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World’s Top 5 Most liveable cities unchanged in 2017, European cities affected by terrorism

  • Published by Ozgur Tore

The Economist's liveability rankings for 2017 show that world’s top 5 most liveable urban centers are not changed. For the seventh consecutive year, Melbourne in Australia is the most liveable city, closely followed by the Austrian capital, Vienna.

melbourne walking routesMelbourne, Australia

Only 0.1 percentage points separate the top two cities, and just 0.2 and 0.3 percentage points separate Canada’s Vancouver and Toronto (ranked 3rd and 4th, respectively), from Melbourne. Another Canadian city, Calgary, shares joint fifth place with Adelaide in Australia.

Although the top five cities remain unchanged, the past few years have seen increasing instability across the world, causing volatility in the scores of many cities. In Europe, cities have been affected by the spreading perceived threat of terrorism in the region. At the same time, this year cities such as Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, and the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, have benefited from an increasing cultural availability and falling crime rates, enabling them to register improvements in living conditions.

Over the past six months 35 of the 140 cities surveyed have experienced changes in their ranking position. This rises to 44 cities, or about one-third of the total number surveyed, when looking at changes over the past 12 months. Overall, the survey shows a higher incidence of positive index movements. In fact, of the 17 cities with an index movement since last year, 12 have seen an improvement in their score, reflecting positive developments in other categories, despite heightened threats of terrorism or unrest with which cities around the world continue to grapple.

Violent acts of terrorism have been reported in many countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, France, Pakistan, Sweden, Turkey, the UK and the US. While not a new phenomenon, the frequency and spread of terrorism have increased noticeably and become even more prominent.

On the flip side, however, cities moving up the ranking are located largely in countries that have enjoyed periods of relative stability after previously reported falls in liveability. These include, for example, Kiev in Ukraine, Tripoli in Libya and Colombo in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, the improvements have been marginal and have not seen liveability recover from previous levels or resulted in large shifts up the ranking. Amsterdam, Reykjavik, Budapest, Singapore and Montevideo are among those that have seen both their ranks improve. In total, there are 12 cities with scores that have improved over the past 12 months, up from seven.

Overall, the global average liveability score has fallen by 0.8% to 74.8% over the past five years. Weakening stability has been a key factor in driving this decrease. The average global stability score has fallen by 2% over the past five years, from 73.4% in 2012 to 71.4% now.

Over five years, 95 of the 140 cities surveyed have seen some change in their overall liveability scores. Of these cities, an overwhelming 66 have seen declines in liveability, but there is a silver lining, as this number is actually down from 69 just six months ago. Two cities in particular, Damascus in Syria and Kiev, have seen significant declines of 16 and 21 percentage points respectively, illustrating that conflict is, unsurprisingly, the key factor in undermining wider liveability.

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, six have seen a change in score in the past 12 months. While most cities in the top tier have registered an improvement in their scores, two of them, Manchester in the UK and Stockholm in Sweden, have seen their scores decline as a result of recent, high-profile terrorist attacks.

Over the past few years several US cities have registered declines in their scores. This stems in part from unrest related to a number of deaths of black people at the hands of police officers. In addition, the country has seen protests held in response to President Trump’s policies and executive orders.

Sydney in Australia is another city that has seen a decline in its ranking, reflecting growing concerns over possible terror attacks in the past three years. Sydney now ranks outside the top ten most liveable cities, at number 11, down from seventh place just over a year ago.

The ten most liveable cities
Country City Rank Overall Rating (100=ideal) Stability Healthcare Culture & Environment Education Infrastructure
Australia Melbourne 1 97.5 95 100 95.1 100 100
Austria Vienna 2 97.4 95 100 94.4 100 100
Canada Vancouver 3 97.3 95 100 100 100 92.9
Canada Toronto 4 97.2 100 100 97.2 100 89.3
Canada Calgary 5 96.6 100 100 89.1 100 96.4
Australia Adelaide 5 96.6 95 100 94.2 100 96.4
Australia Perth 7 95.9 95 100 88.7 100 100
New Zealand Auckland 8 95.7 95 95.8 97 100 92.9
Finland Helsinki 9 95.6 100 100 88.7 91.7 96.4
Germany Hamburg 10 95 90 100 93.5 91.7 100

The ten least liveable cities
Country City Rank Overall Rating (100=ideal) Stability Healthcare Culture & Environment Education Infrastructure
Ukraine Kiev 131 47.8 35 54.2 48.6 75 42.9
Cameroon Douala 132 44 60 25 48.4 33.3 42.9
Zimbabwe Harare 133 42.6 40 20.8 58.6 66.7 35.7
Pakistan Karachi 134 40.9 20 45.8 38.7 66.7 51.8
Algeria Algiers 134 40.9 40 45.8 42.6 50 30.4
PNG Port Moresby 136 39.6 30 37.5 47 50 39.3
Bangladesh Dhaka 137 38.7 50 29.2 43.3 41.7 26.8
Libya Tripoli 138 36.6 20 41.7 40.3 50 41.1
Nigeria Lagos 139 36 10 37.5 53.5 33.3 46.4
Syria Damascus 140 30.2 15 29.2 43.3 33.3 32.1

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 activities, 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. Although global centres fare less well in the ranking than mid-sized cities, for example, they still sit within the highest tier of liveability and should therefore be considered broadly comparable, especially when contrasted with the worst-scoring locations.

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