Is Melbourne the 2nd most liveable city in the world?

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) 2011 Global Liveability Report says Melbourne is the 2nd most liveable city in the world, just behind Vancouver and up one place from 3rd last year. Sydney ranks 7th.

But any elation is likely to be short-lived. The Mercer Annual Quality of Living survey for 2011, due in late May, will very probably put Melbourne much further down the list. In Mercer’s 2009 and 2010 surveys, Melbourne slipped from 17th place to 18th place. Sydney ranked 10th in both years.

As I’ve pointed out before, these sorts of surveys shouldn’t be taken seriously as a guide to how liveable our cities really are. They have a number of shortcomings.

First, they’ve been criticised for lack of transparency about their methodologies, definitions and quality of data.

Second, they are designed to assist companies determine living allowances for staff posted to an overseas destination. They aren’t intended to measure the quality of life for permanent residents, who have very different requirements to those of highly renumerated, short-term executives. Not surprisingly, some Melburnites Melburnians don’t seem to believe that Melbourne is as good as the EIU makes out – see the comments on this story in the Sun-Herald.

Third, these sorts of surveys are also of limited value in making intra-country comparisons. They give a high weighting to variables that reflect national characteristics rather than city-specific characteristics, so their ability to discriminate between places in the same country isn’t high.

For example, all Australia’s capitals tend to rank highly simply because Australia ranks well on a host of essentially national characteristics like stability, education and health care. For example, the EIU’s report has Melbourne on 97.5%, Sydney on 96.1% and Perth and Adelaide equal on 95.9%.

Finally, the international rankings are pretty meaningless anyway, at least at the top. The difference in scores between top ranking Vancouver and 10th ranked Auckland is very small – 98% and 95.7% respectively.

While it also has methodological limitations, at least the Property Council of Australia’s assessment of the liveability of Australia’s capitals is based on the expectations of permanent residents. Adelaide ranks 1st and Melbourne 3rd. Sydney ranks last.


4 Comments on “Is Melbourne the 2nd most liveable city in the world?”

  1. Scott M says:

    We’re Melbournians, not Melbournites.

    • Alan Davies says:

      I agree we’re not ‘Melbournites’, that’s why I always subscribe to the convention of using ‘Melburnians’ (except when I make a mistake, as above!). Note the correct spelling. 🙂

      Hmmm….I’ve just done a search and see I’ve used ‘Melburnites’ quite a lot, but not since last July. 😦

  2. […] But the real issue – and one which really needs urgent attention – is the high and increasing cost of doing business in this city and in Queensland overall.  The recent CIS report does not paint Queensland is a good light.  Not only have taxes increased dramatically in the Sunshine State – a remarkable turnaround for Queensland, which once boasted of negative net debt and claimed with justification to be the ‘low tax’ state – but so have petrol prices, council charges and utility costs, just to mention a few.  In addition, both our public and private transport systems and health services cannot handle the burden.  It is little wonder that Brisbane is now ranked lower that Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide in The Economist magazine’s latest annual “liveability” survey. […]

  3. […] care, environment, culture, education and infrastructure. However, as I’ve explained before (here, here and here), there are a number of reasons why liveability league tables are best left to the […]


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