Access – Liveable City

Vancouver in Canada has been named the world’s most liveable city two years in a row. For Johannesburg, it stands at 92nd place, which still makes it the highest score in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The survey, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, marks the second consecutive year that Vancouver, the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, has topped the list.
Jon Copestake, editor of the report, commented: “Vancouver scores well across all categories in the survey and the Winter Games contribute to a strong score in the cultural and sporting events category. Johannesburg has had well-documented crime problems, but performs better in other categories, with the highest overall liveability rating in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s liveability survey assesses living conditions in 140 cities around the world. Each city is scored on a scale of 0-100 (where 1 is intolerable and 100 is ideal), on 30 factors in five areas: stability, health care, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.
Kuala Lumpur, the only Malaysian city in the list is ranked at 78th.

Elsewhere, European and North American cities continue to dominate the top tier of the ranking, alongside cities in Australia and New Zealand. Other regions faired less well, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, with security concerns under renewed scrutiny following attacks on the Togo national football team during the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola. The on-going social and economic crisis in Zimbabwe ensures that Harare is still the worst of the 140 cities surveyed.

A tale of two cities

Vancouver (Canada) still dominates the global ranking, with the city offering an excellent infrastructure and low crime levels. Despite controversy surrounding the growing number of homeless people in Vancouver, general liveability levels are high with good transport links and broad cultural and recreational availability, although, as in any large city, there is still some prevalence of petty crime.

Johannesburg (South Africa), host to the Football World Cup and the world’s other major sporting event this year, fared less well. Security concerns over the 2010 Football World Cup abound and this is reflected in the city’s position of joint 92nd in the ranking with a score of 69.1%, almost 30 percentage points lower than that achieved by Vancouver. Security is the main concern in South Africa, owing to a well-documented struggle with violent crime rates.

However, Johannesburg does enjoy strong availability of cultural and recreational activities, ensuring that visitors to this year’s Football World Cup will have plenty to do in addition to watching the tournament. South African cities also achieved the highest liveability scores in a region plagued by instability and problems with health and infrastructure.

Looking ahead
Ironically, Johannesburg shares its joint 92nd position with two of the major cities of the next host of the Football World Cup, Brazil, which will stage the contest in 2014.

Both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have the same overall liveability score as Johannesburg, although both benefit from slightly higher levels of stability, with lower scores in other categories resulting in parity (note that Rio de Janeiro will also host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games).

Awarding high-level sporting events to developing cities provides an opportunity for investment in infrastructure needed to raise levels of liveability in these locations and also to prompt investment in countries more generally.

Turning to other upcoming sporting events, the Rugby World Cup in 2011 will be held in New Zealand, where liveability scores are at the top of the scale. Auckland, host to the Rugby World Cup final, is the tenth most liveable of the 140 locations surveyed and achieved a score of only 2.3 percentage points lower than top-rated Vancouver.

Conversely, in the same year, the Cricket World Cup will take place in locations at the other end of the ranking amid security concerns following the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan national cricket team in Pakistan.

Although the 2009 attack led to Pakistan’s exclusion as a host nation, other hosts such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are home to locations in the bottom ten of the league table and worst category of liveability (Colombo is 132nd and Dhaka is 138th, with liveability scores of just 47.3% and 38.7% respectively). Locations in India, the third host nation, fare a little better, with Mumbai (117th) and New Delhi (113th) scoring 56.5% and 58.6% respectively.

In Western Europe, London, host to the 2012 Olympic Games, sits in 54th position with a liveability score of 88.4%. This is almost 10 percentage points below Vancouver’s score, but London remains in the very top tier of the liveability ranking. Although concerns have been raised about the city’s ability to meet the infrastructural demands of the Olympics, stability, particularly following terrorism attacks in July 2007, is the poorest-performing liveability category.

Also in 2012, Warsaw and Ukraine are set to co-host the European Football Championship. Warsaw scores relatively well in areas important to visitors to the event, with stability, infrastructure, and culture and the environment all scoring 80% or more. Ukraine lies 91st in the ranking and only marginally outscores Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo with a rating of 69.2%.

About the Liveability survey
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, part of the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, quantifies the challenges that might be presented to an individual’s lifestyle in 140 cities worldwide. Each city is assigned a score for over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories:

1) Stability
2) Healthcare
3) Culture and environment
4) Education
5) Infrastructure

Each factor in each 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 categories are compiled and weighed to provide an overall rating of 1-100, where 1 is considered intolerable and 100 is considered ideal. The report considers that any city with a rating of 80 or more will have few, if any, challenges to living standards. Liveability scores can be scaled as follows:

The suggested liveability scale
Rating Description
-80-100 There are few, if any, challenges to living standards-
-70-80   Day-to-day living is fine, in general, but some aspects of life may entail problems
-60-70   Negative factors have an impact on day-to-day living
-50-60   Liveability is substantially constrained
-50 or less Most aspects of living are severely restricted


CHALLENGES VOL3 ISSUE3 2010 (Challenges Magazine is a journalism skills training project for persons with disabilities started in 2007)