For the fourth year running, Dubai has been ranked as the city whose residents enjoy the best quality of living in the region, according to Mercer’s 18th annual Quality of Living survey.
Out of the 230 cities that it ranks, the 2016 index ranks Dubai #75 in the world (#1 in the region) in terms of quality of living, with Abu Dhabi right behind it regionally (#81 in the world).
Business consulting major Mercer maintains that safety, in particular, is a key factor for multinationals to consider when sending expatriate workers abroad.
That, it says, is because it raises concerns about the expat’s personal safety and because it has a significant impact on the cost of global compensation programmes.
In that respect, Abu Dhabi is one of the safest cities in the world (#23 globally) and #1 regionally.
Dubai is ranked #40 globally on the safety parameter and follows GCC peer Muscat regionally.
Mercer conducts its Quality of Living survey annually to help multinational companies and other employers compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments.
A higher ranking, says the firm, implies that companies need no go out of their way to attract expat talent by dangling a fatter paycheque.
Dubai resident enjoy the best living standards
Dubai (75) continues to rank highest for quality of living across Africa and the Middle East (MEA) even as it does slip down a notch from the #74 rank that it attained last year.
Dubai is followed by UAE capital Abu Dhabi (81) and Port Louis (83) in Mauritius to round up the top 3 cities in the region that offer the best quality of life.
“Rankings in many regions were affected by recent world events, including economic and political upheavals, which resulted in currency fluctuations, cost inflation for goods and services, and volatility in accommodation prices,” said Rob Thissen, Consultant on Global Mobility at Mercer ME.
“After a few years of sharp increase, Dubai’s residential market is showing signs of slowing down. The delivery of a significant number of new units added pressure to the residential market. Prices are expected to continue falling as the additional residential units will be ready for occupancy this year,” he added.
The South African cities of Durban, Cape Town, and Johannesburg rank 85th, 92nd, and 95th respectively. Baghdad (230) ranks lowest regionally and worldwide.
“Ensuring that the needs of expatriates and their families are met wherever work takes them is an essential part of talent retention and recruitment strategies for most multinationals,” said Slagin Parakatil, Principal at Mercer and responsible for the quality-of-living research.
“Managing safety and health issues is of utmost importance, especially for employees who relocate with a family. Our surveys enable companies to take adequate precautions for them.”
Safety is a top perk for Abu Dhabi residents
Mercer’s survey also identifies the personal safety ranking for the full list of cities; it is based on internal stability, crime levels, performance of local law enforcement, and the home country’s relationship with other countries.
Only a handful of cities in this region place in the top 100 for personal safety – with Abu Dhabi ranking highest in 23rd place, followed by Muscat (29), Dubai (40), and Port Louis (59).
Upcoming host of the 2022 Fifa World Cup, Doha ranks 70th for personal safety.
Regional geopolitics is highly volatile and characterised by safety concerns, political turmoil, and an elevated risk of terrorism, says Mercer.
The lowest ranking cities in the region are Damascus (229) and Baghdad (230), both of which have witnessed continual violence and terrorist attacks that weigh upon the daily life of locals and expatriates, it notes.
“Elements that add to safety costs in the host location are obtaining suitable and well secured accommodation; having an in-house comprehensive expatriate security programme and providing access to reputable professional evacuation services and medical support firms, and finally, providing security training and guarded office premises,” added Parakatil.
Better rank = slimmer expat paycheques?
Dubai and Abu Dhabi rank at the top of the list for quality of life in the GCC, as Muscat, Oman listed 107th followed by Doha, Qatar in 110th place. Similarly, Kuwait City came in 124th, closely followed by Saudi cities like Riyadh and Jeddah ranking at 164th and 165th places respectively.
“Dubai and Abu Dhabi remain extremely popular destinations among expatriates around the world, to the point that less and less multinationals are actually paying hardship premiums to motivate their employees to move here,” Rob Thissen added.
“The rapid increase in the population comes with its challenges though - such as a worsening air quality – which was recognised in our scoring this year. On the other hand, many employees moving to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or the Levant would expect a serious increase in pay, partly to compensate for a decrease in quality of living,” he said.
“Heightened domestic and global security threats, population displacement resulting from violence, and social unrest in key business centres around the world are all elements adding to the complex challenge facing multinational companies when analysing the safety and health of their expatriate workforces,” said Ilya Bonic, Senior Partner and president of Mercer’s Talent business.
“Multinational companies need accurate data and objective methods to determine the cost implications of deteriorating living standards and personal safety issues when compensating expatriates.”
European cities top global rankings
Despite recent security issues, social unrest, and concern about the region’s economic outlook, European cities continue to offer some of the world’s highest quality-of-living, according to Mercer.
Vienna continues its reign in the top spot for overall quality of living, followed by Zurich (2), Auckland (3), and Munich (4).
Vancouver (5) is North America’s highest ranking city, and Singapore is the highest ranking Asian city, holding 26th place.
Luxembourg tops the personal safety list and is followed by Bern, Helsinki, and Zurich – all tied in 2nd place. Baghdad (230) and Damascus (229) are the world’s least safe cities according to the ranking. The safest UK cities are Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Glasgow – all ranked in 44th place.