Is being ‘the world’s most liveable city’ such a big deal?

Yet again The Economist’s annual Global Liveability Index is dominated by Australasian and Canadian cities, but it says little about the differences between them or what they’re like to live in permanently.

Melbourne came first in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Liveability Index released yesterday; this is Melbourne’s fifth “win” in a row. Adelaide, Sydney and Perth ranked fifth, seventh and ninth respectively, as they did last year. Brisbane came in 20th again.

I’ve reviewed each release of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index for the last five years. As was the case in 2014, nothing has changed at the top in the 2015 survey compared to the previous year, so here’s a summary of the key points I’ve made on past occasions:

  • It’s a guide to companies on what they should pay their execs while they’re on assignment. It’s therefore not a guide to the best cities to live in permanently and it’s not at all useful for those who aren’t highly remunerated.
  • It doesn’t take account of the cost of living for permanent residents or key issues like job opportunities and housing affordability.
  • It overwhelmingly reflects national or State-wide characteristics like health and education, not the attributes of individual cities.
  • The scores of the top 10 cities are so close the differences are inconsequential; it borders on frivolous to even make a distinction between No. 1 and No. 10.
  • There’s enormous variability in the quality of the data between countries and the methodology isn’t as transparent as it should be.

Whatever its usefulness for companies sending executives on assignment might be, the Index has little relevance for permanent residents of a city or for urban policy-makers.

Of course politicians won’t be able to resist making political capital from the survey, but the rest of us should understand it means almost nothing in terms of informing policy.

FREE membership to The Mandarin

Receive unlimited access, get all the latest public sector news and features, plus The Juice, our daily news update sent direct to your inbox.

The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.