) is the highest ranking US city, followed by Boston (35), Honolulu (36), New York (44), and Seattle (45).
High crime rates in Los Angeles (58) and Chicago (47) resulted in these cities dropping nine and four places respectively. Monterrey (110) is the highest ranking city in Mexico, while the country’s capital, Mexico City, stands in 128th position.
In South America, Montevideo (79) ranks highest for quality of living, followed by Buenos Aires (93) and Santiago (95). La Paz (157) and Caracas (189) are the lowest ranking cities in the region.
For city infrastructure, Vancouver (in 9th place) also ranks highest in the region. It is followed by Atlanta and Montreal, tied in 14th place. Overall, the infrastructure of cities in Canada and the United States is of a high standard although traffic congestion is a concern in cities throughout the whole region. Tegucigalpa (208) and Port-au-Prince (231) have the lowest scores for city infrastructure in North America. In 84th place, Santiago is the highest ranking South American city for infrastructure; La Paz (168) is the lowest.
Middle East and Africa
Dubai (74) continues to rank highest for quality of living across Africa and the Middle East, rising one position in this year’s ranking, followed closely by Abu Dhabi (79), which climbed three spots. Sana’a (229) in Yemen, Bangui (230) in the Central African Republic, and Baghdad (231) in Iraq are the region’s three lowest-ranked cities for quality of living.
Dubai also ranks highest for infrastructure in 51st place. Only five other cities in this region make the top 100, including Tel Aviv (56), Abu Dhabi (67), Port Louis (94), Muscat (97), and upcoming host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Doha in Qatar, which ranks 96th for infrastructure.
Cities in African and Middle Eastern countries dominate the bottom half of the table for infrastructure, with Brazzaville (228) in the Republic of the Congo, Sana’a (229), and Baghdad (230) ranking the lowest.