Melbourne closes gap on Sydney as most desirable city to live

13 March 2023 4 min. read

Global strategy consultancy Boston Consulting Group has released its latest study showcasing the world’s most desirable cities for living, with Australia’s capitals receiving middling overall results.

Contrary to Melburnians being consistently told they inhabit one of the most liveable cities in the world, and then sharing that information with anyone who will listen, Australia’s state capitals have been largely snubbed on a new indexation of the world’s Most Desirable Cities compiled by Boston Consulting Group – with Melbourne notably ranked behind Sydney in just about every dimension. Smaller cities Adelaide and Perth didn’t fare any better.

The Boston Consulting Group analysis draws on a survey of more than 50,000 people living in 79 cities worldwide in an effort to determine what makes urban residents want to stay or relocate.

The Cities of Choice Ranking Structure Consists of 5 Dimensions and 26 Subdimensions

According to the study, the impacts of Covid-19 have dealt a blow to optimism almost across the board, with 90 percent of the cities assessed receiving lower overall scores compared to the previous survey and all quality-of-life dimensions slipping. Across the board, almost half of inhabitants stated a desire to move elsewhere.

The exhaustive report – titled ‘Cities of Choice: Are People Happy Where They Live?’ – considers some 150 economic, social, and political metrics and indicators across five dimensions – economic opportunities, quality of life, social capital, interactions with authorities, and speed of change – which are then broken down into a further 26 sub-dimensions. Through a complex weighting system, each city is finally given an overall score and benchmarked against similar-sized cities.

London and New York once again topped the list in the ‘Megacenters’ category for cities with upwards of 10 million residents, with their total score of 64.3 placing both cities ahead of all others regardless of size.

Australian cities

Sydney and Melbourne meanwhile featured on the ‘Cruiser Weight’, landing in 9th and 17th place among 30 cities with populations of between 3 and 10 million, with respective overall scores of 56.2 and 52.8. Melbourne was in fact one of only eight cities to improve its rating.

Most desirable cities with populations between 3 and 10 million

The 2021 index, which assessed 35 fewer cities, found Sydney to be the 10th-most desirable in the world, immediately ahead of Singapore, Seattle, San Francisco, Stockholm and Amsterdam with a score of 58.3 despite below average marks for economic opportunities and speed of change. Melbourne, with a score of 51.1 to sit in 23rd overall behind Shanghai and Wellington, suffered in the same categories, as well as a particularly low score for social capital.

As a breakdown of the 2022 index results, Sydney came third overall in its size category for quality of life, behind only table-topper Washington and third-placed San Francisco. Melbourne was only one point behind in the same measure, improving its score by six points. That decent jump however, along with a rise in social capital, was offset by significant dives elsewhere.

According to the analysis, Melbourne lost ten points in the ‘interactions with authorities’ category on the previous survey, and a whopping 22 points as to ‘speed of change’, while Sydney also took a significant hit as to interaction with authorities. When looking at the category’s sub-dimensions, it’s unclear what has caused such a drastic decline in both cities, except for perhaps general negative sentiment towards government following extended lock-downs and federal backscratching.

Meanwhile, Adelaide and Perth, which didn’t feature on the last index (Brisbane still wasn’t assessed), ranked 18th and 23rd out of 28 cities with under three million people – although Adelaide’s overall score of 52.8 places it ahead of Melbourne among all cities and equal with Sydney for quality of life. Notably, Adelaide finished in the last quintile for ‘economic opportunities’, with the city since the survey continuing to become a leading tech hub with the addition of thousands of new jobs.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has become a strong test of the resilience of most cities. In fact, many cities have not yet fully emerged from it,” concluded Hans-Paul Bürkner, Boston Consulting Group’s former CEO and global chair emeritus, who was a co-author of the report. “Leaders must grapple with the question: What are the imperatives for the future to ensure that urban residents will live happily in these cities? People have changed – and cities must too.”