Don’t tell Toronto, New York or Los Angeles, but Vancouver was the only North American city to crack a European-dominated top 10 quality of living ranking of global cities.
The B.C. metropolis came in at No. 5 in human resources consultant Mercer’s 19th such ranking, one of only two cities outside Western Europe to reach the top 10. Toronto ranked 16th, Ottawa was 18th and Montreal was 23rd.
All of them beat the highest-ranked U.S. cities: San Francisco (29), Boston (35), Honolulu (36) and New York (44). High crime rates in Los Angeles (58) and Chicago (47) hurt their rankings.
Vancouver also tied for 9th on a separate ranking of city infrastructure, making it again the only North American city to reach the top 10.
The lists of 231 cities aim to give expanding multinationals detailed information on which to base salaries and premiums for expatriates they send abroad to work.
Vienna took quality of life top honours for the eighth straight time, followed by Zurich, Auckland, Munich, Vancouver, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva, Copenhagen and Basel.
Despite political and economic turbulence, western European cities tended to remain stable in the rankings, with the exception of Brussels (27), which dropped six places over terrorism-related security issues. Rome (57) also fell four places due to waste-removal troubles.
Istanbul (133) also tumbled 11 spots over severe political turmoil in Turkey.
“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, in a press release.
The survey also includes hardship premium recommendations for more than 450 cities.
“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.”
Mercer also ranked city infrastructure, looking at reliable electricity, quality of drinking water, telephone and mail services, public transportation, traffic congestion, technology, alternative energy and the availability of international flights from local airports.
In that ranking, Singapore took top honours, followed by a tie between Frankfurt and Munich, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, London, and Vancouver, Hamburg and Zurich tied for ninth. Montreal tied for 14th.
“Overall, the infrastructure of cities in Canada and the United States is of a high standard, including the airport and bus connectivity, the availability of clean drinking water, and the reliability of electricity supplies. Traffic congestion is a concern in cities throughout the whole region,” reads the ranking report.
Taking up the two last spots of 231 cities measuring infrastructure are Baghdad and Port au Prince. Baghdad also came up last on quality of life.
“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, a principal at Mercer who is 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.”