The Economist’s Intelligence Unit have once again released their global liveability rankings which ranks cities all around the world.

The concept of liveability is simple: it assesses which locations around the world provide the best or the worst living conditions. Assessing liveability has a broad range of uses, from benchmarking perceptions of development levels to assigning a hardship allowance as part of expatriate relocation packages. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s liveability rating quantifies the challenges that might be presented to an individual’s lifestyle in any given location, and allows for direct comparison between locations.

Every city is assigned a rating of relative comfort for over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories: stability; healthcare; culture and environment; education; and infrastructure. Each factor in a city is rated as acceptable, tolerable, uncomfortable, undesirable or intolerable. For qualitative indicators, a rating is awarded based on the judgment of in-house analysts and in-city contributors. For quantitative indicators, a rating is calculated based on the relative performance of a number of external data points.

The scores are then compiled and weighted to provide a score of 1–100, where 1 is considered intolerable and 100 is considered ideal. The liveability rating is provided both as an overall score and as a score for each category. To provide points of reference, the score is also given for each category relative to New York and an overall position in the ranking of 140 cities is provided.

The top 10 cities have seen no change in their scores and therefore positions over at least the last two years. Auckland still sits in 10th place with the key issue for Auckland remains it’s infrastructure, even just improving that result from 92.9 to 95 would see us move up to 7th in these rankings. The real changes have happened lower down the order, especially at the bottom where Damascus has taken the worst spot due to the issues in Syria at the moment.

Economist Liveability Rank 2013

In terms of how the scores are assessed.

The liveability score is reached through category weights, which are equally divided into relevant subcategories to ensure that the score covers as many indicators as possible. Indicators are scored as acceptable, tolerable, uncomfortable, undesirable or intolerable. These are then weighted to produce a rating, where 100 means that liveability in a city is ideal and 1 means that it is intolerable.

For qualitative variables, an “EIU rating” is awarded based on the judgment of in–house expert country analysts and a field correspondent based in each city. For quantitative variables, a rating is calculated based on the relative performance of a location using external data sources.

Economist Liveability Rank measures 1

Economist Liveability Rank measures 2

It would be interesting to get a full list of all of the rankings but unfortunately you have to pay a fairly hefty sum to get that.

I imagine that once Waterview (and therefore the motorway network) is completed, if we build the Congested Free Network and with the fibre-optic rollout completed, Auckland’s infrastructure ranking will rise substantially and with the other rankings already being fairly high, we should move up the list quite a bit.

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  1. Interesting that Auckland is the only city in the top 10 to not achieve full marks for healthcare – probably because we manage to reduce costs through initiatives like Pharmac. As in keeping with The Economist, their healthcare criteria are pretty random and pro-privatisation.

    1. Yes I noticed that too, be interesting to see what areas we are being marked down for on that score. Also thought you might comment on that point

    2. I’d suggest that would be outcomes based. I’m not sure if you read The Economist often but to characterise their view as ‘pretty random and pro-privatisation’ is simplistic at best.

        1. Where did Dan talk about getting drunk? Be polite and don’t assume just because someone stated an opinion you disagree with.

  2. Actually the healthcare figures are assembled from relational figures similar to those from the WHO e.g. hostpital beds per captia, doctoral treatments per capita and the spread over the city of them as far as i know. But great to see Vienna top scoring again, makes me proud to be Austrian 🙂

  3. New Zealand is also tenth in the world in the respected Monocle rankings (video). Harbours, restaurants and the Auckland Gallery are singled out for praise. We’ve got what it takes to be among the best. It’s why I love this place – it really does compete with Sydney/San Francisco/London/Copenhagen, and on its own terms.

    However “the New Zealand Government, which continues to block key infrastructure projects, must understand what it takes to build a world-class city” and “Auckland must… make serious decisions about intensification”. Salient criticisms.

    1. |New Zealand is also tenth in the world in the respected Monocle rankings (video)

      Although Tyler has a serious crush on Auckland, ( Waiheke and Great Barrier in particular),
      so I take a lot of what monocle raves about in Auckland with a few pinches of salt.

      1. Yes, but it’s nice to be recognised in subjective measurements alongside the more ‘objective’ ones, even if they are flavoured by the tastes of an individual internationalist. After all, we experience this city subjectively, not as a collection of indicators.

        If we arranged our ferries so that travel to the outer islands was more affordable, more Aucklanders would enjoy the pleasures of our Gulf.

      2. Monocle seem to sew up the market in one-eyed pretentiousness. These surveys appear to be aimed mostly aimed at ex-pats. Why do Brisbane and Munich not feature for example? A survey of quality of life relative to income would be better, Auckland and Sydney would move well down that list. Auckland has so much potential – just think certain people view these surveys and think all is ok, when in reality it is far from it – the infrastructure in Auckland is a joke for a city that size.

