Montevideo has the highest quality of living in Latin America

28 May 2018 5 min. read

Montevideo has been named the city in Latin America with the best quality of living, coming in at 77 on Mercer’s 2018 Quality of Living Index Index.

The Uruguayan capital, Montevideo has been named as this year’s Latin city with the best quality of living in the region. Several cities in North America ranked above Montevideo including Vancouver and Toronto, which placed 5th and 16th respectively, with San Francisco the first city in the United States to appear on the list.

The global consultancy firm Mercer has been conducting surveys on the quality of living in cities worldwide for the past 20 years. The consultancy firm, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of professional services firm Marsh & McLennan Companies, then take the data generated from the survey and incorporate it into the ranking. 

By evaluating and ranking over 450 cities worldwide, the index is used by Mercer to advise its multinational clients on expat renumeration and international employee transfers. To cumulate the data, the firm analyses 39 factors which are split into 10 categories including political stability, environmental stability, education and housing, sanitation and hygiene, as well as the economic marketplace.

Top 5 global cities for quality of living per region Mercer Index 2018

This year’s list was once again dominated by European cities with the majority of the top ten being situated in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Vienna took the top spot with Aukland placing third and Toronto being the first North American city to appear on the list. Pointe-à-Pitre, the economic capital of French overseas department Guadalupe, scored 73rd in the ranking, making it the first to appear in the Caribbean region. 

Montevideo is largely considered to have a European influence and a laid-back lifestyle. The city of 1.3 million people has appeared first again in the Mercer Index as having the best quality of living in Latin America. Having one of the lowest rates of inequality in the region coupled with one of the highest GDP’s per capita, makes Montevideo an attractive as well as secure location. 

Following the Uruguayan capital, Buenos Aires and Santiago both made an appearance coming in at 91 and 92 respectively. Both are considered to have a relatively European outlook as well as being major financial hubs within the southern Latin region. However, the economic environment in Argentina and Chile is less stable than in Uruguay, giving Montevideo an upper-hand in the rankings.

In Central America and the Caribbean, Puerto Rico’s San Juan came in at number 96, ranking on par with Panama City. Brasilia was the first Brazilian city to make the list at number 111, with Monterey the first Mexican appearance. The majority of Latin cities appear between the 110 and the 130 mark with San José, Costa Rica (113), Asuncion, Paraguay (115), Rio de Janeiro (118), Quito and Sao Paulo (122), Lima (124), Bogota (128) and Mexico City (129) in the bracket.

Biggest improvement in quality of living per region Mercer Index 2018

On the other end of the spectrum are Venezuela’s Caracas (193) and Haiti’s Port au Prince (228) as the lowest ranking cities in the region. The two cities are considered to have the worst political environments in the region, extreme levels of inequality, poor hygiene, and security issues. Havana has made the most progress in Latin America, increasing its score 6.5% over the past year. Managua, Nicaragua and El Salvador’s San Salvador have both seen an over 5% rise as well.

“The highest increases have occurred in Central America, including Havana, Cuba (+6.5%). Several locations in Central and Latin America saw living standards increase following improvements in the political environment and expanding availability of consumer goods for expatriates, combined with a slight development in infrastructure,” states the report.

In general, Latin America and the Caribbean fair better than other developing regions with the ten cities with the poorest quality of living situated in Africa, Central and Southern Asia and the Middle East, excluding the natural-disaster ravaged Haitian capital. However, Latin American cities are thought to be entities unto themselves with a large range of urban spaces representing, in real terms, large levels of socially geographical inequality. 

“Although they are challenged by economic and political turmoil,” experts at the consultancy explain, “cities in emerging markets are catching up with major cities, after decades of investment in infrastructure, recreational facilities, and housing for the purpose of attracting talent and multinational businesses.”

Top 10 and bottom 10 global cities for quality of living per region Mercer Index 2018

Mercer’s Quality of Living Ranking

Mercer’s annual report is one of the most comprehensive global studies and helps MNEs and other international organisations along with HR relocation specialists. The results are also intended to be used by expats who must choose between international postings and to calculate hardship allowances. 

“How successful an international assignment is hinges on the personal and professional wellbeing of the individual expatriate and the welfare of their families,” said Slagin Parakatil, Principal at Mercer and Global Product Owner for its Quality of Living research. 

“As well as a significant hinder to a city’s, business and talent attractiveness, poor quality of living can considerably impact on an expatriate’s lifestyle. Younger generations, millennials in particular, often have high expectations in terms of lifestyle, leisure and entertainment opportunities. Companies sending expatriates abroad need to get the full picture of conditions on the ground in order to compensate their employees appropriately for any decrease in living standards.”