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Quality of life in India? Poor at best

Last updated on: April 10, 2006 19:17 IST

India may have become one of the preferred global business destinations, but when it comes to quality of living in its cities -- a key component in deciding pay packages for expatriate assignments -- the country is so far behind that it lags behind even a country like Sri Lanka.

According to a Worldwide Quality of Living survey conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, India's two best cities Delhi and Mumbai are ranked at 150 -- 29 positions behind Colombo ranked at 121 and even behind Senegal's capital Dakar (144).

India's Asian rival China fared better with its commercial capital Shanghai at 103rd position with 80.1 index points and Beijing ranked 122 with 73.4 index points.

Other two Indian cities, Bangalore and Chennai have been ranked 153 and 160, respectively, according to the survey.

"When multinational companies set up expatriate assignments, they have to provide reward packages to compensate for employees for any negative changes to their quality of living," principal at Mercer Yvonne Sonsino said.

Best cities to live in


















Hong Kong




Mumbai & Delhi





"Moving abroad can be a big upheaval for expatriates and their families. So international assignments tend to carry large price tags particularly if they are in cities with low living standards facing political unrest or terrorist threats," she added.

The Indian cities have, however, been able to improve their rankings from last year. While Delhi (61 index points) moved up from 153 last year to 150 this time around, Mumbai (61 index points) moved up a notch from 151 last year.

Zurich ranks as the world's top city for quality of living, according to a survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting. The city scores 108.2 and is only marginally ahead of Geneva, which scores 108.1, while Vancouver follows in third place with a score of 107.7. In contrast, Baghdad is the lowest ranking city in the survey, scoring just 14.5.

The analysis is part of Mercer's annual World-wide Quality of Living Survey, covering more than 350 cities, to help governments and multinational companies place employees on international assignments. Each city is based on an evaluation of 39 criteria, including political, social, economic and environmental factors, personal safety and health, education, transport and other public services. Cities are ranked against New York as the base city, which has an index score of 100.


Auckland and Wellington have both moved up the rankings from 8th to 5th and 14th to 12th places respectively, mainly due to strong internal stability relative to other cities, while Sydney remains at position 9 with a score of 106.5.

In Asia, Singapore ranks 34th (score 102.5) followed by Tokyo, Japan's highest scoring city, at position 35 (score 102.3). Hong Kong's modern and efficient infrastructure, including its airport which is considered one of best in the world, has pushed it up from 70th to 68th position with a score of 95.4.

The top-ranking city in China is Shanghai in 103rd place (score 80.1). "Beijing and Shanghai are on the rise and should experience rapid improvements in quality of living in the coming years. This is mainly due to greater international investment driven by the availability and lower cost of labour and manufacturing expertise," explained. Slagin Parakatil, senior researcher, at Mercer.


Though cities in India generally rank lower than their Chinese counterparts they are also showing signs of development in the region.

"The ratings for some Indian cities has improved from last year, primarily due to India's improved political relationships with neighbouring countries. Significant investments from multinationals setting up operations in India may prompt further improvements, boost economic growth and contribute to economic stability. In turn, this will encourage the local authorities to focus on improving quality of living standards. The real impact of these investments, however, will be felt in the coming 4-5 years," says Gangapriya Chakraverti, business leader at India's Human Capital Product Solutions, Mercer.

Europe and the Middle East

Almost half the top 30 scoring cities are in Western Europe. In this region, Vienna follows Zurich and Geneva in 4th position with a score of 107.5. Other highly-rated cities include Dusseldorf (107.2), Frankfurt (107.0) and Munich (106.8) in positions 6, 7 and 8, respectively. Athens remains the lowest scoring city in Western Europe, scoring 86.8 at position 79.

London is the United Kingdom's highest ranking city and is stable at position 39 (score 101.2). The two other UK cities covered in the survey are Birmingham and Glasgow which both score 98.3 and climb one place to joint 55th position. Dublin has dropped two places to 24th position, scoring 103.8, mainly due to increased traffic congestion.

As predicted, cities in Eastern Europe such as Budapest, Ljubljana, Prague, Vilnius, Tallinn and Warsaw continue to benefit from incremental score increases and are gradually climbing the rankings.


Honolulu, the highest ranking city in the US, drops two positions to 27th with a score of 103.3. San Francisco remains at 28th position and scores 103.2. Boston, Washington, Chicago and Portland follow in positions 36, 41, 41 and 43 respectively (scores 101.9, 100.4, 100.4 and 100.3) while Houston remains the lowest ranking city in the US at position 68 (score 95.4). Overall, US cities continue to slip slightly or remain stable in the rankings, except Chicago which has moved up 11 places due to decreased crime rates.

Other low-ranking cities for overall quality of living include Congo in Brazzaville (score 30.3) and Bangui in the Central African Republic and Khartoum in Sudan (30.6 and 31.7).

The overall quality of living ranking is based on an evaluation of 39 quality of living criteria. New York has been used as the base score for quality of living which has a total index equal to 100.

Mercer's study is based on detailed assessments and evaluations of 39 key quality of living determinants, grouped in the following categories:

  • Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement, etc);
  • Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services, etc);
  • Socio-cultural environment (censorship, limitations on personal freedom, etc);
  • Medical and health considerations (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc);
  • Schools and education (standard and availability of schools, etc);
  • Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transport, traffic congestion, etc);
  • Recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure, etc);
  • Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc);
  • Housing (housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services, etc);
  • Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters).

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