Real estate advisory firm Resonance Consultancy recently released its 2021 ranking of “global cities”.
A global city, also called a power city, world city, alpha city or world center, is a city which is a primary node in the global economic network.
Resonance Consultancy describes global cities as “the engines of the world and the badges of human ingenuity”. The firm scores them based on six metrics:
Place: “The perceived quality of a city’s natural and built environment, including the sub-categories of Weather, Safety, Neighborhoods & Landmarks, and Outdoors.”
Product: “A city’s key institutions, attractions and infrastructure, including the sub-categories of Airport Connectivity, Attractions, Museums, University Ranking, Convention Center, and Pro Sports teams.”
Programming: “The arts, culture, entertainment and culinary scene in a city, including the sub-categories of Shopping, Culture, Restaurants, and Nightlife.”
People: “The immigration rate and diversity of a city, including the sub-categories of Foreign Born and Educational Attainment.”
Prosperity: “A city’s employment and corporate head offices, including the sub-categories of Fortune 500 Companies and Household Income.”
Promotion: “The quantity of stories, references and recommendations shared online about a city, including the sub-categories of Google Search Results, Google Trends, Facebook Check-ins, Instagram Hashtags, and TripAdvisor Reviews.”
I like this six metrics, and if I had to evaluate cities I would probably choose the same. I may also add: net migration rate (the best cities attract people), human rights (because sexual relations between men are still banned in Singapore), ease of doing business (some cities are amazing to visit or retire but not to start a business) and the number of unicorns (startups valued at more than $1 billion, to measure the dynamism of the local economy, and not only the strength of the past with Fortune 500 Companies).
So, in 2021, the world’s best cities are:
🇬🇧 London (=)
🇺🇸 New York City (=)
🇫🇷 Paris (=)
🇷🇺 Moscow (+1)
🇯🇵 Tokyo (-1)
🇦🇪 Dubai (=)
🇸🇬 Singapore (=)
🇪🇸 Barcelona (=)
🇺🇸 Los Angeles (=)
🇪🇸 Madrid (+2)
The usual suspects, always making it to the top 10 in other rankings, are here: London, NYC, Paris, Tokyo, Dubai, and Singapore. Nothing surprising. Same for Los Angeles, often ranked among the best.
But I was really surprised to see Moscow, Barcelona, and Madrid in the top, and rising! Spain is the only country with the US with two cities in the top 10. And about Moscow, Resonance says:
The global fascination has as much to do with the spectacular 2018 FIFA World Cup as with the Kremlin’s global ambitions. […] Whatever brings you to the city, you’re in for an experience at stark odds with the West’s continuously dismaying news about Russia. […] The first so-called “post-Soviet generation” of Muscovites has traveled the world, returning with suitcases full of ideas that they’re unpacking to huge effect in their always-proud city, sanctions be damned.
I want to visit Moscow even more!
On the other hand, Chinese cities are absent from the top: Beijing ranks 26th, Hong Kong 42th, and Shanghai 73th! Their biggest weakness: lack of diversity. The whole country suffers from it: China has the world’s lowest foreign-born population after Cuba. Only 0.1% of Chinese residents were born abroad. Compared to 88% in the United Arab Emirates, 37% in Singapore, 21% in Canada, 15% in the US, 13% in France, and 8% in Russia. Even in absolute numbers China ranks low. There are more foreigners in Japan, Singapore, Sweden, Belgium, South Korea, or New Zealand than in China. But a country needs to attract the best talents to rise to the top. China successfully integrated (or was invaded by…) Mongols, Mandchous, Muslims, and various other ethnic groups in its history. Will China be able to attract skilled migrants in the future?
Other big cities who didn’t make it to the top 10 are:
San Francisco (14)
Washington DC (20)
However, looking at the performance by category there are some weird results. For instance, San Francisco and Hong Kong score low on “Prosperity”, they’re even behind Moscow by this indicator! For San Francisco, it’s probably because the index only includes the number of large established companies, not startups. And Hong Kong’s record high inequalities decrease its score.
Other surprise: Beijing lags behind on “Promotion”, which measures how much the city is talked about. But this indicator uses data from Facebook and Google, two services banned in Mainland China… The same issue goes for Russia, where vKontakte and Yandex are strong local competitors. An improved version of the ranking would aggregate data from these platforms.
Many predict that Covid will change cities forever, we’ll see how these rankings evolve next year…
Anyway, these rankings are subjective, and the most interesting things are their trends and the criteria used. So how would you evaluate the world’s best cities? And which are YOUR best cities? :)