UAE offers residents the best of quality of life in the Middle East, new ranking finds

Dubai was the highest rated city closely followed by Abu Dhabi

A man feeds seagulls on the beach near the Burj al-Arab in Dubai on March 14, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE
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The UAE offers residents the best quality of life in the Middle East, according to a new ranking from global consultancy Mercer, with Dubai securing the highest rating, closely followed by Abu Dhabi.

In Mercer's latest Quality of Living list, Dubai came in 74th position – leading the region for the seventh year in a row – while Abu Dhabi took 78th place on the ranking of 231 cities, which measures the degree of well-being individuals feel based on 10 lifestyle categories including economic environment, housing and education. Muscat was in third place for the region in 105th position.

Rob Thissen, Mercer's energy sector and talent mobility leader for the Middle East, said the UAE Government “has progressively worked towards enhancing the country’s infrastructure, safety and stability ... to provide a comfortable environment for all residents.

“Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s stability over time has proved that the cities are undergoing steady enhancements, which are attracting foreign investments and demonstrated a popular destination for employee and company relocation. Access to basic necessities are key drivers to attracting and retaining investors,” he added.

The UAE Government has rolled out a slew of reforms and measures over the past year aimed at boosting growth. They include lowering the cost of doing business, waiving corporate fines in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, granting long-term visas to some expatriates and allowing foreign ownership of companies in selected sectors outside free zones.

According to the latest Mercer study, Vienna in Austria topped the rankings for the best place to live for the 10th consecutive year, followed by Zurich in Switzerland in second place and Vancouver, Canada, in third. Baghdad in Iraq was ranked the lowest on the list despite significant improvements in its health and safety services.

Vladimir Vrzhovski, global mobility consultant for the Middle East at Mercer, said Vienna has led the ranking for 10 years because it is a "pleasant place to live" and supplies a safe and stable environment for expatriates to live in.

"It also has a lot of expensive offerings in international consumer goods, has really good public utilities, public transport and recreational facilities [as well as] a good environment," he said.

While Dubai retained the same position as last year and Abu Dhabi dropped one place to 78th, living standards in the two cities have improved dramatically since 1998 – Dubai by 12.2 per cent and Abu Dhabi by 12.1 per cent.

Mercer said the UAE experienced the most pronounced living standard improvements for expatriates in its region. This is due to the country’s continuous efforts to improve its infrastructure, especially its airports and public transportation, attractive economic environment for local and foreign businesses, and focus on creating dynamic new recreational and entertainment facilities that has continued in 2019.

However, other regional cities have also fared well over the past couple of decades.

"Bahrain and Kuwait grew 2 per cent and 5.4 per cent respectively so the region has been developing quite well," said Mr Vrzhovski.

"But Dubai and Abu Dhabi lead from the point of being more attractive for expatriates."

According to Mercer’s 2018 Cost of Living Survey, lifestyle costs for residents living in Abu Dhabi and Dubai dropped in the ranking of the most expensive places to live, due to the depreciation of the US dollar at the time against other major currencies as well as falling rental rates.