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Vienna waltzes to quality of living win for 10th year

Being medium-sized, safe and relatively green are some of the features it shares with second-placed Zurich, a much more expensive city and major financial centre.

FILE: Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

VIENNA - The Austrian capital Vienna has topped Mercer’s index of most liveable cities for the 10th year in a row.

Known by tourists for its imperial past, gilded palaces and classical music, the city of 1.9 million is also nicknamed “red Vienna” for having long been run by the political left, with cheap public services and abundant social housing.

Being medium-sized, safe and relatively green are some of the features it shares with second-placed Zurich, a much more expensive city and major financial centre, as well as with Auckland, Munich and Vancouver, which came joint third.

Those top five cities in consulting firm Mercer’s 2019 Quality of Living Ranking published on Wednesday were unchanged from last year’s edition, though Vancouver rose to joint third from fifth.

World map showing the 10 best and worst cities for quality of life, according to the Mercer human resources consultancy. Picture: AFP

“Quality of living is determined by many factors, from access to public transport and traffic congestion levels, to the availability of housing and international schools, to a city’s cultural scene,” Mercer said in a statement, without specifying how Vienna keeps edging out Zurich.

Mercer says it looks at 39 factors grouped under 10 headings such as “political and social environment” and “recreation”.

The 10 cities at the bottom of the 231-city table were unchanged, with Baghdad ranked last, followed by Bangui in the Central African Republic and Yemen’s capital Sanaa.

There were few big shifts but Caracas fell nine places to 202nd as Venezuela has suffered from hyperinflation, a shortage of basic goods and, more recently, a political crisis since opposition leader Juan Guaido assumed the interim presidency in January.

Mercer said Caracas “saw living standards drop following significant political and economic instability”.

Its index, however, was based on data analysed between September and November 2018, meaning it did not take into account recent developments such as a massive blackout that has crippled oil exports and made already scarce food rot.

Brexit did not cause major movements among British cities. London remained the highest-ranked overall at 44th despite coming last in Britain in a separate personal safety ranking.

“In the UK, London remains ... the preferred centre for international business,” Mercer said.

Dublin, which was ranked safer than any British city, rose one spot to 33rd overall, just above San Francisco.

“Dublin ... has been the net beneficiary of tech, financial services and law firms relocating to the city,” Mercer said, without elaborating.

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