Sydney tops Melbourne in Mercer’s global city rankings for expats

22 December 2023 3 min. read
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After a break due to Covid-19, human capital consultancy Mercer has released its first global city rankings for expats since 2019, with top-ten entrant Sydney claiming bragging rights over Melbourne.

Sydney has again beaten perennial rival Melbourne to a top-ten spot on Mercer’s latest global index for expat workers, with both trumped by an arguably even greater foe in Auckland.

The human capital consultancy concluded the most populous New Zealand city to offer the third-highest quality of living worldwide for those working abroad, behind only Vienna and Zurich, while Sydney landed in ninth place out of the 241 cities assessed.

Sydney tops Melbourne in Mercer’s global city rankings for expats

“The current global landscape is affected by geopolitical turmoil, natural disasters, and other economic challenges, all of which have significant implications for cities and their ability to attract and retain talent,” stated Mercer’s global mobility leader Yvonne Traber, who is based in the fifth-ranked city of Geneva. “Many employees are reconsidering their priorities and assessing the quality of life provided to them and their families in the places they live and work.”

To compile its annual list, Mercer analyses 39 data-points across ten categories, including factors such as health and the natural environment, housing, education, public services and transportation, recreation, and the local political, social and economic landscape. Sydney for example was cited for its thriving economy and diverse lifestyle options, while Vienna received special praise for its rich history and stunning architecture.

While the Austrian capital seemingly can’t be budged from its perch – returning to the top spot for the eleventh consecutive edition after a three-year pause due to Covid, despite averaging around 0 degrees Celsius for most of winter – Sydney has managed to climb two spots since 2019 to leapfrog Basel and Düsseldorf into the top ten of the Northern Europe-dominated list. Melbourne meanwhile has slipped from 17th to equal twentieth alongside Montreal.

This year however, Mercer’s researchers added a new list of the world’s most environmentally-friendly cities in response to employers’ growing interest in sustainability, with Canberra surprisingly coming out on top and Adelaide also ranking among the very top eco-cities. Both also featured within the top 30 of the overall list, alongside Perth in 22nd, demonstrating some degree of correlation between a city’s eco-credentials and quality of living.

“Mercer’s data shows that countries with a high quality of living provide their citizens and expatriates with access to excellent healthcare, education, infrastructure, and social services as well as affordable housing,” added Traber, with the last point sure to rankle renters in Sydney. “For many employers and their employees, having clarity on these factors informs decision-making for both parties when considering international assignments.”

Elsewhere, Singapore ranked 29th as the highest scoring among Asian cities, while the long-time Australian expat epicenter of London came in at 45th, weighed down by increased infrastructure challenges like other global hubs of its size. Vancouver (8th) topped the Americas charts as the only other non-European city in the top ten, while at the other end of the list Khartoum in Sudan unseated Baghdad to finish in very last spot at 241st.