By Elizabeth Broomhall
Regional cities see small jump in rankings, European capitals dominate listings
Dubai offers the best quality of life to expatriate workers among the six GCC states, a Mercer report ranking 220 cities around the world said Tuesday.
Dubai took the No.74 spot on the list, followed by oil-rich Abu Dhabi in at No.78, and Muscat and Doha in at 101 and 106 respectively. Bahrain took the No.113 spot, followed by Kuwait City at 120. The Saudi capital, Riyadh, brought up the rankings at No.157.
The Gulf states saw little improvement in their rankings from 2010 – Dubai jumped just one point in the ratings – as the region’s political unrest took a toll on living standards.
“Events we’ve seen regionally during 2011 such as social unrest and economic turmoil have a clear impact on the success of overseas placements,” said poll author Zaid Kamhawi.
“Social unrest in some countries in our region like Libya, Egypt, Syria and Yemen, has temporarily lowered the comparative living standards in these countries.”
Mercer compiles the rankings to advise clients on how to calculate pay for expatriates and compensate them for decreases in their quality of life. Factors taken into account include the political and economic environment, health, education, housing and public services.
Globally, Vienna offered expats the best quality of life, followed by Zurich, Auckland and Munich. Düsseldorf and Vancouver shared fifth place.
Overall, European cities dominated the rankings, with only two cities outside Europe in the top 10. European cities, headed by Luxembourg, also ranked top for safety.
Baghdad offers the worst standard of living, as well as being the most dangerous place to live, the report said.
Despite notching up only small improvements in their rankings, Kamhawi said the Gulf states had showed resilience in the face of widespread regional unrest. The GCC’s largest economies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have largely escaped the turmoil that has hit other Middle East states.
“We see the environment in other places like the GCC cities continue to improve, driven mainly by infrastructure development and improvements in public services,” he said.
“It is significant that three GCC cities are within the top 40 globally in personal safety. This reflects the sense of security experienced by expatriate employees living in these countries.”
A report by Merrill Lynch Bank of America in September said the Arab Spring had cost the Gulf states $150bn, racked up by extra social spending on housing, schools and hospitals.