  4. There really should be someone other than the Economist magazine doing this.

    Where are the measures of pedestrian quality, bike network connectivity, housing affordability, housing quality, recreational access and air quality?

      1. I’m not surprised that Singapore is top of the infrastructure list. I was there recently and was very impressed by the ease of getting around, and all the work they are doing to improve and intensify the city (while still taking into account factors such as space, environment, resource availability, etc).

  5. My suggestions would be-
    1. Build a proper cricket ground and get regular test cricket back to Auckland again.
    2. Get an AFL team an get regular games over winter.
    That will get your sporting and culture ratings up. That will be great for tourism too.
    Its cultural and sport that gets Melbourne to number 1.

    1. According to this Melbourne gets 95.1 for culture and environment while Auckland gets 97. So we are (Apparently) better! No one would actually go watch AFL in Auckland ATM, they had a few trail matches where not a lot of people attended, and I quite like Melbourne culture, although we have a different culture in Auckland so hard to compare.

      Where Melbourne makes gains on us is in infrastructure.

    2. An Australian rules team? Gee, that’s one out of left-field.

      Based on the number of Canadian cities ahead of us we’d be just as well off putting in a bid for an NHL team..

  6. The only problem i generally have with these rankings, is that they do not really look into income. E.g. in Vienna, the comparative costs for housing are similar to Auckland, however the cost for living expenses are probably 30% less and the average income is probably double. So in general as long as you can afford it, any place could be quite livable.

  7. But you can see that Melbourne was ranked lower than Auckland for the ‘Culture and Environment’ section.. and higher for healthcare and infrastructure. So I think having a decent tram and bus network might have something to do with it being number 1, rather than sports.

    1. Many of the measures in environment and culture are related to corruption and liberty, and here needless to say, NZ is quite a paradise.

      1. I still think that we should be focusing on infrastructure, as it is something we have to deal with day-to-day, rather than sports. I just attended a talk about customer satisfaction in my area, and it was pointed out that services that are used the most tend to have lower levels of satisfaction (because they impact your life every day). And so to improve satisfaction and liveability, we should be focusing on improvements that benefit Auckland pretty much every day. Such as improved public transport networks.

  8. “Its cultural and sport that gets Melbourne to number 1” – Actually Auckland has out rated Melbourne on culture and environment at 97 vs Melbourne on 95.1 so that’s not the case at all.
    Where they have out rated us here is in infrastructure and healthcare.

    I’m not sure what having an AFL team in Auckland would achieve given interest in NZ is pretty low. Test cricket aside Auckland’s sport offering is pretty good – Blues Super 15 Rugby, Test match rugby, Warriors NRL,V8’s, Hieneken & ASB classic Tennis, Breakers ANBL basketball, Speedway, Triathlon, ANZ Netball, International 20/20 and one day cricket.

    1. Another big one is Yachting, and then there is the Mountain biking championships. The rally also starts in Auckland at the domain…plus now our arts and culture with shows at the Civic, comedy at the classic etc.

      1. Auckland does actually have pretty strong visual and performing arts scenes, and excellent music. We don’t make enough of celebrating the international culture we host, though we can get that to the fore rather quickly.

        1. I’ve lived in most major Australian cities, and a few Asian ones. Auckland does pretty well.

        2. I’m sorry, I work in the field. Auckland in the performing arts is probably comparable to a 100.000 people Southern European city. And with a duller night scene.

        3. I I’ve lived in Melbourne and Buenos Aires (both known for their nightlife) and Auckland is pretty bleak in comparison. My theory is it is tied to transport and housing. Aucklanders tend to live in their homes and treat the city as something to pass through on the way to somewhere. They don’t engage much with the public realm and events, and there aren’t that many people within walking distance of venues and people are reluctant to drive to gigs or catch very length cab rides out of the suburbs. Same problem with large events, sports matches etc. There is a large inertia to overcome to get a crowd to a stadium or venue.

          In Melbourne you get live music in corners pubs every night of the week because there is a high density of local residents who are happy to walk a couple of blocks over to pop in to their local venue. Likewise they have regular footy matches every week that huge crowds turn up to, you can easily have twenty or thirty thousand at both the MCG and Docklands stadium just for regular pool matches of local AFL teams. The fact both the stadiums are centrally located next to major rail interchanges helps to no end, it’s really easy to get to the game and home again afterwards without any fuss.

          Getting off topic but we should have built a medium sized dedicated rectangle field stadium at the foot of Bledisloe Wharf downtown (Maybe not Stadium New Zealand, Stadium ‘gets mostly full at a Blues game’ would suffice). Union, League, soccer, events. Fill it up every weekend, plenty of transport just by running peak train, bus and ferry schedules a bit later. Stacks and stacks of parking in the CBD after 5pm and on weekends. Then the Eden Park No.2 could have been made a nice cricket test venue in an actual park for community use, while the No.1 could have been redeveloped as apartments to pay for most of the scheme.

