Ranking Germany’s top cities 2017

I have known for a while now that Frankfurt is the best city in Germany for expats to work in. Obviously. I am biased, but, on the other hand, the only reason I moved to Germany was because I realised that Frankfurt ticked all of the boxes for me. In fact, I swore blind I would never move to Germany until Frankfurt somehow tipped the balance…

But until now I was never able to prove that I was mathematically and statistically right with my choice.

Thanks though to piles of data provided by the German National Statistics Office, the National Employment Agency, Mercer, Handelsblatt, Numbeo and Immowelt, I can reveal a new ranking of Germany’s largest 10 cities showing the best place to work for expats (and probably Germans as well).

*All data is publically available and accurate as of October 2017
Download the raw data for the ranking (excel) and play with it yourself

The table is notable for the simple reason that Munich isn’t in first place and Berlin is near the bottom. I hear many people telling me that Berlin and Munich are their favourite cities for a variety of reasons from culture to nightlife or start-ups to festivals. However consider the dilemma of London or Manhattan as a comparison: both are amazing cities to visit offering 24 hour amusement, culture and an international atmosphere unmatched around the world, but trying getting a job, a place to live or maintaining a decent quality of life…

How the ranking is made
I have included a variety of metrics in this ranking. A full list of criteria and weightings can be found here. The ranking focuses in particular on job availability as it does on unemployment. High unemployment can have a big impact on the atmosphere in a city and irrespective of how good your own salary or position, the lack of availability of vacancies or new job creation can affect your opportunities and those of the people around you. I have included feedback from Mercer’s Quality of Life survey to reflect the impact of education, family support, health, transport and environment, as well as Handelsblatt’s future index to show the future potential of a city. I have also given a heavy weighting towards the average salary in a city as well as towards the average rental cost of an apartment since we all know that it isn’t how much you earn, but how much is left in your pocket at the end of a month that matters.

Frankfurt comes top of the table and I had a good feeling that it would. It consistently appears in the top 3 for Germany in many of the criteria I have used. The problem for Berlin and Munich is that they are not consistent.

Berlin at #7
Berlin is a city that people often quote as their favourite destination in Germany. The youthful atmosphere, the nightlife, the extensive restaurant/café/bar culture in the eastern half of the city. This is all wonderful if you are a tourist or a student (of which there are many). But when it comes to living and working Berlin, there is an embarassingly high unemployment rate (8.6%) especially when compared to the proportionally low number of vacancies in the city and the speed with which they are created. And unfortunately the cost of living and quality of life benefits simply aren’t low enough or good enough to make up for the poor career opportunities.

Munich at #4
This was the biggest surprise for me. I really expected, mainly based on word of mouth and the low unemployment rate (4%) that Munich would be Frankfurt’s biggest challenger for the top position. In fact, although Munich did extremely well on the Mercer and Handelsblatt rankings for quality of life and future potential, the cost of living and lack of job opportunities really hurt their position. It is not much help having a low unemployment rate if there are also no jobs to go on to afterwards. In fact, Frankfurt, a city less than half the size, has more job openings than Munich. And higher salaries! Another factor that really hurt Munich was the extraodinarily high rent costs – at nearly €20/sqm, this was significantly higher than Frankfurt the next most expensive.

Frankfurt at #1
This wasn’t even a close race. Frankfurt scored a full 10 percentage points more than nearest rivals Düsseldorf and Stuttgart. Stuttgart was certainly a dark horse in the race given its boring reputation and manufacturing focus but really gained points thanks to the very healthy job market. Düsseldorf was less of a surprise considering the high quality of life scores and a reputation for being a small but fast growing city. But Frankfurt consistently outperformed the competition on all areas to do with job opportunities, without dropping points on quality of life.

There is one part of the ranking missing though: your view. I will do the ranking again including an extra criteria measuring expat opinions. So vote for your favourite city to live and work in and I will make this the 11th criteria in the ranking next year!

If you have another suggestion, just add it to the comments 🙂

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