Germany, Austria & Switzerland offer top quality of life for expats

29 May 2019 4 min. read

The DACH region – Germany, Austria and Switzerland – is globally the most amicable place for expats to work and live, with Vienna, Zurich and Munich holding the top three spots.

To support business decision makers about the best locations for expat workers, Mercer every year releases its ‘Quality of Living’ report. The report looks at five key dimensions and 14 sub-indices for 230+ cities across the globe.

Europe remains according to the analysis the top region for foreign workers. The continent has strong healthcare, entertainment and cultural offerings, while providing a strong backbone for infrastructure, housing and childcare needs. The top three entries are all German-speaking cities, with Vienna once again number one, boasting high levels of cultural satisfaction as well as personal safety. Austria’s capital city has been leading Mercer’s annual ranking for ten consecutive years now.Quality of living top 10 versus bottom 10

Zurich in Switzerland and Munich in Germany, shared with Auckland in New Zealand and Vancouver in Canada, complete the top three – all these cities offer a good work-life balance and safety. The DACH region saw four more entries make the top ten: Düsseldorf at number six, Frankfurt at number seven, Geneva at number nine and Basel at number ten. Denmark’s capital Copenhagen ranks in between at number eight.

Regionally, the analysis of the five best scoring cities per region, shows some variation. For instance, Europe remains the number one area – hosting five top 10 cities. Oceania meanwhile has four cities in the top 20, with Sydney on number 11 and Wellington at number 15. North America sees all of its top five cities based in Canada, with three in the top 20 – including Toronto on number 16 and Ottawa at number 19.

Asia, meanwhile, is largely noted for good performances in Singapore, at number 25, while Japan has for four entries in the top 60, with Tokyo at number 49. The Middle East only has two cities in the top 100, Dubai at number 74, followed by Abu Dhabi at position 78. Despite still featuring at the bottom of the Quality of Living list, Iraq’s capital city Baghdad has witnessed significant improvements related to both safety and health services.

Top 5 by Region

Personal safety

One important factor highlighted in the report is personal safety, which covers a range of metrics, including internal stability, crime, law enforcement, limitations on personal freedom, and media freedom / censorship. The poorest performing cities on this dimensions are mainly war-torn areas in the Middle East and Africa – as might be expected – with Damascus in Syria at the bottom, followed by Bangui in the Central African Republic, Sana’a in Yemen, Kinshasa in Congo, and Baghdad in Iraq.

Western European countries do well on the safety dimension, with Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Nordics ranking highly. Luxembourg has been heralded by the researchers as the safest city in the world, followed by Helsinki and the Swiss cities of Basel, Bern and Zurich in joint second.

Mercer’s study is of keen interest to large international firms – whose workers often cross borders for opportunities. Understanding which cities offer the best types of amenities and infrastructure allows for workers to be better informed when making a move, while also flagging promising targets for office expansion.

Ilya Bonic, a Senior Partner at Mercer, elaborated; “Companies looking to expand overseas have a host of considerations when identifying where best to locate staff and new offices. The key is relevant, reliable data and standardised measurement, which are essential for employers to make critical decisions, from deciding where to establish offices to determining how to distribute, house and remunerate their global workforces.”

Related: Europe hosts 8 of the world's 10 best cities to live and work in.