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Swiss cities among best for expats

Zurich scored second-highest when it came to social and economic factors but it didn't do as well when it came to infrastructure Keystone

Zurich, Geneva and Bern figure among the top ten places to live worldwide because of Switzerland’s political stability, low crime rate and good medical facilities, according to a survey by consulting company Mercer.

The quality of living ranking, which takes into account the political, social, economic and socio-cultural and natural environments as well as education, public services, housing, recreation and consumer goods, is topped by Vienna, followed by Zurich and Auckland, Munich and Vancouver.

Geneva was eighth, Bern tenth, and Baghdad came last.

Mercer compares every year living in New York with the life in 221 other cities to help companies and organisations determine a fair salary for employees on international assignments.

Packages need to include an adequate hardship allowance, which compensate expatriates for decreased quality of living between home and host location, Mercer said.

“Factors such as political stability, crime levels and the quality of medical facilities have the largest weighting because they have the largest impact on daily life expatriates may encounter on an international assignment,” Slagin Parakatil, a senior researcher at Mercer, told

Flop for flight connections

The consultants also compiled a separate city ranking based on infrastructure because of its “significant” effect on expatriates’ quality of living. It takes into account electricity supply, water availability, telephone and mail services, public transport, traffic congestion and the range of international flights from local airports.

The ranking is topped by Singapore, followed by Frankfurt, Munich, Copenhagen and Dusseldorf. Zurich was 24th, Bern 25th and Geneva 47th. Port-au-Prince in Haiti was at the bottom of the worldwide list.

In the city infrastructure ranking, the Swiss towns do not even reach the top 20, mainly because of traffic congestion and a lack of long-haul flights, Parakatil explained. “Bern and Geneva simply do not have enough long-haul flights so that expats and their families may return home directly.”

“While often taken for granted when functioning to a high standard, a city’s infrastructure can generate severe hardship when it is deficient,” Parakatil said.

“Infrastructure in German and Danish cities is among the best in the world, in part due to their first-class airport facilities, international and local connectivity, and a high standard of public services.”

At the bottom of both rankings figure countries in Africa and the Middle East. Countries such as Syria and Mali have seen their quality of living levels drop substantially, according to Parakatil.

Bamako in Mali, Khartoum in Sudan and N’Djamena in Chad rank low on the list on quality of living, while Sana’a in Yemen, Brazzaville in Congo, Kigali in Rwanda and Abuja in Nigeria are at the bottom of the infrastructure ranking.

“The ongoing turmoil in many countries across North Africa and the Middle East has led to serious security issues for locals and expatriates,” Parakatil said. “Many countries continue to experience violence through political demonstrations that have sometimes developed into massive uprisings and led to serious instability within the region.”

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