Public residential condominium building complex and downtown skylines at Kallang neighborhood in Singapore. Storm cloud sky from Shutterstock

It’s that time of the year again when cities around the world are ranked for their level of liveability by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research and analysis division of The Economist Group charged with analysing how the world is changing.

Specifically, their Global Liveability Index is an annual report where they rank different cities around the world based on liveability scores calculated in five categories: stability, healthcare, culture & environment, education, and infrastructure.

This year, the top ten most liveable cities according to the EIU are:

  1. Vienna, Austria
  2. Melbourne, Australia
  3. Osaka, Japan
  4. Calgary, Canada
  5. Sydney, Australia
  6. Vancouver, Canada
  7. Toronto, Canada
  8. Tokyo, Japan
  9. Copenhagen, Denmark
  10. Adelaide, Australia

Based on their overview, EIU seems to place a lot of emphasis on general stability which they derive from crime and terrorism incidents. They note that overall, stability has improved by 2.5% despite the threats of terrorism and unrest that nations around the world are grappling with.

In the case of Singapore, the Lion City dropped two spots from last year to land at 37. I’d love to tell you why Singapore slipped down the ranks, but the full report costs over USD200 to purchase and we’re just not doing that. I can tell you, based on some research online, that Hong Kong took Singapore’s spot at 35 this year, climbing 10 spots from last year. Again, I’m not sure which categories reflect Hong Kong’s improvement and Singapore’s decline.

What I can definitely tell you is that once again, Singapore tops another of EIU’s ranking: the Worldwide Cost of Living Report. This is Singapore’s 5th consecutive year on top. According to EIU, Singapore does offer relative value in certain categories when compared to its regional peers, however it does remain to be the most expensive city in the world to buy and maintain a car and is the third-most expensive destination in which to purchase clothes.

Anyone who’s lived in Singapore before can probably agree to that statement. Being a small and economically strong city-state in this current global economy, it’s no surprise the living in Singapore is not cheap. But cheap is relative. Ask a lower middle-class family of 6 living in Kuala Lumpur, and they’ll tell you.

So before we go around using these rankings a broad, sweeping generalisations on the cost of living or liveability of different cities, it’s important to remember that the average local individual is NOT EIU’s target audience. As per their overview, EIU’s main goal here is to assess the liveability of different cities in order to present a benchmark for “assigning hardship allowance as part of expatriate relocation packages”.

So unless you’re working with a huge multinational company that is willing send you off to work as an expat abroad, these rankings will mean absolutely nothing to you. But if you are looking to work overseas for the MNC that is currently employing you, you might want to take a look at EIU’s reports to give yourself a leg up when negotiating allowances. If you fall into the latter category, good luck.

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