South African cities with the best quality of life

Mercer’s annual Quality of Living survey reveals which South African city offers the best living standards, with surprising results.

According to Mercer, Durban ranks above the country’s traditional economic powerhouse of Johannesburg, and tourist mecca, Cape Town.

In the global ranking, Durban is listed 85th out of 230 cities, with Cape Town (91st) placing just above Johannesburg (94th).

Durban is unchanged from the previous ranking by Mercer, with Cape Town falling down one spot from 90th.

Durban’s higher ranking is mainly due to its high-quality housing, plentiful recreational offerings and good consumer goods availability, Mercer said. However, the city’s crime problems keep it from climbing into the top 50.

Earlier this week, Durban formally lodged its bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

In December, research conducted by trade union, Solidarity, found that municipal service delivery in the Western Cape meant that it’s residents enjoy a better quality of life than their counterparts in the rest of the country.

In 74th place, Dubai ranks highest for quality of living across the Middle East and Africa region. It is followed by Abu Dhabi (77th), also in the UAE, and Port Louis (82nd), Mauritius.

Global quality of life

Overall, European cities dominate the top of the Mercer ranking, along with major cities in Australia and New Zealand.

Vienna is listed as having the world’s best quality of life, followed by Zurich, Auckland, and Munich.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the cities that offer the lowest quality of life are found largely in Africa and the Middle East.

Baghdad (230th) is the lowest ranked city on the list, below the likes of Bangui in the CAR, Port au Prince in Haiti, and Khartoum in Sudan.

Best cities for quality of life

Rank City Country
1 Vienna Austria
2 Zurich Switzerland
3 Auckland New Zealand
4 Munich Germany
5 Vancouver Canada
6 Dusseldorf Germany
7 Frankfurt Germany
8 Geneva Switzerland
9 Copenhagen Denmark
10 Sydney Australia

Worst cities for quality of life

Rank City Country
230 Baghdad Iraq
229 Bangui Central African Republic
228 Port au Prince Haiti
227 Khartoum Sudan
226 N’Djamena Chad
225 Sana’a Yemen
224 Brazzaville Republic of Congo
223 Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo
222 Conakry Guinea
221 Nouakchott Mauritania

Mercer conducts its Quality of Living survey annually to help multinational companies and other employers compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments.

The group evaluates local living conditions in more than 440 cities it surveys worldwide, where living conditions are analysed according to 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories:

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

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South African cities with the best quality of life