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Life is more beautiful in Zurich

Life can be fun in Zurich Keystone

Zurich is still the best place to live, according to an international survey of the world's biggest cities. Geneva and Bern also made it into the top ten.

This content was published on June 10, 2008 - 12:55

This is the seventh time in a row that the largest Swiss city has gained the number one spot - a distinction welcomed by its leaders and business community.

Switzerland's financial centre beat off competition from 215 cities worldwide in the 2008 quality of living rankings published by consulting group Mercer on Tuesday.

Brigit Wehrli-Schindler, head of Zurich's urban development department, said that the city was very pleased with the result.

"We are making a great effort to ensure that we keep at the top of the rankings," she told swissinfo.

Around one-sixth of the Swiss population lives in canton Zurich, while the city itself has around 370,000 inhabitants.

In addition, some 85 of the 100 biggest Swiss companies have their headquarters in the area.

The Greater Zurich Area, the business region's marketing association, said that the result – which comes after Lausanne-based business school IMD last month declared Switzerland the most competitive economy in Europe - confirmed the area's status as a "prime business location and preferred destination of foreign direct investment".

The ranking, which assesses quality of life for expat employees in particular, showed that Zurich had weathered the recent turbulences in the global economy, it added.

Pros and cons

For Mercer, the city's political and economic stability and infrastructure were key factors.

"London, Paris or New York might have entertainment facilities which might be better than Zurich, or even public transport or international airports," quality of life report product manager Slagin Parakatil told swissinfo.

"But overall, personal safety, the medical health consideration of the city, those points are very important for expats and their families when they come to a city for international assignments," he said.

Geneva, home to many international organizations, came in joint second with the Austrian capital Vienna. The Swiss capital, Bern, was ranked ninth overall.

Parakatil said that Switzerland's internal stability, political environment and proximity to other countries had helped Swiss cities achieve a high rating.

Mercer used 39 criteria to assess quality of life, including political, economic and environmental factors, as well as health and education services.

European cities dominated the top ten, with three coming from Swiss neighbour Germany. Canada's Vancouver came in fourth, with one city apiece for Australia and New Zealand.

The first United States city was Honolulu in Hawaii, which was ranked 28th. Baghdad was last, as in 2007.

Security issues

In terms of security, Mercer found that Swiss cities lived up to their safe reputation with Zurich, Geneva and Bern all sharing joint second place with Finland's capital Helsinki.

Trouble spot Baghdad was considered the least safe, after Nairobi in Kenya, Pakistan's largest city Karachi and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to Mercer, personal and family security are key factors for people deciding whether to take a job abroad.

Moscow was the lowest ranked European city at 196. The safest US city was Chicago at 53. Overall, European cities were ranked more highly in terms of security and quality of life than US ones.

"We looked into any threats which could impact on personal safety, we also considered the size of the city... Now all major cosmopolitan cities do have a certain level of crime rate which is inherent to the city and that's not something which is abnormal," explained Parakatil.

"But we can also see that sometimes some cities might be prone to terrorist attacks more than others due to their international politics or how they are within the world."

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Zurich

Top ten: quality of life

1. Zurich
2. Vienna
2. Geneva
4. Vancouver
5. Auckland
6. Dusseldorf
7. Munich
7. Frankfurt
9. Bern
10. Sydney

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About the survey

The Mercer Consulting Quality of Living Survey awards cities a score according to how far the quality of life available exceeds or falls behind New York, which is the base city at 100. Zurich scored 108.

The rating is aimed at helping companies and governments with relocation destinations and where to send employees on international assignments.

The Mercer findings come hot on the heels on a national survey carried out by business magazine Bilanz. Zurich came second in terms of attractiveness after Zug. Geneva was placed 20th and Bern was back in 35th.

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