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Cherilyn Roberts
9 min read

Quality of life index: The best UK cities to live and work in 2023

New research from Totaljobs ranked quality of life factors for 15 major UK cities, spotlighting the greatest each area has to offer people looking for the best work-life balance in 2023.

Explore our insights to see which cities come out on top as UK workers look to stretch their pay. Discover how your city compares and get tips for attracting a new talent pool open to relocation.

Key takeaways:

  • With living costs on the rise, 2 in 3 (65%) workers are open to relocating to another city
  • Edinburgh has the best quality of life across all 15 cities
  • London is the most attractive city for those willing to relocate
  • Sheffield offers the most affordable living costs
  • A third of workers are looking for a better work-life balance in their next opportunity

Affordability and work-life balance drive more workers to consider moving cities

High living costs are squeezing wages, and getting more bang for your buck is front of mind for jobseekers – especially as 74% of workers saying they are concerned about their financial situation. (For a more in depth view on salaries across 30 industries read the UK salary and benefit guides 2023.)

Cultural shifts caused by Covid-19, including remote working, has meant that a third of candidates are also prioritising work-life balance more than ever. With both salary and work-life balance at play, workers are considering how – and where – to get the best value out of their pay.

With affordability and lifestyle factors front of mind, people are more open to migrating to different UK cities, in fact, 2 in 3 state they are open to moving. This is particularly prevalent with younger talent, as they seek better economic and lifestyle opportunities.

Quality of life ranking

Across all 15 analysed cities, we looked at the cost of living, house price to income ratio, the cost of rent, safety, healthcare quality, air and water quality and the quality of green space. These lifestyle factors were weighted, scored and ranked against different cities to determine an overarching quality of life score.

Edinburgh comes out on top as having the best overall quality of life, averaging the highest score among all metrics. The Scottish capital ranks notably well in quality of green space, cost of rent and commute time; areas that are particularly important in a post-covid world where people are prioritising work-life balance and affordability. This city is also the third most attractive to those willing to move.

London and Manchester, on the other hand, rank as having the lowest quality of life, with the cost of rent and the cost of living scoring particularly poorly. Interestingly though, these cities are deemed as the most attractive cities to move to for UK workers. This is likely due to the higher earning potential, with the average salary being within the top three  highest across all 15 cities, plus the ample job opportunities in these major cities.

Despite Belfast landing in eighth place for overall quality of life, its residents are the most satisfied with where they live and with their work life balance.

City highlights

Among all 15 analysed cities we measured several lifestyle factors, to pull out the most appealing highlights each city has to offer.


  • No.1 safest city
  • No.2 highest average salary


  • No.1 shortest commute, alongside Edinburgh
  • No.4 highest appeal to those willing to relocate


  • No.1 highest overall satisfaction
  • No.1 highest satisfaction for work-life balance


  • No.1 cheapest transport
  • No.2 highest quality of green spaces


  • No.1 highest quality of life
  • No.1 shortest commute time, alongside Bristol


  • No.2 cheapest to buy a house
  • No.2 highest healthcare quality


  • No.2 cheapest childcare
  • No.3 shortest commute


  • No.1 highest healthcare quality
  • No.1 cheapest rent


  • No.1 highest average salary
  • No.1 highest appeal to those willing to relocate


  • No.2 highest appeal to those willing to relocate
  • No.3 cheapest to buy a house


  • No.1 cheapest for rent
  • No.1 highest salary satisfaction


  • No.4 safest city
  • No.5 cheapest city for rent


  • No.1 cheapest to buy a house
  • No.1 cheapest childcare


  • No.2 highest annual salary growth
  • No.4 highest overall quality of life


  • No.1 lowest for cost of living
  • No.1 highest quality of green spaces

Generation relocation

Despite four-fifths (87%) of people being satisfied living in their local area, almost two thirds (65%) of workers would be open to relocate to a different city. This may be due to the impact the cost of living has had on households, with a fifth of workers saying it has negatively impacted their enjoyment of their area, and a similar amount saying high costs have made them more likely to consider moving to a more affordable location.

Relocation tends to appeal to younger workers the most, three quarters of workers aged 18-34 (Gen Z and Gen Y – ‘Zillennials’) are open to relocating, compared to 62% of 35-54 year olds and under half (49%) of people over 55.

High living costs, in particular, are prompting younger workers to feel more open about moving, in fact, over a quarter of Zillenials (27%) say rising living costs have impacted their enjoyment of their local area (compared to 17% for 35-54 year olds and 10% for over 55’s). This has caused 29% to considering moving to a cheaper city (compared to 18% and 12% for older generations).

With this in mind, employers located in more affordable areas can spotlight this and tailor their offering accordingly to appeal to a younger talent pool in particular.

Spotlight your city to attract and retain talent

So, with people considering pulling up roots, how can you win over the right talent to your business and city?

Highlight the unique benefits of your city

Showcase the benefits of living in your city and provide helpful information about the local area, opportunities and amenities to entice potential employees and help them make an informed decision.

Speak to the top lifestyle factors that workers said would entice them to move, including; affordable living costs (36%), a good job offer or plenty of job opportunities (35%), affordable housing or rent (30%), a better work-life balance (26%) and a family-friendly area (22%).

Offer relocation assistance

‘A relocation package’ was the second top work-related factor that would incentivise workers to move cities, with almost two fifths (39%) of workers saying this would entice them.

Providing relocation assistance could cover moving expenses, temporary housing, and help finding a new home.

Foster a sense of belonging and community

Create a welcoming and inclusive work environment by offering mentorship programs, team-building activities, and social events. This can help new employees feel integrated into the business and more embedded in the local area and community (making them more likely to stay long-term).

Collaborate with local organisations

Collaborate with local organisations, such as universities and non-profits, to help create a supportive network for new employees. This can include mentorship programs, networking events, and volunteering opportunities.

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For an in-depth view of your city, read the City Quality of Life guides