Expert Interview: Corine Mauch, Mayor of Zürich Corine Mauch is the current Mayor of Zürich, Switzerland, a city that has ranked near the top of Mercer’s Quality of Living Rankings for more than a decade. Even before she was elected Mayor, Corine devoted much of her time to ensuring the City of Zürich maintained a high standard of living through inclusion, diversity, and openness. Recently, she was gracious enough to sit down with Mercer to discuss how the City of Zürich has continued to improve upon its quality of living through various strategies and initiatives and exemplifies the traits that make a city attractive to international business investment and the professionals that make such investments successful. Throughout the past 20 years, Zürich has consistently maintained or even improved its standard of living. What do you think have been some of the most successful initiatives for making this a reality? In the 1990s, people and companies left the city in rising numbers, for numerous reasons. Tax revenues were falling and likewise, public debt was increasing. As such, Zürich’s re-urbanization was the key challenge for the city’s authorities to address. Through various means, the city of Zürich managed to gradually and positively impact the living standard of their citizens: Firstly, it included the development of the city districts and the industrial wasteland left behind by the industrial companies, an initiative that began with a cooperative planning process together with investors and inhabitants. Secondly, the city started the housing program "10'000 Apartments in 10 Years" in order to offer affordable housing, especially for families. And finally, we resumed our investments in infrastructure, society, and especially culture and – in fine – the overall quality of living of Zürich. We are still doing this today, through sustainable and cooperative city planning, housing initiatives, and investments in urban life which are key to the city's future development. On the other hand, as a city decision maker, what have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve overcome to implement your quality-of-living ideas and best practices? With the political system we have in Switzerland and in Zürich, one of the most important tasks is to win over majorities for meaningful and valuable initiatives to succeed. In order to achieve this, in-depth detailed work and persuasive efforts are absolutely necessary – both in public and behind the scenes. The political process can be long and strenuous; therefore, new ideas and projects need clear vision and persistence to stay on track. Maintaining openness and a positive attitude are both equally important to implementing quality-of-living best practices for the city of Zürich. For the past few years, as a Mayor, I have observed a “global backward” approach that is oriented towards “isolation and populism”. Undoubtedly, as a forward-thinking city, we must resist this type of thinking to keep our cities around the world open, diverse and solidary. If you could give some general tips for cities that are already thriving on how to improve their quality of living even more, what would you say? First, involve the people–all the people. What is a city without its people? They bring their ideas, their dreams, and their commitment to the city, and these are the most important resources when it comes to quality of living. Second, create opportunities. A city is the greatest possible simultaneity of human opportunities. Third, invest in culture. Culture is a good instrument to keep things moving. Would you agree that a city’s talent and business attractiveness tend to correlate with higher living standards? Indeed, this is correct. “The brightest minds come to the coolest cities.” As a city, we cannot launch extended stimulus programs for the economy. But, we can provide the framework and conditions that make it easier for companies to recruit the talents they need. We do so by: keeping the city environment intact and safe, providing high educational standards in the schools, and investing in high quality and broad cultural offerings. What do you believe should be the main priorities for Zürich over the next 20 years? By and large, the city should strive to maintain its candor at all levels, and its inclusion for diversity and cooperation among us all. Looking ahead, Zürich should become even more sustainable and consume fewer resources. Through new technologies, there is also great potential with a digital transition. Smart city activities should enable us to accomplish the required transition and development. Cities are striving to implement a range of new technologies and modern infrastructure in quest of improving the living standards of their residents. At the same time, with globalization, gender parity, and diversity are all equally important components of the city’s future with a high living standard. How important is this statement for the city? Why is it important? The challenges facing Zürich are vast. The City of Zürich is growing at a fast pace – which is a great compliment for our quality of living. However, an increase in the population and more businesses will have implications on the city, including the need for: more housing, more public transport, more schools, more teachers, more healthcare requirements, etc. In order to tackle all these issues, we have to become as efficient and sustainable as possible in order to manage urban life according to the needs of our citizens. We have to remain a society that respects and includes all of its members. In other words, equal rights and equal opportunities are essential. Would you be able to provide a few examples on how the city of Zürich tackled gender parity/diversity to positively improve the living standard of its residents (e.g.: increased security for women, dedicated infrastructure, etc.)? The City Administration should be a role model when it comes to gender parity. Therefore, we recently implemented a new standard, which states that the underrepresented gender in every administration division must be at least 30 percent. The results are encouraging and the percentage of women in the top management is rising. In my department, it is fifty-fifty. Furthermore, the City of Zürich is – since April 2018 – the first Swiss administration that signed the "trans welcome initiative." What other city has done a great job improving its living standards for residents over the past decade? According to the Mercer Quality of Living City Ranking, Vienna has ranked at the top for the last 10 years, just ahead of us. And in fact, Vienna has done a lot to improve their quality of living over the years, as have many other cities. For me, there is no single city holding the key to the perfect solution for improving the quality of living. It is very interesting to compare the different approaches and learn from the experiences of other cities. In Zürich, we do this with our program "Zürich meets your City". We recently visited New York City, London, Hong Kong, and San Francisco, and we are currently planning to visit Seoul in the near future. Cities worldwide are facing similar challenges, so it is only logical to share best practices among us. How would you summarize Zürich today, and where you would like it to see it in the future? Zürich is a beautifully located city in the heart of Europe with an open-minded population showing a lot of solidarity. Our city is an international hub for the arts and sciences, where tradition meets diversity and future-oriented forward thinking. We work hard on maintaining these qualities – and aim to become an even smarter and more sustainable city by embracing the opportunities offered by digitalization.