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Worldwide Quality of Living Survey

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Ever wonder how Jakarta stacks up against other major cities around the world for quality of life? Wonder no more ...

World-wide quality of life survey

  • N. America has the two cleanest cities in world; Mexico City is most polluted; In EU, Helsinki is cleanest capital, while Athens and London score lowest
  • Top place for overall quality of life is Zurich, followed by Vienna and Vancouver

A new survey by William M. Mercer has identified that Canada and the US have the cleanest two cities in the world. Calgary scores highest with an environmental rating of 166, followed by Honolulu, which scores 161.5. The Finnish capital Helsinki and Katsuyama in Japan share joint third place with a score of 158. Two other North American cities, Ottawa and Minneapolis, share joint fifth place in the list with a rating of 154.

Scores are based on the level of air pollution and the efficiency of waste disposal and sewage systems. Cities are ranked against New York as the base city, which scores 100. The analysis is part of a world-wide quality of life survey covering 215 cities.

"All the top cities score highly on quality of air. They don't suffer the pollution associated with many industrialised cities, usually caused by car and factory emissions. The cities that have the edge, however, are those that have the infrastructure to deal with sewage and waste removal efficiently," said Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer.

The world's lowest ranking city for environmental cleanliness is Mexico City, which scores just 29.5. The city suffers particularly badly from air pollution because of its geographical location - between two volcanoes on a high central plateau. The fumes emanating from traffic and manufacturing plants become trapped in this "pocket."

North America

Thirteen of the world's top 30 cleanest cities are in North America, mainly due to their expanse and general lack of congestion. These include Calgary (166), Honolulu (161.5), Ottawa, and Minneapolis (both 154), which feature in the top six, together with Montreal, Vancouver, Atlanta, Boston, Lexington, Pittsburgh, Portland, Washington DC, and Winston-Salem, which all score 145.5 and share 17th position.

At the same time, the US has a number of cities with low scores for cleanliness. Air pollution is a concern in some locations, as is the ineffective disposal of waste. The lowest ranked city in the US is New York at position 128, with a score of 100. Other low-scoring cities include Los Angeles (115.5), Detroit (123), Miami, Houston, and Chicago (which all score 126.5).


Following Helsinki in third position (158), Oslo, Stockholm and Zurich share tenth place for cleanliness, scoring 149.5. Bern, Copenhagen, Geneva, and Nurnberg all rank highly with a score of 145.5.

In contrast, other Western European cities appear much lower on the list, such as Paris, Rome, and London, ranked 84 (score 120), 98 (112.5), and 102 (109.5) in the world respectively. Mr Parakatil commented: "These are sprawling cities with public transport problems and severe traffic congestion - producing a detrimental effect on air quality. Waste disposal systems are also under pressure from the cities' dense populations, making them less efficient
than in other EU cities."

The lowest-scoring city in Western Europe is Athens (64.5), ranked in position 196. Air pollution has been identified as causing respiratory illnesses, and restrictions have been imposed on car use to alleviate the problem. Eastern European cities continue to appear lower in the rankings - including Belgrade (which scores 53), Moscow, 71, Bucharest (92.5), and Warsaw (103).

Rankings for overall quality of life

Mercer's overall quality of life survey has revealed Zurich as the world's city ;with the best quality of life, with 106.5 points. Last year's top scoring city, Vancouver, slips to joint second place with Vienna, with a rating of 106 points.

Cities in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand continue to dominate the top of the table with Sydney and Geneva sharing joint fourth place with 105.5 points, and Auckland, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, and Helsinki being ranked sixth, scoring 105.

The analysis was based on an evaluation of 39 quality of life criteria for each city including political, social, economic, and environmental factors; personal safety and health; education; transport; and other public services. The survey was conducted to assist multinational companies in assessing international hardship allowances for their expatriate workers.

The world's least appealing city remains Brazzaville in Congo, despite its score at the bottom of the table rising by one point from last year to 27.5. Other poor-scoring cities for overall quality of life include Bangui in the Central African Republic (29), Khartoum in Sudan (31.5), and Pointe Noire in Congo (32.5).

Mr Parakatil commented: "Though the world's living standards have risen slightly since last year, the gap between the cities at the top and bottom of the table is still large. The basic comforts of life, hygiene, and personal safety are the main differentiators, and these are often lacking in the developing countries. The gap is magnified by economic and political instability."

William M. Mercer is one of the world's largest human resources consultancies, with some 12,500 employees in more than 135 cities in 34 countries.

For the complete list, see the Mercer site:
William M. Mercer Companies LLC -

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