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Zurich tops city lifestyle list

Zurich's Grossmuenster Cathedral, part of the charm
Zurich's Grossmuenster Cathedral, part of the charm  

LONDON, England -- Zurich in Switzerland is the world's most desirable city in which to live, an annual survey of living standards has found.

Last year's winner Vancouver, in Canada, came joint-second with Vienna, in Austria.

Geneva maintained Switzerland's overall high-ranking in the 215-city rankings, tying with Sydney, Australia, for fourth place.

Completing the top 10 was Frankfurt, Helsinki, Auckland, Copenhagen and Bern.

Western Europe had three cities in the world's top four highest-ranking cities and 14 of the top 20.

The survey -- by human resources consultancy William M. Mercer -- used 39 key criteria to judge the cities' desirability.

These included politics, economics, the natural and socio-cultural environment, healthcare, education, housing, transport, shopping and recreation.

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New York, which was used as the baseline for comparison, came 41st along with London, Washington, Boston, Chicago and Madrid.

Retaining the unwelcome distinction of bottom of the list was Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, at 209, and Baghdad at 211, while the world's worst city in which to live was Brazzaville, Congo.

Slagin Parakatil, senior researcher at Mercer, said: "Though the world's living standards have risen slightly since last year, the gap between cities at the top and the bottom of the table is still large.

"The basic comforts of life, hygiene and personal safety are the main differentiators, and these are often lacking in developing countries. The gap is magnified by economic and political instability."

Transport problems

As well as Switzerland, Germany also has three cities in the top 20 -- Frankfurt (104.5), Munich (104.5), and Dusseldorf (103.5).

Other high-scoring cities are Helsinki (105), Amsterdam (104), Oslo (104), Stockholm (104), Brussels (103.5) and Luxembourg (103).

Paris is ranked in joint 33rd position with a score of 101.5, slightly down from 102.5 last year when it was ranked 24th.

London is ranked in position 40 with a score of 100.5 -- down from position 35 last year when it scored 101.5. Worsening traffic congestion and transport problems, together with recent increases in robbery and personal theft, were behind the reduction in its score.

In Eastern Europe, Budapest (90.5), Prague (88.5), and Warsaw (82) remain highest in the rankings.

By contrast Sarajevo (48.5), Almaty (46.5), Belgrade (43.5) and Tashkent (43.5) appear near the bottom of the table due to the instability of the region. Nevertheless, both Sarajevo and Belgrade have risen significantly in the rankings since last year when their scores were 44.5 and 39 respectively.

Moscow (59.5), Kiev (59.5) and St. Petersburg (58.5) also score badly on the issues of political stability, personal safety, and health.

But while European cities are among the most desirable to live, they are also among some of the most polluted.

Fume-filled congestion and mounting waste demands put London as the second dirtiest capital in the European Union, beaten only by Athens.

Both are grimier than Los Angeles, Detroit, Miami, Houston and Chicago.

"These are sprawling cities with public transport problems and severe traffic congestion -- producing a detrimental effect on air quality," said Parakatil.

"Waste disposal systems are also under pressure from the cities' dense populations, making them less efficient than in other EU cities."

Helsinki was named the cleanest capital in the European Union, followed by Oslo, Stockholm and Zurich.

Canadian city Calgary topped the world environmental table, followed by Honolulu in Hawaii. Katsuyama in Japan was rated joint third with Helsinki.

The world's lowest ranking city for environmental cleanliness was Mexico City.


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