Every six months, the Economist Intelligence Unit publishes its liveability survey – a comprehensive attempt to rank the world’s cities in terms of their safety and stability, healthcare systems, levels of culture and environmental health, standards of education and strength of infrastructure.
This year, The EIU’s report reveals that it is good and bad news for Europe, a positive outcome for the Oceania region and Canada, but many cities in Africa and the subcontinent fared less well.
For the first time in eight years, Melbourne, in Australia, loses top spot in the rankings. This year, Austria, thanks mainly to an improvement in its stability score, ranks number 1, with an almost unbeatable rating of 99.1 out of 100. Melbourne missed out by just 0.7 of a percentage point, scoring 98.4, whilst 2 more Australian cities, Sydney (5th) and Adelaide (10th) made the top ten.
Japanese cities Osaka and Tokyo, in 3rd and 7th places respectively, complete an impressive performance from cities within the Oceania region. 3 Canadian cities also received top ten rankings; with Calgary (4th), Vancouver (6th) and Toronto (7th) all scoring highly, whilst Copenhagen was the only European city, besides Vienna, to rank in the top ten.
Osaka won praise for being amongst the most improved cities since the last rankings were released, with dropping levels of crime and better public transport chiefly responsible for its better performance. The Economist Intelligence Unit noted that, in general, cities with lower population densities, in less densely populated countries, scored highest in the rankings, thanks to their ability to “foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure.” Smaller cities also tended to outperform larger ones.
The EIU also revealed that of the 140 cities surveyed, 49% registered a decline in their overall liveability ratings, whilst 34% recorded an uplift, and the rest did not change. In many cases, cities fell numerous places not because of a decline in their scores but because other cities improved by a larger amount, which brings to mind the “Red Queen” theory – if you are not continuously moving forwards, you end up travelling backwards.
Overall, the EIU records a trend of improvement in liveability standards by 0.7% compared to the previous half-year, and 0.9% year-on-year, with stability improving significantly by 2.5% – reflecting a decreased terrorism threat and increasing social harmony, although some cities; namely Abu Dhabi, Warsaw, Colombo and Dubai – experienced a setback in this category.
In the past 12 months Kiev is noted to be one of the most improved cities in the liveability rankings, thanks to a decreasing security threat and a boost to its economic growth, whilst Abidjan, Hanoi, Belgrade and Tehran, have all increased their ratings by 5% or more in the past 5 years.
On the more negative side of the ledger, the bottom 10 cities in the EIU rankings and one other all record scores below 50%, which is categorised as a situation where “most aspects of living are severely restricted.” Damascus is the poorest scoring city, thanks to high levels of civil unrest and conflict that result in low ratings for stability – the most heavily weighted category, and a knock-on negative effect on the remaining scoring categories. This explains why cities like Dhaka, Douala, Dakar, and Harare also feature in the bottom ten, due to the level of conflict and political and societal tensions in these locations in recent years.
Algiers, Tripoli and Lagos also occupy bottom 10 spots, meaning 6 of the bottom 10 cities ranked are African, a concern for the region, with Karachi, and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, also featuring.
The EIU’s Liveability Rankings are partially intended to help global companies understand the level of hardship expatriates may face when being relocated to different regions and cities around the world, and whether a hardship allowance should be offered to staff facing hostile or restricted conditions. It also helps companies assess risks and plan their strategies accordingly, assessing the feasibility of operating in different locations.
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