So how does the city you live in rate in terms of quality of life compared to other urban centres around the world? Despite economic volatility in Europe (thank you, Brexit) as well as increased political volatility in the region overall, many of its cities still offer the world’s highest quality of life, according to Mercer’s 20th annual Quality of Living survey.

Cities in emerging markets, though challenged by economic and political turmoil, are catching up with top ranking cities following decades of investing in infrastructure, recreational facilities and housing in order to attract talent and multinational businesses.


  • Vienna ranks highest for quality of living for the 9th year in a row
  • Honolulu ranks first for city sanitation, an important factor in cities’ attractiveness
  • Emerging cities increasing living standards to attract mobile talent
  • UK’s highest ranked city, London, ranks 41st for quality of living, 67th for sanitation

Vienna tops the ranking for the ninth year running and is followed by Zurich (2), Auckland and Munich in joint third place. In fifth place Vancouver completes the top five and is the highest ranking city in North America. Singapore (25) and Montevideo (77) are the highest ranking cities in Asia and Latin America respectively.

How does quality of life rate around the world?


Vienna remains the highest ranking city in Europe and globally, providing resident and expatriates with high security, well-structured public transportation and a variety of cultural and recreation facilities.

Munich jumped to third position as over time the city has made a concerted effort to attract talent and businesses by continuously investing in high-tech infrastructure and promoting its cultural facilities.

As a result of the terrorist attack in Stockholm (23) the city drops three places whereas Oslo (25) and Lisbon (38) increase their rankings by six and five places respectively. London remains further down the list as due to its persistent issues with traffic congestion and air pollution it drops one place to rank 41st.

The City Sanitation ranking sees several Nordic cities ranked among the top 10 globally, with Helsinki in second and Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm all tied in eighth place. 

munich travel

Munich. Photo via Pixabay


In North America, Canadian cities rank highest for quality of living with Vancouver (5) again taking the regional top spot. San Francisco (30) is the highest ranking US city, followed by Boston (35), Honolulu (36), Seattle (44), and New York (45). Increasing crime rates cause Los Angeles (64) to drop six places. Dropping two places, Monterrey (112) is the highest ranking city in Mexico, while its capital, Mexico City, drops one to rank 129th.

South America

In South America, Montevideo (77) ranks highest for quality of living, followed by Buenos Aires (91) and Santiago (92). Caracas (193) and Port au Prince (228) are the lowest ranking cities in the region.

Dropping 21 places, the city of San Juan (96) sees the highest drop in the ranking globally.

In the City Sanitation ranking, Honolulu (1) the highest in the region and globally, followed by Ottawa (2). Montevideo (71) is the highest ranking South American city.

Seattle Waterfront

Seattle waterfront. Photo via Pixabay

Middle East and Africa

Dubai (74) continues to rank highest for quality of living across the Middle East, closely followed by Abu Dhabi (77), up two places. Damascus (225), Sana’a (229) and Baghdad (231) are the region’s three lowest-ranked cities for quality of living. Both ranking 65th, Abu Dhabi and Dubai top the regional list for City Sanitation. Only four other cities in this region make the top 100, including Muscat (70), Tel Aviv (87), Manama (93), and Kuwait City (99). 

Port Louis (83) is the highest ranking African city for quality of living followed by the Durban (89), Cape Town (94) and Johannesburg (95). N’Djamena (226), Khartoum (227) and Bangui (230) stay the lowest ranked in the region. Persistent political instability, poverty, extreme climates and lack of appropriate infrastructure investments means these cities have the lowest quality of living worldwide.

Victoria (58) ranks highest on the continent for City Sanitation, followed by Durban (73) and Port Louis (80), whereas Brazzaville (225) and Antananarivo (226) fill the bottom places.


Illustrating the region’s great disparity in quality of life, Singapore remains the highest ranking city in 25th place whereas Dhaka ranks 216th. In Southeast Asia, Kuala Lumpur (85) follows Singapore; other key cities include Bangkok (132), Manila (137), and Jakarta (142).

Five Japanese cities top the ranking for East Asia: Tokyo (50), Kobe (50), Yokohama (55), Osaka (59), and Nagoya (64). Other notable cities in Asia include Hong Kong (71), Seoul (79), Taipei (84), Shanghai (103), and Beijing (119). City Sanitation rankings also vary considerably across the region with Kobe (8) the highest ranking and Dhaka (230) the lowest.

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. The region’s cities also rank high for City Sanitation, with Auckland in 5th globally and Adelaide in 7th.


Singapore. Photo: Ruebentg via Wikimedia Commons

Mercer’s authoritative survey of quality of life is one of the world’s most comprehensive and is conducted annually. This year, Mercer provides a separate ranking on City Sanitation, which analyses cities’ waste removal and sewage infrastructure, levels of infectious disease, air pollution, water availability and quality – all important aspects of a city’s attractiveness. Honolulu tops the City Sanitation ranking, followed by Helsinki and Ottawa in joint second, whereas Dhaka (230) and Port au Prince (231) fill the bottom places.

Source: Mercer

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