Vienna tops world’s most liveable city for 2019

Vienna tops world’s most liveable city for 2019

6 September 2019

It’s a tale of Australia’s two most liveable cities and biggest rivals.

Melbourne, once the perennial chart-topper, has been relegated to second for a second consecutive year in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s global liveability index.

Sydney, often thought of as more “beautiful” but always a few places behind its southern rival, moved from fifth to third in the most recent list.

The Austrian capital, Vienna, topped the list for the second year in a row. After displacing Melbourne from the top spot in 2018, ending a record run of seven consecutive years, Vienna retained its position at the head of the survey in 2019.

The two cities continue to be separated by 0.7 percentage points, with Vienna scoring 99.1 out of 100 and Melbourne 98.4. Two other Australian cities feature in the top ten: Sydney (in third) and Adelaide (tenth), while only one other European city, Copenhagen in Denmark (ninth), scores among the best.

The other top ranked cities are split between Japan (Osaka in fourth and Tokyo in joint seventh) and Canada (Calgary in fifth, and Vancouver and Toronto in sixth and joint seventh, respectively). The cities within the top ten remain unchanged from the previous update, but there has been some movement in their ranking.

Sydney has risen from fifth to third, thanks to an improvement in its culture and environment score, reflecting an increased focus on combating and mitigating the impacts of climate change, as outlined by the city’s “Sustainable Sydney 2030” strategy. However, Sydney continues to remain behind its great rival, Melbourne.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, with both cities already scoring very highly across all categories, there is only limited potential for Sydney to displace either Melbourne or Vienna at the top of the rankings. No other city in the top ten saw a change to its score.

Paris in France is the highest ranked city to have seen a deterioration in its stability score, owing to the ongoing anti-government gilets jaunes protests that began in late 2018.

In the emerging world, the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka triggered a downgrade for Colombo, while the growing instability between the US and Iran was behind a reduction in the stability score for Tehran.

A slew of cities in emerging markets that are among the most exposed to the effects of climate change have seen their scores downgraded. These include New Delhi in India, which suffers from appalling air quality, Cairo in Egypt (where air quality is also a major issue) and Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Among the 56 cities that have registered improvements to their overall liveability rankings over the past five years, four cities stand out. Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire, Hanoi in Vietnam, Kiev in Ukraine and Belgrade in Serbia have seen increases of 5 percentage points or more.

Detroit in the US is another city that continues to struggle, with major depopulation and urban decay resulting in a high incidence of crime, a collapse in local government tax revenue, swathes of vacant homes and inadequate infrastructure.

Overall, the index remains dominated by medium-sized cities in wealthy countries. These cities have well-funded public healthcare systems, compulsory and high-quality education, and functional road and rail infrastructure. The provision of these services is assisted by the presence of fully democratic electoral systems and generally low levels of corruption.

The presence of Tokyo in the top ten demonstrates that it is possible to scale up these characteristics, but maintaining these levels of performance in cities with two, three or four times as many people is challenging, especially when such cities also tend to be greater magnets for crime and terrorism. This is why other large “global” cities in advanced economies, such as London and New York, score lower than Vienna and Melbourne (and Tokyo) for stability and infrastructure but are able to match (or exceed) them for culture and environment.

“What’s important to remember is that the Economist Intelligence Unit’s index is a composite rating made up 30 indicators, with only four of them being quantitative,” said Dr Lucy Gunn, a research fellow in the Centre for Urban Research at Melbourne’s RMIT university.

“The rest of them are based on a rating from the [Economist Intelligence Unit] itself so there’s almost no objectivity in the development of this index, and it’s really just a marketing tool to help executives understand, in a broad sense, a city’s living conditions.”

Gunn told Guardian Australia there was “not much in it” between the two cities, which were separated by 0.3 points. Given the subjective nature of the indicators, whether a city was “one or two or three is irrelevant”, she said.

“Both Melbourne and Sydney are highly liveable cities and that’s true of all Australian cities.”

The world’s most liveable cities 2019

1. Vienna, Austria
2. Melbourne, Australia
3. Sydney, Australia
4. Osaka, Japan
5. Calgary, Canada
6. Vancouver, Canada
7. Toronto, Canada
7. Tokyo, Japan
9. Copenhagen, Denmark
10. Adelaide, Australia

The world’s least liveable cities 2019

1. Damascus, Syria
2. Lagos, Nigeria
3. Dhaka, Bangladesh
4. Tripoli, Libya
5. Karachi, Pakistan
6. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
7. Harare, Zimbabwe
8. Douala, Cameroon
9. Algiers, Algeria
10. Caracas, Venezuela