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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Vienna has beaten Zurich to be crowned the place with the best quality of living in an annual survey in which European cities dominated the top 10.
Management consultancy Mercer said Vienna scored the highest for overall quality of living in the 215-city survey after improvements in Austria's political and social environment, knocking the Swiss city of Zurich into second position.
Third in the list came another Swiss city, Geneva, followed by Vancouver, Canada, and Auckland, New Zealand, in shared fourth place.
Baghdad, Iraq, came last despite slight improvements in its infrastructure and moves to encourage investment.
Three German cities made the top 10 -- Dusseldorf, Munich and Frankfurt -- with the list rounded out by Bern in Switzerland and Sydney, Australia.
The highest U.S. ranking in the 2009 Worldwide Quality of Living Survey was Honolulu which came 29th while Washington and New York remained in positions 44 and 49 respectively.
London came 38th in the list which is designed to help governments and companies formulate international packages for their employees.
"As a result of the current financial crisis, multinationals are looking to review their international assignment policies with a view to cutting costs," said Slagin Parakatil, senior researcher at Mercer, in a statement.
"Many companies plan to reduce the number of medium to long-term international assignments and localize their expatriate compensation packages where possible though the hardship allowance, based on quality of living criteria, will remain an essential component of the package."
Singapore was the top-scoring Asian city, coming in 26th which was up six places from a year ago due to its growing importance as a financial center and its wide range of international and private schools.
Beijing moved up three places to 113, boosted by improvements in public transport facilities from the Olympics last August.
Singapore also came first in a separate ranking based on city infrastructure, which examined standards of electricity, water, telephone, mail, public transport, traffic congestion and the range of international flights from local airports.
Singapore was followed in the infrastructure rankings by Munich, Copenhagen, and Tsukuba in Japan. Again, Baghdad came last.
The rankings, based on a point-scoring index in which New York is the base city with 100, are based on 39 quality-of-life determinants such as political stability, schooling, recreation, housing and natural environment.
In Central and South America, San Juan in Puerto Rico retained the highest ranking at 72 followed by Montevideo at 79.
"Political and security issues, and the incidence of natural disasters, continue to hinder the improvement of quality of living in the region. Shortages of consumer goods have also contributed to a decline in quality of living in some cities," said Parakatil.
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy