Here we go again…
Mercer recently came out with their 2016 Quality of Life Survey. As usual, the media misused the survey to brag about how Vancouver is the bestest of the best. What they failed to point out is what the survey is actually trying to determine.
When executives are temporarily relocated to another city, they frequently will receive a hardship allowance. For example, when an executive in a city like Vancouver is assigned to Jakarta, Indonesia, Mercer recommends a 25% hardship allowance.
In calculating their index, Mercer considers these ten categories:
- 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).
- Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters).
Because these executives will continue to earn their base salary plus any hardship allowance, and will be housed by their company, local incomes and housing prices are not even considered. The idea that incomes and house prices have no bearing on quality of life is absurd. Any true measure of livability would need to consider both of these factors. This would be especially true for young families who are just starting out.
So, in light of the deficiencies of livability surveys that only consider temporarily relocating corporate executives, I’ve adjusted Mercer’s numbers to take into account incomes and house prices. For example, if Mercer thinks City A is 5% better than City B, but pay is 5% higher in City B, they would tie in my adjusted index. The same would be true if housing in City A is 5% higher than City B.
I’ve taken the latest available data from Mercer (for English-speaking cities), and adjusted the index to account for incomes and house prices. Here are the results.
Vancouver is without question a great place to live for visiting executives, home-owning retirees and the super-wealthy. But for young families just starting out — not so much.