Prague tops post-communist capitals in Mercer quality of living survey

Wenceslas Square, Prague, photo: Štěpánka Budková

For the tenth year in a row, the Austrian capital has topped the global rankings of the “Quality of Living” index compiled by the US consultancy Mercer. For a third year in a row, the Czech capital is ranked 69th overall, but is no.1 among cities in the former Eastern bloc. So what does Vienna have that Prague does not?

Wenceslas Square,  Prague,  photo: Štěpánka Budková
In essence, Mercer’s “Quality of Living” index is a tool to help expatriates determine whether they might seek a “hardship allowance” if asked by an employer to relocate to another country for work, though many complex and dynamic factors must be taken into account.

Based on 39 factors within 10 categories, the index covers potential “hardship posting” factors such as climate, disease and sanitation standards, ease of communications, and physical remoteness; the local political and social environment, political violence.

According to Mercer, Prague offers the best overall quality of life among the cities of the former Eastern bloc, better than the capitals of its fellow new EU member states in central Europe – Ljubljana (74th), Budapest (76th), Bratislava (80th), Warsaw (82nd), Riga (90th) and Zagreb (98th).

So, what exactly is the Czech capital doing right, and where is there room for improvement? Mercer doesn’t publish these comparisons, as it monetises the index in part through sales of reports on individual cities. But local representative Petr Boldiš explained in general terms

“The survey is not intended as a general comparison of all cities around the world but as a measurement for expatriates. So it looks at these cities from the perspective of people who are sent to work abroad and live with their families in a specific city for a certain number of years. Let’s say from 2 to 5 years. So this gives a completely different perspective from other rankings.”

Right, for example expatriate families would almost invariably be renting properties, not looking to buy.

“Yes. Or, for example, medical care. Whether some private medical facilities are available where you can communicate in some foreign language like English, German or French.”

Can you say in which areas Prague excels?

“Prague leads the ranking within central and eastern Europe. The factors where Prague ranks higher are for example in political stability, the medical care level and low crime rate. And also Prague is quite famous for really excellent public transportation and the offering of various recreational facilities.”

What does a city like Vienna – which is ranked no.1 – offer expats that Prague does not?

“It’s a quite broad question! (laughs) Vienna is really stable, safe city that has excellent housing, an excellent natural environment, has many international schools for expatriates and scores much higher in transportation than Prague, for example. For example, the international airport has many more connections. Just in a nutshell.”

Scores attributed to each factor are weighted to reflect their importance in particular to expatriates, and permit objective city-to-city comparisons, Mr Boldiš notes. Apart from the main index, Mercer also produces annual reporting focusing on special aspects of living in a city.

In this regard, Prague ranked an impressive 40th globally, he says, ahead of scores of European cities, including Milan, London and Paris.