        4. Whilst I don’t agree with your analysis (for starters, I don’t think comparing the ‘hightlife’ a city of 1.5M to cities of 4M and, what, 12M? will ever be particularly constructive), your point RE corner pubs is an interesting one – there are virtually none in Auckland to begin with. I’m not sure if there ever have been. Hopefully if/when the inner suburbs are intensified, more neighbourhood bars will begin to pop up..

  9. I’d say getting an A-League team – for a NZ derby with the Phoenix – is more of a priority than AFL. And a modern, central, rectangular, 20,000 seat stadium for them (and the Warriors, etc) to play in, instead of Eden Park

    But agreed, Auckland does pretty well in the sports market, with test cricket conspicuous by its absence. A big golf tournament (means and womens) wouldn’t go astray either.

  10. Quite amusing to see Finland ranked so low for education beacuse it has no private schools. What an amazing anglo-centric orientation as Finland is generally ranked as having the best education system in the world. It is just all public which must throw out the elitists at the Economist.

    1. Absolutely. Given multiple statistics we can produce pretty much any ranking we want by weighting them differently and each would probably produce a different ranking if asked to assign weights according to our preference.

    2. Not sure if it is only about public education, because Vienna scores 100 and Austria has compared to many other places fairly a very low level of private education except of some Waldorf schools. I guess it might have to do with indicators how much money is thrown in the system, as indicators usually use them, and Austria has one of the most expensive, yet not really effective systems, particularly compared to Finland.

  11. What these ratings dont measure is cost of living which is where Melbourne rates very poorly (check out the price of restaurants there). So its all relative what you can afford (its 20K per child to go to one of the better private schools). Remember these surveys are pitched at businessmen.
    I still think Auckland for a city of 1.5 million does very poorly with major sporting events. Eden Park is filled for two All Blacks tests a year, what about the other 50 weeks a year?
    Wellington gets test cricket, A League soccer and now has 1 (and possibly 2) AFL games a year. They got 20K to a game this year and lots of tourists. If you dont like rugby the Auckland sporting market is pretty bleak.

  12. A quote from the Economist website:
    “The survey originated as a means of testing whether Human Resource Departments needed to assign a hardship allowance as part of expatriate relocation packages”

    The relative weighting and factors considered reflect this premise. Private schools that allow the expat’s children to study to some sort of internationally-recognised qualifications or that teach in the expat’s own language are thus highly relevant. Similarly infrastructure that permits the expat to get to other countries easily. Local salaries are irrelevant. At the end of the day it comes down to how much extra (hardship allowances etc) an international company needs to pay to get an employee to relocate. The survey is not aimed at locals so don’t get too bent out of shape that the Economist isn’t taking into account something that you regard as important.

    While working for a large multinational I had expat postings to various countries in Asia, Africa and North America and Mercer was the basis of the various allowances.

    1. That is true but EIU (which is a sister organisation of the Economist and actually puts the survey out) says this:

      “The survey originated as a means of testing whether Human Resource Departments needed to assign a hardship allowance as part of expatriate relocation packages. While this function is still a central potential use of the survey, it has also evolved as a broad means of benchmarking cities. This means that liveability is increasingly used by city councils, organisations or corporate entities looking to test their locations against others to see general areas where liveability can differ.”

  13. My late father-in-law worked for the EIU. There are some categories for which liveability for expats vs locals will be misaligned (eg education, healthcare, infrastructure). Given that the requirements of expats is still a “central potential use of the survey” it will trump liveability as perceived by locals in those categories. When it comes to Mercer, for example, Auckland could increase its infrastructure ranking by adding flights to more destinations and adding frequency. For most of the locals it would be irrelevant.

    1. “only Canadian and Australian cities”.
      It is rather Anglo-centric but it does have Vienna and Helsinki, so to say ONLY Canadian and Australian is wrong. Oh and the last time I looked Auckland was not (yet) part of Australia.

  14. So if we had better healthcare and Culture & Environment, we’d be right up there with Vancouver.

    Meh, who really cares?

  15. WRT the original post, you are probably correct that completing the Waterview link in the motorway network will improve the infrastructure measure and bump Auckland up a bit, but would that really actually improve quality of life in Auckland? Unlikely. Looks like a weird metric for reasons identified by various posters.

    1. I presume he was being cheeky in the sens of “if we finally admit we have enough motorways and stop pouring more money into them” sense – his real kicker was in the rest of the sentence, where he notes an improved *PT network* is needed. If we had that, we would certainly move up in the infrastructure rankings.

  16. Its interesting that the quality of the receiving environment and easy access to waterways and harbours for the urban population is not specifically categorised and assessed (eg Our Jewel – The Hauraki Gulf – which is a fantastic playground for sailing, fishing, cruising etc).

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