A quality of life survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting has identified that Europe has five of the world’s six top-scoring cities for personal safety.
Luxembourg ranks as the world’s safest with a rating of 133.5. In joint second position are the Finnish capital Helsinki and the Swiss cities of Zurich, Geneva, and Bern, scoring 126.5. Singapore also shares second place.
Japanese cities score highly, too, with nine sharing joint 7th position and a rating of 122.
Personal safety scores are based on crime levels, law enforcement, and internal stability. Cities are ranked against New York as the base city, which has a rating of 100. The analysis is part of a world-wide quality of life survey, covering 215 cities, to help governments and major companies to place employees on international assignments.
“The top cities for personal safety score highly on internal stability, law enforcement, and low crime rates. Variations in the city scores between the industrialised and less developed countries are especially noted,” said Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer.
The research was largely conducted in November 2002 and is updated to take account of changing circumstances. In particular, the assessments will be revised in the case of any new developments in the Middle East.
The world’s lowest ranking city for personal safety is Bangui in the Central African Republic, which scores just 21.5. Since the coup in 2001, the environment there remains highly volatile and dangerous.
Other low-scoring cities include Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, ranked 214 (25.5), which continues to suffer from the ravages of civil war. Pointe Noire and Brazzaville in Congo and Luanda in Angola all rank 211th with a score of 26.5. These cities have experienced prolonged periods of civil unrest, with high rates of crime and poor records of law enforcement.
“It will take time for many of these African cities to recover from such prolonged periods of political and economic turmoil, and to re-establish stable, law-enforcing democracies where local citizens and expatriates can feel safe,” said Mr Parakatil.
In the survey, over a third of the world’s cities scoring 100 or more are in Western Europe. These include five of the world’s safest cities - Luxembourg, Helsinki, Zurich, Geneva, and Bern. Amongst the other high-scoring cities are Vienna and Stockholm, ranked at 16 (score 120) and 17 (119.5), and Copenhagen, Dublin, and Oslo, which all take 18th position with a score of 115.
At the other end of the scale, Milan, Athens, and Rome are seen as the least safe cities in the region, and rank 83 (score 93.5), 93 (score 91) and 99 (score 86.5) respectively. Relatively high crime levels are the chief factors affecting safety scores for these cities. London scores 100 in position 64.
Compared to Western Europe, most cities in the East appear lower in the rankings, mainly because of the high crime rates and low levels of law enforcement. Bratislava in Slovakia and Ljubljana in Slovenia score highest for personal safety and are both ranked 56 (score 104.5), followed by Prague in the Czech Republic and Vilnius in Lithuania - both at position 79 (score 98). Moscow is the lowest-scoring city and is ranked 184 with a score of 48.5 – due, in particular, to the effects of economic instability.
Canadian cities are the safest in North America, due to strict law enforcement and low crime rates. Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver share joint 25th position with a score of 113.5.
In the US, Honolulu, Houston, and San Francisco all take 40th place (score 106.5). Meanwhile, Chicago, New York, and Seattle share position 64 (score 100) in the rankings. The lowest scoring city in North America is Washington D.C, ranked 107 (score 85).
Cities in South America tend to feature much lower in the rankings than those in North America, on account of local political and economic turmoil and poor law enforcement as witnessed over recent months. Santiago in Chile ranks highest in 83rd place (score 93.5). Bogota and Medellin in Colombia rank lowest at positions 207 and 208 respectively (score 31 and 30). Both cities continue to experience severe outbreaks of violence.
Rankings for overall quality of life Mercer’s overall quality of life survey has revealed that Zurich remains the world’s top city, providing the best quality of life, with 106.5 points. Geneva (previously scoring 105.5) moves up from fourth to second place to join Vancouver and Vienna, with a rating of 106. This takes account of the easing of entry restrictions and the growing pre-eminence of Geneva’s medical facilities, including modern and well-equipped hospitals and clinics that are amongst the best in Europe.
Cities in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand continue to rank highest in the table. Copenhagen, Frankfurt, and Bern share joint fifth place with Sydney and Auckland, and score 105 points.
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 world’s least enticing city remains Brazzaville in Congo, despite its score rising by one point from last year, to 28.5. Other poor-scoring cities for overall quality of life include Bangui in the Central African Republic (30), Baghdad (30.5), and Pointe Noire in Congo (32.5).
“The gap between the cities at the top and bottom of the table is still large. Indeed, economic and political unrest in Africa and Latin America has pushed many cities down in the rankings this year. Personal safety and internal stability factors have had the greatest impact on overall quality of life in these regions,” said Mr Parakatil.