INTRO: Luxembourg is the safest, most secure place to be on Earth. Baghdad is the least. That's according to a new survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting. VOA's Barbara Klein has details.
TEXT: Large multinational corporations often move employees to different cities around the world to further their business. And many hire Mercer Human Resource Consulting to help them determine which cities would be most hospitable to doing business. So every year, Mercer conducts a global Quality of Life survey. Rebecca Powers is a senior consultant for Mercer and says the most important factor in measuring Quality of Life is personal safety and security.
RP: No matter how good the night life is in a particular location, if you feel as though you may soon be the victim of a violent crime, that will cut into the quality of your life someplace.
BK: What factors did you use in scoring cities for personal safety and security?
RP: One would be, is there a lot of violent crime to begin wit?. Two, is there a reason to believe that the government can actually enforce the law? Is the government stable enough that one can assume that that will continue to be the case? And then in addition to that, the relationships that that particular country has with its neighbors [are considered as well], simply because it certainly impacts the level of personal safety and security if there is a possibility of some kind of hostility breaking out.
BK: Censorship and limitations on personal freedom are also measured when it comes to personal safety and security. Why?
RP: The belief is that if you have a very very repressive society, that there is a greater potential for there to be civil unrest and violence at some point.
BK: How different were the results for the overall quality-of-life survey from the specific aspect of safety and security?
RP: Generally speaking, if we look at some of the top places in terms of safety and security, certainly the Swiss locations always do very well - there is that very positive aspect of neutrality in that regard - but they also do very well in the quality of life. Everything from the quality of air and water as well as modern systems and a general sense of freedom. So many of the northern European locations do very well in that area as well.
BK: Cities in northern Europe certainly dominate the highest ranked cities in your survey, but let's look at some other regions of the world.
RP: Well, if you're looking at safety and security in Asia, certainly Japanese cities tend to do well, as do some of those in the southern hemisphere - New Zealand, Australia, etc. - and those cities as well, in New Zealand and Australia, do quite well in the overall quality of life. The Japanese cities don't do quite as well, overall. I think the crowding, etc. there diminishes the result relative to the rest of the world.
BK: U-S cities did not rank among the highest...
RP: Oh, no. And actually I have to say, broadly speaking, the U-S cities typically do not rank, and historically have not ranked as high as Canadian locations, and they don't rank as high as much of northern Europe. I mean the incidence of violent crime is higher in the U-S than it is in some of these other locations, than it is in Helsinki, for example, and Luxembourg and through Switzerland. And that's been the case for a number of years. Having said that, it is certainly not as high as it is in an awful lot of the rest of the world, so it's not as though the United States can be considered an unsafe place.
BK: I'm in Washington, D.C. right now and I'm number 42 out of, what, 215?
RP: Washington, D.C. frequently doesn't rate as well as much of the U-S in terms of safety and security and that's typically seen as being related to levels of crime.
BK: You are in San Francisco and that, according to the quality of life survey as well as in terms of safety and security, ranks very high for the United States. Which is somewhat surprising for such a big diverse city.
RP: It is a very diverse city, but it's also a very open-thinking city. The quality of life here, I would say, is pretty strong in terms of educational systems, medical systems, pollution, [which is] relatively better than it is in other locations. Violent crime is not very high. There's less traffic congestion, a little less air pollution than there is, for example, in Los Angeles. So I think that it's not just a question of size in a lot of these places, but certainly one of a variety of factors.
BK: Rebecca Powers, senior consultant for Mercer Human Resource Consulting, which has ranked the world's major cities by overall quality of life. Some other interesting highlights in this year's survey of 215 cities: Moscow's ranking, at 170, has declined because of terrorism, censorship and crime. At number 68, Houston, Texas received the lowest ranking of all U-S cities, slightly higher than Prague, Kuala Lumpur, and Port Louis in Mauritius.