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Swiss-German towns take quality of life crown

Le Locle has come bottom of Bilanz magazine's ranking for the past four years Keystone

A ranking of Swiss towns has found tax-friendly Zug is the best place to live, while the watch-making town of Le Locle takes the accolade for the worst.

While the results may not surprise regular followers of such city comparison studies, this particular listing shows towns in French-speaking Switzerland are lagging behind their German-speaking cousins.

Not a single French-speaking town features in the top 25 of the annual ranking by the Bilanz business magazine of quality of life in Swiss cities, towns and boroughs.

Ranked 26th, Nyon in canton Vaud fared better in the results compared with last year due to an improved labour market and social security. It ranked above Geneva, which slipped 18 places to 39th, and Lausanne, which went in at 41.

Le Locle takes the magazine’s bottom ranking for the fourth year in a row, but this can actually be good news depending on how you spin it, according to Bernard Vaucher, a spokesman for the Unesco World Heritage town.

“We are very happy to be last. For the past four years this ranking has done extraordinary promotion for us. All the media are interested in us. Many people are discovering our region because of the fact that we are last,” Vaucher told

“We are quite happy not to have gone up two places because then no one would talk about us anymore.”

But he also notes that the town does not take such rankings very seriously because they can vary wildly depending on the criteria being assessed.

“Soft factors”

Bilanz’s ranking typically does lean more towards business factors such as taxation and jobs, but this year it expanded the scope of the study taking into account more criteria, such as education and “fun factors”.

“We have tried to put in more soft factors. But we do still put an emphasis on economic factors because we are a business magazine,” notes Susanne Mühlemann, head of the magazine’s trend section.

Introducing such factors has led to a reshuffle among the usual rankings. Freienbach in canton Schwyz dropped from fourth position to 21st because of its traffic problems and lack of cultural activities.

Geneva has become the top city for singles due to its booming job market and abundant leisure offerings, but fell down on housing because of its saturated rental market. When judged on taxation, Geneva’s tax rates were ranked near the bottom at 123rd when compared with other cities’ fiscal policies.

“The ranking is now more realistic in the sense of a quality of life as we understand it, in a broader way,” said Mühlemann. She notes that despite that readjustment French-speaking cities are still tending to fall down on tax attractiveness.

“In general I have to say that the Swiss-German cities are just better off. You just have this gap, that’s obvious.”

Cultural differences

“It is quite a surprise to be ranked 39th in Switzerland,” said Geneva’s head of public relations, Philippe d’Espine.

“But there are rankings like this done every year. Geneva and Zurich are generally rated among the top places for quality of life around the world, along with cities like Vienna. The Canadian Mercer study puts Geneva at the number one in the world each year in terms of quality of life.”

He notes all cities will necessarily have variations in their quality of life. “The differences between German- and French-speaking cities are mainly cultural. They are not that different from each other.”

Nor does Bernard Vaucher in Le Locle see any underlying language divide. “I don’t really see a difference between German- and French-speaking cities. We believe that we have a very good quality of life and we are always working at it.”

He adds: “Our rents are 50 per cent less than in big cities and at the end of the month people here have more money in their wallets than in Zurich.”

Jessica Dacey,

Capital of canton Zug in northern Switzerland.
Has 24,000 residents. More than 90 nationalities are represented.
Renowned as a centre for commerce and service industries. Low tax rates attract many foreign firms.
Awarded the Council of Europe’s flag of honour in 1966 and plaque of honour in 1994 for international collaboration.

Le Locle
Situated in the Jura mountains in canton Neuchâtel.
Received Unesco World Heritage status together with another watch-making town La Chaux-de-Fonds for “exceptional universal value”. Its watch-making culture dates back to 1630.
Around 11,000 residents.
Twinned with British coastal town of Sidmouth and Gérardmer in France.

Top 10
1. Zug
2. Zurich
3. Lucerne
4. Opfikon
5. Baden
6. Dübendorf
7. Wallisellen
8. Winterthur
9. Kloten
10. Uster

Bottom 10
125: Amriswil
126. Grenchen
127. Wohlen
128: Neuhausen am Rheinfall
129. Oftringen
130. Spiez
131. Arbon
132. Steffisburg
133. Val-de-Travers
134. Le Locle

The Bilanz ranking of cities in Switzerland was carried out by ranking experts Wüest & Partner.

For the 2010 study, all cities (ie. municipalities with over 10,000 residents) were assessed on the following criteria: job market, education, dynamics (change in population and new build apartments), recreation, culture, leisure, health care, safety, social security, traffic, wealth, taxes, tourism, location (access to international airports).

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