Melbourne Tops Liveability Index

“[V]ibrant and living and edgy and cool and urbane.” Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was dispensing the adjectives liberally yesterday following news Melbourne has edged out perennial winner Vancouver in the latest edition of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of the world’s most liveable cities. The mayor said that, in the absence of iconic attractions, what set Melbourne apart was “our festivals and laneways.”

Detail of Banksy's 'Diver', in one of Melbourne's much-hyped laneways at the rear of the Nicholas Building

Detail of Banksy's 'Diver', in one of Melbourne's much-hyped laneways at the rear of the Nicholas Building

There are three major surveys of “liveable cities”. Melbourne ranks 9th in Monocle magazine’s index and 18th in the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, which also ranks cities according to sustainability. In all three indexes, the cities that do best are Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, German, Swiss and Scandinavian. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey ranks cities across several categories. Melbourne’s education, healthcare and (most surprisingly) transport infrastructure were all deemed ‘acceptable’ (the best rating), although despite the Wheeler Centre’s best efforts our cultural life was deemed merely ‘tolerable’.

Although we’re proud as punch, there are some oddities in the survey results. For example, there are no less than four Australian cities (Adelaide and Perth share eighth position) and one New Zealand city in the top 10.

“The concept of liveability is simple,” according to the EIU website: “it assesses which locations around the world provide the best or the worst living conditions.” The survey began as a way of identifying cities for which a hardship allowance ought to be paid when multinational corporations assigned staff there. So the “liveability” measured is defined according to the presumed needs and preferences of highly transitory, mid- to senior level cadres working for large organisations who value space, tranquillity and security.

“Those that score best,” says The Economist, “tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density.” Thus cities like Adelaide and Perth edge out cities one might consider far more “liveable”, depending on your definition of “liveability”, like Berlin, Bologna, Buenos Aires or Barcelona. In these latter cities, higher population densities might well equate to social tensions (and higher levels of crime) but they also offer benefits like enhanced navigability and cultural dynamism. Not quite so liveable, perhaps, but all the more lively.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll publish a series of posts penned by David Nichols - writer, urban planning lecturer and author of The Bogan Delusion - as he travels the world visiting all manner of cities, all of which, we can assure you, are less liveable than Melbourne. In the meantime, you can view, listen to or download the video/podcast of our recent event on cities, ‘Emotional Cities’.

Related posts