INTERNATIONAL - Time to tell your smug New York friends that they’ve made the wrong life choice: The world’s most liveable cities are generally less global capital, more regional second city, a new ranking shows.
Vienna took the No. 1 spot in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s liveability ranking for the second year running, confirming that life is officially better on the banks of the Danube than it is by the Yarra River in Melbourne, which took second place.
Australia and Canada dominate the top 10 with three cities each, while Osaka, Tokyo and Copenhagen complete the list. Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide are judged to offer the Antipodes’ best quality of life, while Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto are North America’s top locations.
“Overall, our index remains dominated by medium-sized cities in wealthy countries,” the report notes, pointing to high-quality education, well-funded public healthcare and functional transport systems. These cities—with populations that number anywhere from 1 million to 3 million—hit the sweet spot between overcrowded and underdeveloped.
“The upsides of these cities tend to be fully realized. You get a good collection of cultural activities, you get good access to healthcare and education,” said EIU’s regional director for Asia, Duncan Innes-Ker. “But you don’t get a lot of downsides that tend to come with big cities, things like traffic congestion, crime problems and general wear and tear.”
Financial hubs London (No. 48) and New York (No. 58) lagged behind other domestic rivals. Hong Kong and Singapore fared better—but not much, charting at No. 38 and No. 40 respectively. Hong Kong’s ranking overlooked for now the recent political unrest, but the disruption will likely show up next year.
“I think it’s probably safe to say that Hong Kong’s rating will suffer quite significantly,” Innes-Ker said.
To assess living conditions, the index examines the quality of healthcare, education, infrastructure, stability and culture. Each city is graded on more than 30 factors, which are then compiled into a weighted score of between 1 and 100.
At 99.1, Vienna’s 2019 liveability score is almost perfect. Melburnians and others shouldn’t feel too put out though: The scores among the top 20 cities vary by less than five points. No U.S. city made it higher than No. 22, with Honolulu ranked as the nation’s top performer.
Across the board, the report points to improved quality of living, thanks to strengthened stability, as well as better education and healthcare systems—especially in emerging markets.
But climate change puts these gains at risk, the report said, noting that cities such as New Delhi and Cairo have slipped down the rankings as a result of worsening pollution. Sitting right at the bottom of the list are Dhaka, Lagos and Damascus, with the war-torn Syrian capital retaining the last position for the past seven years.