Canadian cities take top North American spots in quality-of-living ranking

Vancouver ranks fifth for quality of living, ninth ​for infrastructure
||Last Updated: 03/15/2017
Business travel
Vancouver ranks fifth for quality of living, ninth ​for infrastructure, in a recent report. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Despite increased political and financial volatility in Europe, many of its cities offer the world’s highest quality of living and remain attractive destinations for expanding business operations and sending expatriates on assignment, according to Mercer’s Quality of Living survey.

And Canadian cities continue to dominate the North American rankings, with Vancouver, for the seventh year in a row, once again landing a spot in the top 10 globally.

Four Canadian cities – Vancouver (5), Toronto (16), Ottawa (18) and Montreal (23) --outperformed U.S. cities for quality of living, showing that Canada remains a top choice for businesses around the world, said Mercer. San Francisco (29) earned the top U.S. spot, performing ahead of only one Canadian city, Calgary (33).

“Canada is a desirable place to live and work for residents and expatriate employees alike,” said Allison Griffiths, a principal with Mercer’s Career business in Canada. “When it comes to considering things like compensation for a global workforce, the results provide important insights for multinational companies.”

Globally, Vienna occupies first place for overall quality of living for the eighth year running, with the rest of the top-10 list mostly filled by European cities: Zurich is in second place, followed by Munich (4), Dusseldorf (6), Frankfurt (7), Geneva (8), Copenhagen (9), and Basel, a newcomer to the list, is in 10th place. The only non-European cities in the top 10 are Auckland (3) and Vancouver (5).

Mercer’s 2017 survey also includes a city infrastructure ranking 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.

Singapore tops the city infrastructure ranking, followed by Frankfurt and Munich both in second place. Vancouver once again tops the list for North American cities, tying for the ninth spot with Hamburg and Zurich.  Montreal tied for 14th with Atlanta, while Toronto placed 17th. Ottawa (55) and Calgary (58) fell lower in the rankings. Globally, Baghdad (230) and Port au Prince (231) rank last for city infrastructure. 

Mercer evaluates local living conditions in more than 450 cities surveyed worldwide. Living conditions are analyzed according to 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories:

1.    Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement, etc.).

2.    Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services).

3.    Socio-cultural environment (media availability and censorship, limitations on personal freedom).

4.    Medical and health considerations (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc.).

5.    Schools and education (standards and availability of international schools).

6.    Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transportation, traffic congestion, etc.).

7.    Recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure, etc.).

8.    Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc.).

9.    Housing (rental housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services).

10.  Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters).

The scores attributed to each factor, which are weighted to reflect their importance to expatriates, permit objective city-to-city comparisons. The result is a quality-of-living index that compares relative differences between any two locations evaluated. For the indices to be used effectively, Mercer has created a grid that enables users to link the resulting index to a quality of living allowance amount by recommending a percentage value in relation to the index.

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