Picture: Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA-EFE/Taken on November 23, 2022 – Firefighters work at the site of a block of flats destroyed by shelling in Vyshhorod, near Kyiv, Ukraine, amid Russia’s invasion. Kyiv was included in the ‘liveability’ census this year for the first time since February 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine. Due to its extreme instability, the city is ranked 165th out of 173 cities, tied with the other nine cities at the bottom of the list, the writer says.
By Dominic Naidoo
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Liveability Index, which was published in June, has increased significantly in the 2023 survey, reaching a 15-year high as the world recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and healthcare and education scores improve in many cities in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
However, scores for stability have declined since last year as a result of numerous instances of civil unrest throughout the globe. Five out of the ten cities designated as the worst places to reside are located in Africa. These are Douala, Cameroon; Harare, Zimbabwe; Lagos, Nigeria; Algiers, Algeria; and Tripoli, Libya.
The largest influences on the EIU’s global liveability rankings have been the return to normalcy following the pandemic and the incremental improvements in liveability made by numerous developing nations. Here are some significant findings and insights from the survey conducted between February and March of 2023.
Vienna, Austria dominated the rankings for 2023 due to its “winning combination” of stability, excellent culture and entertainment, dependable infrastructure, and outstanding education and health services. This position has been consistently held by the city over the past several years, with only the pandemic causing it to fall for one year.
Copenhagen, Denmark, claimed second place, while a return to normalcy following the pandemic has helped Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, rebound to third and fourth place, respectively, after a sharp drop in 2022.
Three Canadian cities, two Swiss cities, and two Asian cities (a New Zealand city and a Japanese city tied for tenth) round out the top ten.
As economies recover from the pandemic, Asia-Pacific cities have made some of the greatest advances, accounting for eight of the top ten risers in the rankings. As a result of the removal of their covid restrictions, Wellington jumped 35 spaces to rank 23rd, Auckland climbed 25 spots, and Hanoi climbed 20 spots.
This year, Western European cities fell in the rankings as a result of an increase in worker strikes and civil unrest, which negatively impacted their stability ratings. Kyiv was included in the census this year for the first time since February 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine. Due to its extreme instability, the city is ranked 165th out of 173 cities, tied with the other nine cities at the bottom of the list.
Damascus and Tripoli remain at the bottom of the list, as social unrest, terrorism, and conflict continue to hold them back. Damascus, however, has not improved since last year, whereas scores for Tripoli and other cities in the bottom ten have improved as the pandemic has receded.
Even at the bottom of the rankings, cities like Lagos, Nigeria and Algiers, Algeria have made strides in healthcare and education. Both nations are energy exporters and have benefited to some extent from the increase in global oil and gas prices.
Although corruption remains a problem, infrastructure and public services have benefited from additional public funding, which has been made available due to a decline in covid cases. Despite the regional political resurgence of its president, Bashar al-Assad, Damascus, Syria, the lowest-ranked city in the survey, has not improved in terms of viability.
Contrary to these enhancements, the war in Ukraine and the ensuing economic and political turmoil have a negative impact on the liveability of many European cities. The survey employs a straightforward definition of liveability to determine which global locations offer the best and worst living conditions.
Comparing perceptions of development levels to determining hardship allowances as part of expatriate relocation contracts are two examples of the diverse applications of assessing liveability. Our liveability rating quantifies the challenges that may be presented to a person’s lifestyle in any particular location and enables direct comparisons between places.
According to the EIU, each city is assigned a relative comfort rating based on more than 30 qualitative and quantitative factors within five main categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.
Each element of a city is categorised as acceptable, tolerable, inconvenient, undesirable, or intolerable. For qualitative indicators, a rating is assigned based on the opinion of in-house analysts and contributors from the city.
An evaluation is determined for quantitative indicators based on the relative performance of a number of external data points.
The covid-19 pandemic has impacted living conditions in a number of cities due to its effect on the healthcare infrastructure and the restrictions and lockdown measures imposed by governments, which have placed pressure on the healthcare, culture and environment, and education sectors.
The impact of the pandemic has been factored into our overall liveability assessment, with the addition of new indicators to evaluate the stress and restriction levels in each city. These consist of:
- Stress on healthcare resources
- Restrictions on local sporting events
- Restrictions on theatre
- Restrictions on classic and modern music concerts
- Restrictions on restaurants, bars, coffee shops and nightclubs and;
- Restrictions on educational institutes
Our existing evaluations for healthcare, culture and environment, and education incorporate the scores for these new indicators and their effects. The scores are then compiled and weighted to yield a score between 1 and 100, where 1 is deemed intolerable and 100 is deemed optimal.
The liveability rating is provided as both an overall and category-specific score. To provide context, scores are also supplied for each category relative to New York, as well as an overall position in the ranking of 173 cities.
Dominic Naidoo is an environment activist and writer