World's Best Places to Live 2011

World's Best Places to Live

The world's biggest and most important cities aren't often the best places in which to live. High levels of crime, traffic congestion, and long commutes can worsen the quality of life. So which are the best cities to live in the world?

We've put together a list of the world's 15 best cities, according to human resources consulting firm Mercer's 2011 quality of living survey. The annual report looks at living conditions in 221 cities worldwide and ranks them against New York as a base city in 10 categories such as economy, socio-cultural environment, politics, education, and the health sector.

See the Slideshow: World's Best Places to Live

This year the survey also identified cities with the highest personal safety rankings based on crime levels, law enforcement, international relations, and stability.

Cities in some of the world's biggest economies, including the U.S., Japan, and Britain, missed the cut. So, which cities made the list?

Vienna, AustriaVienna, Austria1. Vienna, Austria

Vienna has won the title of the world's best city for quality of life since 2009. It is one of three capital cities around the world to make the top 10 list.

The city is Austria's largest by population, as well as the cultural, economic, and political center of the nation. Vienna's ability to transform old infrastructure into modern dwellings won the city the 2010 UN urban planning award for improving the living conditions of its residents. Under a multimillion-dollar program, the city refurbished more than 5,000 buildings with nearly 250,000 apartments. Vienna is also the world's number one destination for conferences, drawing five million tourists a year - equivalent to three tourists for every city resident.

Countries such as Austria, Germany, and Switzerland have fared quite well in the quality of life rankings, despite recent turmoil in Europe. However, Mercer's senior researcher Slagin Parakatil says these cities are not immune to decreases in living standards if the region's economic troubles continue to go unsolved.

Zurich, SwitzerlandZurich, Switzerland2. Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and previously held the title as the city with the best quality of life in the world.

Zurich is known as the economic engine of Switzerland, with one out of every nine jobs in the country based there. Its low tax rates attract overseas companies to set up headquarters, while the assets of the 82 banks based there are equivalent to more than 85 percent of the total value of all assets held in Switzerland. The city is also the country's biggest tourist destination, famous for its lakeside location and chain of hills that run from north to south, providing an extensive range of leisure activities.

Zurich is Europe's third most expensive city, according to Mercer's cost of living survey. Its finance sector generates nearly a third of its wealth and about quarter of its jobs. The city's housing market has become a source of tension in recent years, however, with a shortage of apartments driving up living costs.

Auckland, New ZealandAuckland, New Zealand3. Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland has the best quality of life in the Asia-Pacific region. It has consistently placed within the top five best places to live in the last five years.

As New Zealand's largest city, Auckland's 1.35 million people account for more than 30 percent of the country's population. About 63 percent of its residents are of European descent, while Moaris (native to New Zealand), and people of Pacific Islands descent make up 24 percent. The city is uniquely set between two harbors, with 11 extinct volcanoes and numerous islands making it the city with the world's largest boat ownership per capita. Auckland is also ranked as the second safest city in the Asian region, behind Singapore.

Political stability is another winning attribute for New Zealand, compared to its Asian neighbors. In elections that just ended, the ruling center-right National Party was re-elected. The party, led by John Key, promises to spark economic growth by cutting debt and curbing spending. Key has been one the most popular political leaders in New Zealand's history, leading the country through earthquakes, a coal mine disaster, and the global economic downturn.

Munich, GermanyMunich, Germany4. Munich, Germany

Munich is Germany's third largest city and one of the country's key economic centers.
As home to some of Germany's most notable businesses, including engineering firm Siemens and insurer Allianz, the city generates about 30 percent of the GDP of the State of Bavaria. The city's purchasing power per capita was more than $33,700 in 2009, the highest among all German cities and 32 percent above the national average. Drawing immigrants to its industries from all over the world, more than 40 percent of the city's residents are foreigners.
Despite having a prosperous economy, Germany is facing a skilled labor shortage with its aging population. Associations estimate that 80,000 engineering jobs need to filled annually, along with 12,000 doctors and 66,000 IT specialists. Over the past few months, the country's government has turned to debt-radden countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece to find job seekers.

Dusseldorf, GermanyDusseldorf, Germany5. (Tied) Dusseldorf, Germany

Dusseldorf has made the list of the top 10 places for the past five years.

The city by the river Rhine is the seventh most populated in Germany and boasts advanced infrastructure. Renowned for its fashion and trade fairs, the city has also become one of the top telecommunications centers in the country. It is home to companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Nokia Siemens. With more than 100 galleries, the city is also Germany's leading modern and contemporary art capital.

German cities such as Dusseldorf have managed to maintain their quality of life despite the global financial crisis and the recent euro zone debt crisis, given the country's resilient export-driven economy.

Vancouver, CanadaVancouver, Canada5. (Tied) Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver is the only Canadian and North American city to make the top 10 on the list.

The city is renowned for making numerous rankings of the world's most livable city over the past decade. It has ranked among the top five in the Mercer quality of living survey for the last five years. Home to one of the mildest climates in Canada, Vancouver is also its greenest city, with the smallest carbon footprint of any major city in North America. Surrounded by water and snowy mountains, Vancouver's government constantly promotes green building, planning, and technology, with the ambition of becoming the world's greenest city by 2020.

Despite being ranked as high as the 17th safest city in the world along with its Canadian counterparts Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, and Ottawa, Vancouver made headlines this past year for violent riots. Graphic images were shown around the world in June, after hockey fans went on a rampage following a loss in the Stanley Cup finals.

See the full list: World's best Places to Live 2011

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