The Economist Intelligence Unit has released its August 2016 liveability index listing the top cities, aka best cities, around the world.
Although the most liveable cities in the world remain largely unchanged, there has been movement within the top tier of liveability. Of the 65 cities with scores of 80 or more, 17 have seen a change in score in the past 12 months. As global instability grows, these movements have been overwhelmingly negative, with no city in the top tier registering a score improvement.
US cities have recently seen further declines in scores. This partly stems from unrest related to a number of deaths of black people either in police custody or shot on the street despite being unarmed in the past couple of years. Paris is another city that has seen a sharp decline in its ranking, due to a mounting number of terrorist attacks taking place in the city, and in other parts of the country, over the past three years.
Nevertheless, with such high scores already in place, the impact of such declines has not been enough to push any city into a lower tier of liveability. Although 17.2 percentage points separate Melbourne in first place from Warsaw in 65th place, all cities in this tier can lay claim to being on an equal footing in terms of presenting few, if any, challenges to residents’ lifestyles.
Nonetheless, there does appear to be a correlation between the types of cities that sit right at the very top of the ranking. Those that score best tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density. These can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure. Six of the top ten scoring cities are in Australia and Canada, which have, respectively, population densities of 3.1 and 3.9 people per square kilometre.
Elsewhere in the top ten, Finland and New Zealand both have densities of approximately 18 people per square kilometre of land area. These densities compare with a global (land) average of 57 and a US average of 35. Austria bucks this trend with a density of 104 people per square kilometre. However, Vienna’s population of over 1.74m (2.6m in the metropolitan area) people is relatively small compared with the megacities of New York, London, Paris and Tokyo.
It may be argued that violent crime is on an upward trend in the top tier of cities, but these observations are not always correct. According to the most recently released statistics, after a record low number of murders in 2013, Vancouver saw its murder rate increase in 2014, but 2013 and 2014 were still the years with the lowest national murder rates in Canada since 1966.
Although crime rates are perceived as rising in Australia, the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located, recorded a crime rate of 7,489.5 per 100,000 people in 2013/14. This reflected an increase of 3.7% compared with 2012/13, but despite the increase in the crime rate in three consecutive years, the 2013/14 rate was still 1.6% lower than ten years earlier.
In Austria the murder rate was just 0.5 per 100,000 people in 2014. In the same year there were reports that only nine murders had been recorded in Vienna, a city of 1.74m people, with a murder rate matching the national average. Overall, crime rates have remained steady. These figures compare with a global average of 6.2 murders per 100,000 people (2013) and a US average of 4.5 per 100,000 (2014).
Global business centres tend to be victims of their own success. The “big city buzz” that they enjoy can overstretch infrastructure and cause higher crime rates. New York, London, Paris and Tokyo are all prestigious hubs with a wealth of recreational activity, but all suffer from higher levels of crime, congestion and public transport problems than are deemed comfortable. The question is how much wages, the cost of living and personal taste for a location can offset liveability factors.
Download the complete Economist Intelligence Unit report here. 2016 Liveability Index Economist Intelligence Unit