Auckland ranked world’s liveable city, thanks to deft handling of COVID

Stringency of lockdown rules tilts the scales this year in survey by Economist Intelligence Unit

New York
In several cities, living conditions have plummeted compared with pre-pandemic levels.

As city after city went under extensive lockdowns amid the COVID onslaught, New Zealand’s Auckland has been ranked as the most liveable city globally in 2021 by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a sister company of the journal The Economist.

What helped Auckland make the cut was its deft handling of the pandemic that allowed theatres, restaurants and educational institutions to operate during the survey period — February 22 to March 21, 2021.

“For the first time, Auckland leads the EIU’s ranking, thanks largely to the city’s early containment of the pandemic and to its subsequent ability to lift restrictions on mobility,” said the Economist in its report on the ranking. “It came 12th in 2019, the most recent year in which the EIU published its list.”

The top 10


The top 10 places in the 2021 ranking is well populated with Asia-Pacific cities. According to a CNBC report, the Global Liveability Index 2021 runs thus (with score in brackets):

  1. Auckland, New Zealand (96.0)
  2. Osaka, Japan (94.2)
  3. Adelaide, Australia (94.0)
  4. Wellington, New Zealand (93.7)
  5. Tokyo, Japan (93.7)
  6. Perth, Australia (93.3)
  7. Zurich, Switzerland (92.8)
  8. Geneva, Switzerland (92.5)
  9. Melbourne, Australia (92.5)
  10. Brisbane, Australia (92.4)

The index ranks cities on the basis of over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors that fall into five broad categories, said CNBC. These are stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. The add-on indicators due to the pandemic this year include stress on healthcare resources and curbs on sporting events, theatres, restaurants, schools and so on, the report added.

Island nations do well

The Economist report noted that island nations with strong border controls appeared to have fared well this year. “Two Japanese cities and four from Australia appear in the top 10. In the vast majority of cities, however, living conditions have plummeted compared with pre-pandemic levels,” it said. A big ‘island’ gainer this time round was the Hawaiian capital of Honolulu, which rose 46 places to finish at 14.

Also read: Japan adamant, but citizens, athletes want summer Olympics scrapped

Several European cities lost out in this year’s rankings due to stringent shutdowns around the pandemic.  For instance, said the CNBC report, the Austrian city of Vienna, which almost always bagged good ranks, failed to make it to the top 10 this year. It added that Asia ranked well below North America and Western Europe.

Least liveable of all

Damascus in Syria was ranked the world’s least liveable city, as the nation completed 10 years of civil war. Dhaka, Karachi and Port Moresby (the capital of Papua New Guinea) were among the ones with poor ranks.

Apart from other conditions such as thick population, heavy pollution and lack of civic facilities, several Asia nations performed poorly due to the heavy onslaught of the virus.