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Swiss Cities Top Quality Of Life Index

by Phillip Morton, Investors Offshore.com

20 April 2007


Switzerland remains the country with the highest quality of living in a survey designed to help governments and multinational companies place employees on international assignments.

According to the annual World-wide Quality of Living Survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, for the second year in succession, Zurich narrowly pipped Geneva at the top of the index with a score of 108.1, compared to the latter's score of 108.

“Companies managing a global workforce must take into account a range of factors when structuring remuneration packages for their expatriate employees,” said Yvonne Sonsino, principal at Mercer. “Organisations can struggle to find suitably qualified local staff when operating overseas and so rely on benchmark data to ensure the rewards they offer encourage employees with transferable skills to accept international assignments.”

The analysis covers 215 cities which are assessed on an evaluation of 39 separate criteria including political, social, economic and environmental factors, personal safety and health, education, transport, and other public services. Cities are ranked against New York as the base city, which has an index score of 100.

Australasia also fared well in the index, with Auckland (5th) and Sydney (tied for 9th) both in the top ten, and Wellington placed 12th. However, apart from Vancouver in 3rd, European cities tend to dominate the top of the rankings with Vienna, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich and Bern completing the top ten. The lowest ranking European city in the top 50 was Milan (tied for 49th).

The only UK city to figure in the top 50 was London, placed 39th. France has two cities in the top 50: Paris at 33rd and Lyon at joint 36th.

The top five cities in the Americas were all located in Canada, including Vancouver, Toronto (15th), Ottawa (tied for 18th), Montreal (22nd) and Calgary (24th). US cities in the top 50 included Honolulu (tied for 27th), San Francisco (29th), Boston (tied for 36th), Washington (tied for 44th), Chicago (tied for 44th), Portland (46th), New York City (48th), and Seattle (49th).

Outside of Australasia, cities in the Asia Pacific region were found in the lower end of the top 50, with Singapore 34th, Tokyo 35th, and Yokohama 38th. Osaka, in 42nd place in the index, has made one of the largest improvements since last year, rising 8 places to 42 from 51.

Unsurprisingly, Baghdad remains the world’s least enticing city for expatriates with a score of 14.5. Other low-scoring cities for overall quality of living include Brazzaville in Congo (29.5), Bangui in the Central African Republic (30.6) and Khartoum in Sudan (31).

Mercer also compiles a health and sanitation index, which shows that cities in North America are the healthiest places in which to live. Calgary ranks top with a score of 131.7, followed by Honolulu, which scores 130.3. Helsinki – the only European city in the top five – follows closely in the rankings with a score of 128.5. Ottawa and Minneapolis take fourth and fifth places with scores of 127.2 and 125.7 respectively.

Scores are based on the quality and availability of hospital and medical supplies and levels of air pollution and infectious diseases. The efficiency of waste removal and sewage systems, water portability and the presence of harmful animals and insects are also taken into account. Cities are again ranked against New York as the base city which has an index score of 100.

Almost half of the 30 top-scoring cities surveyed are in Western Europe. Oslo, Stockholm and Zurich all rank 6th with a score of 125. London is ranked 63 with a score of 111.2. Most Eastern European cities have relatively low scores, except for Prague in the Czech Republic which scores highest, at position 75 with a score of 101.3. Russian cities have the poorest scores in this area. Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Kazan take positions 201, 184, 182 and 174 respectively with ratings of 43.4, 50.5, 51.1 and 54.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the highest-ranking Middle Eastern cities and share position 58 with a score of 112.9. Cities in Central and South America tend to feature much lower in the rankings than those in North America. San Juan in Puerto Rico ranks highest in 67th place (score 108.9). Port Au Prince is the lowest-ranking city in the region, in position 212 with an index of 34.

All the Australian cities covered by the survey rank higher than New York, the base city. Adelaide is the highest-scoring city in Australia at position 35 (score 119.5) while Sydney is the lowest in 62nd place (score 111.3). Japan is home to the five highest-rated cities in Asia. Katsuyama leads in 9th position with a score of 123.8, followed by Kobe and Omuta in joint 25th place (score 122). Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka come in joint 53rd place and score 113.5.

Elsewhere in this region, Singapore ranks in 50th place with a score of 114, while Hong Kong is at position 117 and scores 80.8. Shanghai and Beijing are China’s highest and lowest-ranking cities in 134th and 166th place respectively (scoring 73.8 and 60.3). Modernisation of medical infrastructure has improved living standards in these Chinese cities. However, air pollution and inadequate waste removal and sewage systems are still a concern – particularly in Beijing.

Indian cities score relatively poorly for health and sanitation, with scores ranging from 52.8 for Chennai (position 177) to 38.2 for Mumbai (position 209). Most Indian cities are densely populated with poor waste removal and sewage systems. These issues, combined with increasing air pollution, contribute to their relatively low ratings.

The lowest-ranking city for health and sanitation is Baku in Azerbaijan, which scores just 27.6. Other low-scoring cities include Dhaka in Bangladesh, Antananarivo in Madagascar and Port Au Prince in Haiti, which score 29.6, 30.1 and 34 respectively.

“Poor countries often lack adequate medical infrastructure including hospitals and health networks. Furthermore, provision of care is hampered by poor sanitation and unsafe water facilities in many areas,” said Slagin Parakatil, senior researcher at Mercer. “The development of efficient waste removal and sewage systems, coupled with government investment in medical infrastructure, will be key to avoiding pandemic outbreaks of diseases and for improving general living standards.”

“The availability of public and private hospital care, together with modern medical infrastructure, means healthcare standards in Europe are generally very high. Medical provision in the Middle East, especially the United Arab Emirates, has also benefited from substantial government investment,” he added. “In impoverished countries - where medical care and sanitation are often poor - it can be advisable for expatriates to seek private treatment.”

“Expatriates on assignment in some locations - for example Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia, Europe and Latin America - can face harsher living conditions and lower standards of medical care and facilities than they are accustomed to,” continued Parakatil. “The threat of infectious diseases and environmental risks are very real in some cities and should be taken into account. Migration and mobility can exacerbate the transmission of diseases, and this should be a top concern for employers managing international assignments.”

A comprehensive report in our Intelligence Report series giving background tax and residence information on many of the key offshore jurisdictions is available in the Lowtax Library at http://www.lowtaxlibrary.com/asp/subs_reports.asp and a description of the report can be seen at http://www.lowtaxlibrary.com/asp/description_report4.asp
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