Every year, the Economist Intelligence Unit releases its ranking of the “most livable cities” in the world. Therein, they attempt to quantify what exactly makes living in a city better or worse. It generally breaks down into five categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.
So, what are the world’s most livable cities? Well, in fact, the top seven cities actually comprise just three countries, with six countries total in the top ten. Although it is not true everywhere, countries with effective policies tend to see positive effects country-wide.
However, many major cities around the world can actually be victims of their own success. Cities like New York City or London are world renown, but also have higher crime rates, overpopulation leading to infrastructure failure, and often much higher costs of living.
The cities in this list are able to avoid those pitfalls. The top ranked city in the world is Melbourne Australia, a title it has held for six years in a row. The country’s other two metropolises, Adelaide and Perth, rank fifth and seventh in the list as well.
In terms of stability, which concerns threats of terrorism, violent crime, and military conflict, Australia has little to fear for radical change. All three cities enjoy the same health care system, which is a combination of government and private insurance, and results in affordable, accessible, and high quality care.
The country’s universal healthcare even helps pay for treatments outside of hospitals. With a temperate climate, especially Perth, as well as free public education, and long term investment in infrastructure, it’s not surprising that Australia makes the list three times.
But perhaps what is even less surprising is that the next most commonly appearing country on the list is Canada, with Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary taking spots 3, 4 and five (Calgary is tied with Adelaide).
Like Australia, Canada has universal healthcare and free education, both of which are relatively well managed, funded, and take into account the needs of low-income citizens. Canada also has little to fear geopolitically as it is mostly uninvolved in international conflict, and has the United States as a direct neighbor and protector.
Sandwiched on the list in between Australia and Canada is the city of Vienna, in Austria, ranking second worldwide. In fact, other scales of livability, like the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, have ranked Vienna first.
The city is Austria’s capital and its economic, political and cultural center. In 2013 it was named by the UN as the most prosperous city, with a particular focus on both a thriving economy and urban planning.
With a high density of culture, both historic and newly diverse, Vienna is known as a city for music, architecture, and unique cafes. The last three cities to round out the top ten are Auckland, New Zealand; Helsinki, Finland; and Hamburg, Germany.
All three have subsidized or free health care and education, two categories which tend to improve cities and countries around the world. A study by the British government found that New Zealand, for example, spends less per person on healthcare than 13 other developed nations.
All three cities are also economically thriving, which allows them to focus government services on their populace, improve things like infrastructure, and providing high rates of employment. Building a livable city doesn’t seem especially complicated.
You need clean air and water, to live without fear for your life and liberty, the ability to be cured when you’re sick, and a right to be educated. But for many cities around the world, that doesn’t mean it’s not hard to achieve.