Mercer Quality of Living Survey

2012-mercer-quality of living survey-cover

2012 Results

Each year the global consulting firm Mercer releases its Quality of Living Report, which compares 221 cities around the world against 39 criteria. In December 2012 the most recent results were released; as with the past three years the top of the list was dominated by European cities. Eight of the top 11 cities were from Europe, along with Vancouver (Canada), Auckland (New Zealand) and Sydney (Australia). In 2012 Adelaide was ranked 29th, up one spot from 2011. Five other Australian cities, Sydney (10), Melbourne (17), Perth (21), Canberra (26), Brisbane (37) also made the list. Figure 1 reveals the 10 top cities globally for 2012 and Figure 2 represents the Australian city results for the past three years (2010-2012).

The Mercer liveability survey is primarily aimed at supplying the necessary information to assist multi-national companies to make decisions around the location of their offices and factories, and how much to pay employees when they are sent to work in a specific city. These are commonly referred to as Quality-of-living or ‘hardship’ allowances, which are used to compensate expatriates for decreases in the quality of living between their home and host locations.

Figure 1: Top 10 Cities: Mercer Liveability Rankings 2012

Mercer Quality of Living Survey — Top 10 Rankings, 2012


Source: Capital City Committee from Mercer Livability Ranking data

Figure 2: Australian Cities in Mercer Liveability Rankings over past 3 years

Mercer Quality of LIving Survey — Recent Australian Rankings

City2012 Rank2011 Rank2010 Rank

Source: Capital City Committee from Mercer Livability Ranking data

What is the Mercer Survey?

The Mercer survey compares 460 cities worldwide over 39 important criteria they have determined compose ‘liveability’ and grouped in 10 categories:

These criteria represent measurement of concrete aspects of place-specific attributes, using objective indicators derived from formal survey techniques.  The scores attributed to each factor allow for city-to-city comparisons.  According to Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer ‘In order for multinational companies to ensure their expatriates are compensated appropriately and an adequate hardship allowance is included in compensation packages, they must be aware of current events and local circumstances. Factors such as internal stability, law enforcement effectiveness, crime levels and medical facilities are important to consider when deciding on an international assignment, and the impact on daily life that could be encountered by the expatriate in overseas placements.’

Infrastructure Rankings

In 2012, Mercer also included scores and rankings for infrastructure, which are based upon criteria including electricity supply, water availability, telephone and mail services, public transportation, traffic congestion and the range of international flights from local airports. Figures 3 and 4 below show the global top 10 and the Australian city rankings.  Generally the Australian cities declined a little from their overall liveability scores, with Adelaide dropping from 29 to 37 and Melbourne from 17 to 34 for ‘infrastructure’.

Figure 3: Top 10 Cities Mercer City Infrastructure Rankings 2012

Mercer City Infrastructure — Top 10 Rankings, 2012

6Hong Kong

Source: Capital City Committee from Mercer Livability Ranking data

Figure 4: Australian Cities Mercer Infrastructure Rankings 2012

Mercer City Infrastructure — Australian Rankings, 2012


Source: Capital City Committee from Mercer Livability Ranking data

2010 Eco-rankings

The 2010 Mercer rankings included additional scores relating to eco-ranking based on water availability and drinkability, waste removal, quality of sewage systems, air pollution and traffic congestion. Calgary was at the top of this index (score 145.7), followed by Honolulu in second place (score 145.1) and Ottawa and Helsinki in joint third place (score 139.9). Wellington (5), Minneapolis (6), Adelaide (7) and Copenhagen filled the next four slots, while Kobe, Oslo and Stockholm shared ninth place.


Of all the liveability rankings, the Mercer is the most difficult to assess due to the limited amount of freely available data. However when examining the criteria it is not surprising the Australian cities including Adelaide rank highly.  In the scheme of 460 cities, generally speaking Adelaide has a pleasant climate; low numbers of natural disasters; housing options; an abundance of consumable goods and recreation options; basics services like water, electricity, public transport and roads; accessible schools; medical facilities of good quality; a strong currency; and finally low levels of political instability, crime and censorship. Many of these factors are of high standard across Australia.

What is not clear is how much difference there is between the scores for each of the criteria; this would require purchasing the report, which includes the quality-of-life calculator to enable additional factors to be considered.  Analysis of previous results (the 2010 results included scores) reveals the highest score was 108.6. There are 50 cities with scores over 100, a further 25 cities with scores between 90 and 100, and another further 27 cities with scores between 80 and 90.

To get a better understanding and context, it is important to note the cities with the lowest scores: Khartoum, Sudan (217); N’Djamena, Chad (218); Port-au-Prince, Haiti (219); and Bangui, Central African Republic (220). Baghdad, Iraq (221) ranks last.  Many of these cities lack basic services, governance structures and facilities and hence score low. Also of interest from the information freely available are the cities ranked at the bottom of the Top 50 list on the Mercer website, which are Madrid, Pittsburgh and Yokohama none of which could be described as terribly difficult places to live.

As stated by Mercer, places with high levels of violence, unrest, revolution and civil war all greatly compromise the safety of both locals and potential expatriates. During 2011 and 2012 these have particularly affected cities in the Middle East and Northern Africa.  Natural disasters have also influenced scores, for example in recent times in places such as the Philippines and China.  In addition, economic factors played a key role in 2012 in increasing feelings of economic uncertainty, resulting in low growth, a situation exacerbated by the eurozone crisis.

It is interesting to note that this year Mercer extracted and highlighted scores for the Infrastructure criteria, with Adelaide dropping from its overall ranking of 29 to 37 for ‘infrastructure’.  Sydney moved up two spots to 8 for ‘infrastructure’, but in general most of the Australian cities dropped a few spots, with Melbourne sliding from 17 overall to 34 for infrastructure.

More Information/Detailed Results

The publicly available and free Mercer results are very limited with short descriptions that include the top and bottom-ranked cities and then a table of the Top 50. This is available on their website.  If further detailed results are needed they must be purchased from Mercer for a fee. See their website for pricing options, with the price per city being approximately $450 (depending on exchange rates).