Colombo in a Global Context: Quality of Living

Quality of Living Rankings by Mercer for 2016 are out: Colombo (the only Sri Lankan city ranked in the survey) is at 132 out of 230 cities. This ranks Colombo higher than other South Asian cities, including Hyderabad (ranking at 139; the best performing Indian city), Bangalore (145), Chennai (150), Mumbai (152), New Delhi (161), Islamabad (193), Lahore (199), Karachi (202) and Dhaka (214).

Going by data released in 2015, Colombo has managed to hold onto its position – or rather, remain stagnant – while Hyderabad has dropped a notch and Pune improved by a single rank (from 145 in 2015 to 144).

Quality of Living: Top 10 cities vs Bottom 10 cities. Image Credit: Mercer

How It Is Calculated

The Quality of Living Index is calculated based on 39 factors, grouped into 10 categories, that help assess living conditions. This includes the “political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement etc), economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services), socio-cultural environment (media availability and censorship, limitations on personal freedom), medical and health considerations (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc.), schools and education (standards and availability of international schools), public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transportation, traffic congestion, etc.), recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure, etc.), consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc.), housing (rental housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services) and natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters).”

Quality of living: Top 5 by region. Image Credit: Mercer

The primary purpose of these rankings is to help determine living conditions for multinational companies, and thereby help employers give their employees fair compensation when placed on international assignments.

Although lists of this sort should be taken with a grain of salt, it is, however, a useful tool when it comes to understanding just where we stand globally in terms of the quality of living.

A Brief Breakdown

We seem to be the undisputed boss of South Asia, but we don’t even figure in the list of top 5 Asian countries. That privilege belongs to Singapore (26), Tokyo (44), Kobe (46), Yokohama (49) and Osaka (58). For that matter, Singapore has a higher ranking than New York City (44), London (39), Oslo (30) and Paris (37), strangely enough, despite the one-party system. As Sri Lankans are very fond of aspiring towards becoming the next Singapore of the region, this just might help us understand where we stand globally and how far we have yet to go.

Cities by personal safety rankings. Image Credit: Mercer

Another reality check: Hyderabad isn’t too far off. At 139, Hyderabad has a far larger population and far more problems than Colombo could even dream of. Additionally, the list hasn’t accounted for cities in Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan, which narrows the list of cities we can be compared to. As Bhutan ranks quite well on the corruption index, but doesn’t figure in this list at all, we just might be a little toothless when it comes to claiming the crown for South Asia.  

Finally, we aren’t even at the halfway mark on the list: as a city, as a nation, we clearly have our work cut out for us. To begin with, it would do well to take a closer look at the criteria for judging and work on improving various factors like our socio-cultural environment, schools, education and public services, and transportation.  

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