Mercer | Quality of living in Europe

Western European Cities Top Quality of Living Ranking

Despite recent security issues, social unrest, and concern about the region’s economic outlook, European cities continue to offer some of the worlds’ highest quality-of-living, according to Mercer’s18th annual Quality of Living survey. Safety, in particular, is a key factor for multinationals to consider when sending expatriate workers abroad, both because it raises concerns about the expat’s personal safety and because it has a significant impact on the cost of global compensation programmes.

Despite economic uncertainties, Western European cities continue to enjoy some of the highest quality of living worldwide; they fill seven places in the top-10 list. Vienna continues to lead the ranking and has done so in the last seven published rankings. It is followed by Zurich (2), Munich (4), Dusseldorf (6), Frankfurt (7), Geneva (8), and Copenhagen (9). Brussels ranks 21st in te overall ranking. In 69th place, Prague is the highest ranking city in Central and Eastern Europe, followed by Ljubljana (76) and Budapest (77). The lowest ranking cities in Europe are Kiev (176), Tirana (179), and Minsk (190).

European cities also dominate the top of the personal safety ranking with Luxembourg in the lead, followed by Bern, Helsinki, and Zurich, which are tied for the number-two spot. Vienna ranks 5th; Geneva and Stockholm are placed jointly in 6th; and Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, and Nurnberg all share 11th place. Brussels is ranked 41th in the personal saftey ranking. A number of key or capital cities do rank considerably lower as many suffered either terrorist attacks or social unrest in the last few years; examples include Paris (71), London (72), Madrid (84), and Athens (124).The recent political and economic turmoil in Greece, which resulted in violent demonstrations in Athens and other cities in the country, has undermined its safety ranking. Kiev (189), St. Petersburg (197), and Moscow (206) rank lowest for personal safety in the region.

About the survey

Mercer’s authoritative survey is one of the world’s most comprehensive, and is conducted annually to enable multinational companies and other employers to compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments. Employee incentives commonly include a quality-of-living allowance and a mobility premium:   

  • A quality-of-living or “hardship” allowance compensates for a decrease in the quality of living between home and host locations.
  • A mobility premium simply compensates for the inconvenience of being uprooted and having to work in another country.

A quality-of-living allowance is typically location-related, while a mobility premium is usually independent of the host location. Some multinational companies combine these premiums, but the vast majority provides them separately.

Mercer’s Quality of Living surveys provide valuable data as well as hardship premium recommendations for over 440 cities throughout the world; this year’s ranking includes 230 of these cities.