Liveability concepts. Differences in the interpretation of liveability in developed and industrialized countries

Academic Paper, 2019

20 Pages, Grade: 2


Table of contents

1 Abstract

2 Introduction

3 Liveability Rankings

4 Liveability in developing countries

5 Conclusion

6 References

7 Table of Figures

1 Abstract

Liveability is a widely used and popular term nowadays, but it is hard to quantify and compare liveability. The most used and prominent attempts to compare liveability on a worldwide scale are the liveability list. These annual rankings sort big cities according to the score in certain parameters that are weighted and then summed together. Usually cities from the industrialised countries are found at the top of this lists whereas cities of developing countries form the bottom. Maybe there are different concepts of liveability in different parts of the world and these rankings are only the western view on liveability. This work aims to compare the indicators of the western liveability concept to concepts from developing countries. In this case at least one liveability study from each continent (Latin America, Asia and Africa) that is underrepresented in these classical liveability rankings was chosen.

2 Introduction

In general, a liveable environment ensures the physical and social well-being of its inhabitants (Kashef 2016). Ruth (2014) divides liveability into two principles:

- Needs of a population that should be fulfilled goods and services, such as shelter, energy, water and food, waste management and assimilation, health and public safety, education and entertainment, social engagement, economic contributions, creativity, …
- The city’s environment physical and biological characteristics, the built infrastructures and ecosystems that provide the goods and services on which lives in a city depend

Although the concept of liveability is rather new in scientific research it has become popular very fast especially for politicians. The mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig and his predecessor Michael Häupl like to highlight Vienna’s top position in the various liveability rankings and present this as proof for their good work as a mayor. (Stadt Wien 2019/ Die Presse 2018) Some cities even have come up with their own definition of liveability like the City of New York and the City of Vancouver. But not only politicians are interested in liveability, there are also companies that are investigating liveability. The Philipps Center of Health and Wellbeing (n.D.) tried to depict the dimensions of liveability in a graphic where each building represents an aspect of liveability. (Figure 1) For instance, the stadium stands for the pride and belonging to a city or the railway station for the connection to other cities and the rural surroundings. As you can see from the various definitions it is hard to agree on a description of liveability, but it is even harder to quantify and compare liveability. In annual rankings big cities are sorted according to the score in certain predefined parameters. Usually cities from the industrialised countries are found at the top of this lists whereas cities of developing countries form the bottom. These rankings and also the interpretations and definitions of liveability stated above are all from industrialised countries. Maybe we are omitting the developing countries in the discussion on liveability and they have own concepts and views. The aim of this paper is to compare the indicators of the western liveability concept to alternative concepts of developing countries. The next chapter deals with the previously mentioned liveability lists including the recent liveability ranking and criticism about liveability lists. The second part will deal with various studies from developing countries in three continents concerning liveability followed by a conclusion.

Figure 1 Liveability on the example of a city (Source: Philipps Center of Health and Wellbeing)

3 Liveability Rankings

Although the concept of liveability is widely used, highly subjective and hardly measurable there are attempts to quantify liveability. The most prominent examples to assess liveability for a certain area are the liveability lists. Most of them are upraised by private institutions and companies like journals (e.g. Monocle), research groups (e.g. the Economist Intelligence Unit) or business consultants like Mercer.


They all have slight differences in their used criteria of liveability, their weighting of the liveability factors, their purpose of the rankings and their outputs. This chapter will deal with the liveability ranking of Mercer and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) because they are both one of the most well-known studies concerning liveability worldwide. These liveability rankings could therefore serve as benchmark for the interpretation of liveability in industrialised countries. The EIU (2018) has identified five main categories that define a liveable city:

3.1.1 Stability

Stability is weighted with 25% which rates this sector more important than it would be in an equal weighting (20%). According to EIU stability consists on the one hand of the rate of crime (petty and violent crime) and on the other hand on the risk of military conflicts, civil unrests and terror attacks.

3.1.2 Healthcare

Healthcare is weighted with 20 percent and provides information about the availability and quality of private healthcare as well as public healthcare. In addition, the EIU also refers to the availability of non-prescription medicine and the overall healthcare indicators provided by the world bank.

3.1.3 Culture and Environment

This category of liveability is rated equally high as stability (25%). It is a very broad class that unions many factors. First, there are circumstances that are determined by the natural environment like humidity and temperature which have influence on the comfort for travellers. It seems that the EIU does not deal at all with climate change or environmental risks in this or in other categories. The second part of the environment deals with the social environment which can be influenced negatively by corruption, censorship and social/ religious restrictions. Finally, the term culture takes availability of sport facilities and the variety of cultural activities into consideration as well as availability of consumer goods and services.

