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Danger Money: the world’s most dangerous cities for expats

Mercer’s Quality of Living survey has revealed that expats concerned for their personal safety should find solace in European countries such as Luxembourg, Switzerland and Austria.

The survey, which is conducted annually, ranked 230 cities based on internal stability, crime levels, performance of local law enforcement and the home country’s relationships with other countries. With the purpose of the rankings to allow employers to compensate employees appropriately based on their city of work, it suggests that Baghdad, Damascus, Karachi and Nairobi may not be the safest destinations to head to on international assignments.

Danger money (the compensation provided to expats working in feared locations) is not just the only financial factor hiking up costs of sending employees abroad. Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer, states: “Other elements that add to safety costs in the host location are obtaining suitable and well secured accommodation; having an in-house comprehensive expatriate security programme, providing access to reputable professional evacuation services and medical support firms, and providing security training and guarded office premises.”

Expat forums and websites alike listed Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq as some of the most hazardous and troubled areas for expat workers and echoed the results of Mercer’s survey. Expatify.com listed Cape Town, South Africa, as a place to tread cautiously in. Despite areas of the city struggling under high rates of kidnapping, murder, robbery and drug warfare, part of the reason Cape Town is so dangerous is that it has large social and economic disparities and the city is still feeling the residual effects of apartheid.

Another factor to consider is extreme weather. Antarctica may seem like a glacial paradise to travellers, but for expats working in the country it is mother nature earning this desolate tundra a spot in the rankings. With temperatures regularly falling to -100°F and with winds reaching 100 km/h, without the correct safety precautions there is no chance you would survive for more than an hour – especially considering the region has no hospital.

Mercer’s survey listed a multitude of Canadian cities as ranking highly for personal safety, including Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Tronto and Vancouver all sharing 16th place. Following not far behind was Abu Dhabi, ranking in 23rd place and proving itself as the UAE’s safest city.

Due to terrorist attacks and social unrest some European cities that once held a higher ranking have dropped down the list. Paris has settled in 71st position, followed closely by London in 72nd and Madrid in the 84th spot.

In 2015, InterNations analysed health, safety and well-being in its annual Expat Insider survey but in a broader context than Mercer; taking into consideration the affordability of healthcare, the weather and the environment as well as personal safety and political stability.

Of the 170 countries examined and the 14,000 expats surveyed, combined results portrayed that Austria, Japan, Portugal, Matla and Switzerland were all-round top destinations for expats.

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