Mercer Consulting has just released its annual survey of the “World’s best places to live in”. This is based on a point scale with NYC at 100 as the base, with which all cities are compared on 39 parameters across 10 categories of factors which define “quality of living” according to the surveyors. I have a slight problem with this approach (though I can’t suggest a better one) – as I believe happiness in life is a state of mind. I know many people in Mumbai (which will not feature on any such list in our lifetimes) who believe it is the best place on earth. To their credit, Mercer agrees, and distinguishes their survey as one on “Quality of living” rather than “Quality of life” which is thoroughly subjective. The main use of this survey is not for individuals to plan their immigration routes (though some might still do that) – but for corporates to plan global expansion, build expatriate bases, decide on their compensation etc.

Some very interesting highlights of the report: The highest ranked US city is Honolulu – coming in at 28! The top 20 is dominated by Europe with the world’s best city to live in being Zurich – many years in a row.

The Zurich “Harbour”

The other usual suspects such as Paris, Rome, London – all are missing from the top 20. The largest city to make an appearance in the top 20 is Berlin with a population of 3.4 billion – which leads one to believe about a direct correlation between population and quality of living. There isn’t a single Asian city in the top 50! The other countries which have entries in the top 20 are Canada (Vancouver, Toronto & Ottawa), Australia (Sydney and Melbourne) and New Zealand (Auckland and Wellington). All the other cities are European.

I have been to many of the top 20 cities – and I was trying to figure out what is common between them, and I think each of these places have a unique mix of high financial potential and a cultural & historical heritage – where industry, the governments and the citizens have joined hands to create ecosystems where individuals have every chance of building a happy, healthy and safe lives. Obviously a high per capita is a very important factor in this – and this is where most Asian cities will lose out.

Can an Indian city ever make the cut? Difficult. Definitely none of the Tier 1 cities and not most of the Tier 2 cities. The fast rising population and influx from neighbouring poorer regions – will ensure that the infrastructure development will be ten steps behind. The only chance are new havens built from smaller cities (like Mysore for instance, or Jamshedpur, or Vadodara) – where industry takes an active participation to build world-class cities. But I also think – right now that should be the last thing on our minds. We don’t need to be on any list…the truth is apparent all around us, we should see the change we need to make.

Some links:

The Mercer dedicated site on the survey:
http://www.mercer.com/qol

The definition of quality of living:
http://www.mercer.com/referencecontent.jhtml?idContent=1306640

A pictorial rundown of the top 20:
http://images.businessweek.com/ss/08/06/0611_mercer/index_01.htm

My personal opinion on which of the featured cities is the best place to live? Vancouver. 😉

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