3.1.4 Education

Education is the least rated class of the liveability categories of the EIU with only 10 percent. It covers the availability and quality of public and private education.

3.1.5 Infrastructure

The remaining 20 percent are spent on the last category which is infrastructure. This involves the provision and quality of basic needs like energy, water and telecommunication. The second aspect of this category can be summed up as transport: Quality of road networks, public transport and the connection on an international scale. Thirdly, infrastructure also contains the availability and quality of housing.

Regarding categories of liveability Mercer has even identified 10 different main categories and states 39 factors in total that are relevant. It seems that there is no weighting of the categories or at least they do not state the percentages of the weights transparently. The following ten points are addressed in the studies by Mercer (2012):

- Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement)
- Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services)
- Socio-cultural environment (censorship, limitations on personal freedom)
- Medical and health considerations (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc.)
- Schools and education (standard and availability of international schools)
- Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transportation, traffic congestion, etc.)
- Recreation (restaurants, theatres, movie theatres, sports and leisure, etc.)
- Consumer goods (availability of food/ daily consumption items, cars, etc.)
- Housing (rental housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services)
- Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters)

At first glance it seems that Mercer has a larger variety of factors and therefore provide a greater depth compared to EIU ranking. Actually, many of the extra categories of Mercer are just subcategories in the EIU liveability list. For example, the categories housing and public services and transportation of Mercer correspond to the infrastructure category of EIU. Schools and education match the Education category, as well as stability the political and social environment category and healthcare the medical and health considerations category. Culture and Environment is composed of consumer goods, recreation, sociocultural environment and natural environment. However, there are a few indicators that differ: Mercer has an own category for the economic environment including banking services and exchange of money. Mercer also emphasizes the natural environment more because the risk of natural hazards, climate, air pollution and infectious diseases are also taken into account. In conclusion, Mercer and EIU share quite the same common understanding on liveability and its criteria with only small adaptions to their target groups.


At the end of these annual surveys the previously selected criteria are usually reclassified to get a comparable scale for each indicator. Then the weighting is applied and an over-all liveability value for each city is calculated. In the case of EIU (2018) there is a scale from 0-100 which give information about the challenges an employee faces when they move to the inspected cities (80-100 means few challenges, less than 50 means not even the basic requirements are met). The cities are then compared to the other cities and ranked according to their values (EIU has investigated 140 cities compared to 231 of Mercer). These rankings are of great importance for companies because they often serve as base for allowances for employees who have to work in other countries. (EIU 2018) Figure 2 (EIU) and 3 (Mercer) show the top 10 and least 10 liveable cities of the year 2018 according to their criteria. The EIU table also gives information on the performance of the cities in the different categories, whereas Mercer only shows the place in the ranking. On top of both rankings and therefore the most liveable city is Vienna. By looking at the top 10 in the table and even more on the map it is possible to identify certain trends in liveability concerning spatial distribution. In both rankings the most liveable cities are situated in Western/Central Europe, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The Economist Intelligence

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2 Mercer Liveability Ranking 2018 (Source: Mercer 2018)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 3 Economist Intelligence Unit Liveability Ranking 2018 (Source: EIU 2018)

Unit does also rate two Japanese cities under the first 10. These are all cities in nations that are part of the industrialised countries and apart from Japan these countries are all considered as part of the West. In contrast to that the least livable cities can be mainly found in Africa and Asia with Papua New Guinea and Haiti as exceptions. Of course, one could argue that the least liveable cities are situated in troubled regions: For instance, Damaskus in Syria which is affected by war and terror attacks or Port-Au-Prince which was recently destroyed by a hurricane. However, the trend that developed countries are rated poorly concerning liveability continues throughout the whole liveability list. In the ranking of Mercer for the year 2012 there are no cities from other regions than the West and Japan until rank 63 with Point-a-Pitre. Even that does not count fully because Pointa-Pitre, which is the capital of Guadeloupe and located in the Carribean, is part of France and therefore financiered by the government of an industrialised country.


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Liveability concepts. Differences in the interpretation of liveability in developed and industrialized countries
University of Salzburg
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differences, liveability, concepts of liveability, livability, cultural differences
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Philipp Straßer (Author), 2019, Liveability concepts. Differences in the interpretation of liveability in developed and industrialized countries, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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