2016 has been a turbulent year for London as a global city. Londoners watched the UK vote to leave the European Union in June and wondered what the impact would be on their city. A report by accounting giant Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) published in early November placed London on top of the pile of global cities. We examine its contents to ask why is London the best city in the world? (still!)
Cities are becoming more powerful
In its introduction the PWC report notes that cities are becoming ever more important as the world’s population becomes more urban. As of 2008, more 50% of the population lived in cities worldwide. By 2050 more than two thirds of us are expected to live in cities. Indeed megacities, those with more than 10 million people are currently home to 12% of the world’s population.
Best Cities global survey – London is best-perceived city
In December 2015, PWC surveyed a group of 5,200 people from 16 countries to find out what they thought of 30 global cities. They measured over 40 metrics related to politics, economics and social issues to generate a score for each city.
This study set out to explore how global cities are perceived – as perception is just as important as reality especially when it comes to global business.
The top 10 perceived global cities were:
3. New York
10. Los Angeles
London scored very well across the board and was number one on attributes including having a well-developed infrastructure, being connected to the rest of the world and having a well-developed legal framework. It was in the top three for the breadth of education for its population.
London is also the Best City of Opportunity
In addition to their survey of perceived top cities, PWC also conducted a study called ‘Cities of Opportunity” where they examined concrete evidence in several key areas such as infrastructure, environmental care and traffic congestion. This study focussed on the reality of life in each city. London came out top again; essentially meaning the perception and reality of London as the leading global city are in synch. It’s one of the few cities in the study where perception and reality converge. For example Singapore is ranked the second best city in reality but only ranked no. 17 in perception. And Paris is ranked second for perception but is only fourth in actuality. So how has London pulled off this great feat?
Great urban infrastructure
Urban infrastructure doesn’t just mean transport systems. It also encompasses other areas such as internet access, technology and communication infrastructure, well-educated population, public transport systems, education system and a skilled labour force. London ranks incredibly well for all of these factors.
Ask any black cab driver what they think of London traffic and they’ll tell you its getting worse and worse. But in fact, London ranked 7th out of 30 for the cities for the least traffic congestion. However, this doesn’t mean London doesn’t suffer from congestion; it’s just that other global cities are way worse!
Modernity and cultural clout
London also ranks well for modernity and cultural clout. Attributes of modernity include: being seen as fashionable, supporting innovation, caring about the environment and having a strong quality of life. Cultural clout is defined as ‘having an influential culture’ in terms of entertainment, the arts and cuisine. Not surprisingly, London ranked extremely well on all of these points.
Testing times ahead for London?
As the terms of Brexit begin to emerge in the coming months and the financial markets react, London may have its crown as the leading global city challenged.
If banks start to move their headquarters out of the city and international workers are discouraged from moving to the UK, both perception and reality of London will change.
However many elements which make London stand out will remain strong; innovation and entrepreneurship, great infrastructure, modernity and cultural clout.
We love our city and wholly believe that its position as a great global powerhouse will remain steadfast, regardless of the next few years may bring
All photo credits Dun.can – flickr