Worldwide terrorism continues to shake up stability, said the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in its global liveability ranking released in August.
Its report entitled A Summary of the Liveability Ranking and Overview said the impact of this drop in stability shows up most clearly when a five-year view of the global average scores is taken. Overall, the global average liveability score has slipped by 0.9% to 74.8% over the past five years, with one-quarter of this decline coming in the past year.
The key factor in this fall has been weakening stability; the average global stability score has fallen by 2.4 percentage points over the past five years, from 73.7% in 2012 to 71.3% now. Over five years, 71 of the 140 cities surveyed have seen declines in liveability, with Damascus in Syria and Kiev in Ukraine experiencing the most dramatic drops – a graphic illustration that conflict is the key factor in undermining wider liveability.
So what global cities are the best ones to live in? Melbourne in Australia tops the list, with Austria’s capital Vienna hard at its heels. In third and fourth places are Canada’s Vancouver and Toronto, with another Canadian city, Calgary, sharing joint fifth place with Adelaide in Australia.
Next come Perth in Australia and Auckland in New Zealand, with the Finnish capital Helsinki and Hamburg in Germany occupying the last slots among the top ten.
Although the top five cities remain unchanged, increasing instability across the world over the past year has caused volatility in the scores of many cities. An example of this is Sydney, which has dropped four places and fallen out of the top ten most liveable cities because of a heightened perceived threat of terrorism.
Population density plays a significant role, and the cities with the highest scores tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with relatively low densities. “These can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure,” the report stated.
Six of the top ten most liveable cities are in Australia and Canada, with low densities of 3.1 and 3.9 people per square kilometre. Finland and New Zealand – also in the top ten – both have densities of about 18 per square kilometre, compared with a global (land) average of 57 and the US average of 35 people. And although Austria bucks this trend with a density of 104, Vienna’s population of over 1.74 million (2.6 million in the metropolitan area) is nowhere near the populations of megacities such as New York, London, Paris and Tokyo.
African cities are among the world’s ten least liveable cities: Zimbabwe’s capital Harare is at number three, Algiers in Algeria comes in at number five and Lagos in Nigeria stands at number eight. The world’s least liveable city, according to the survey, is Damascus in Syria.
US cities have dropped further in recent scores, partly from unrest related to the deaths of black people in police custody or unarmed citizens shot on the street. Paris has also seen a steep drop in its ranking, after a rising number of terrorist attacks in the city and other parts of France.
But with high scores already in place, these declines have not moved any of these cities into a lower liveability tier. “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,” said the report.
“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,” the report stated. While the prestigious hubs of New York, London, Paris and Tokyo offer abundant recreational activities, they also have more than their share of crime, congestion and public transport problems.
“The question is how much wages, the cost of living and personal taste for a location can offset liveability factors,” said the report So, even though the global centres don’t do as well as mid-sized cities in the liveability stakes, they still fall inside the highest tier and should therefore be seen as broadly comparable, especially when contrasted with the worst-scoring locations.
Cape Town the jewel in Africa’s crown
Although the EIU report made no mention of South African cities, a recent survey by africa.comlists two South African cities among Africa’s top ten most liveable cities: Cape Town comes out on top and Johannesburg is at number four. Accra in Ghana is number two, Nairobi in Kenya is number three and Botswana’s Gaberone is number five.
Libreville in Gabon, Tunisia’s Tunis, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Namibia’s Windhoek and Kigali in Rwanda complete the top ten.