London's quality of life makes it world's 'city of choice'

04 August 2021 3 min. read
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A new report has claimed that London is the world’s top ‘city of choice.’ The report looked into 80 of the globe’s largest population centres, and determined the UK capital boasts a higher quality of life than New York, Helsinki or Copenhagen.

Fresh opinion studies are constantly being released regarding the world’s best places to live – and much of it has been contradictory. While many have claimed London is the best place to live in the world for expats or for natives, others have been less complimentary. For example, in 2019, the Expat Insider result determined that the UK ranked 62nd of 64 countries in terms of ‘personal happiness’ among expats, while another study from Mercer found London’s air pollution greatly reduced its quality of life compared to continental Europe. 

With this in mind, it is probably worth taking Boston Consulting Group’s latest research declaring London the planet’s ‘city of choice’ with a pinch of salt. After all, there is no cast-iron way to quantify ‘happiness’ or ‘quality of life,’ which are subjective and abstract notions – so determining whether one city is better or worse than another on such a basis is always a matter of some interpretation. With that being said, BCG and BCG Henderson Institute went to the trouble of exploring 155 metrics, and surveying 25,000 residents in 80 cities to reach its conclusions, making it as empirical as any poll of a city’s liveability can be.

Cities of Choice - Global City Ranking

Commenting on the report, BCG Henderson Institute Fellow Vladislav Boutenko said, “There is no doubt that living environment in cities is a major contributor to people's happiness, as it affects factors that drive it, from physiological needs to social integration. We can measure happiness by asking people about their satisfaction with different aspects of the city life and deriving an Advocacy score. Unfortunately, due to its subjective nature, the Advocacy score can’t be used to directly compare two cities. That’s why we decided to develop an index that measures objective factors across all areas of resident’s life. Our goal was to create a useful tool for urban policy development in the "new reality" we are all facing.” 

The global study conducted by According to the key findings of this process, three key factors put the UK’s capital in the top spot. These included its diverse leisure scene – as the city has an estimated 250 restaurants per 100,000 people compared to around 150 in New York – and it’s inclusivity. BCG found that 68% of female respondents said people had equal opportunities regardless of their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or other factors – and this was only 51% on average in other top-five cities New York, Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Abu Dhabi. 

While this is a somewhat selective definition of inclusivity, and begs the question what demographics besides women made of this question, London also performed well when it came to transport. Only 8% residents report that the station they use is too far from their home or work place, compared to 20% in the other top-five cities. 

On the other hand, while London ranked top of the list, and received the highest quality of life of any of the top-five, BCG did find some room for improvement. The researchers found that its pace of change was slower than most of the 80 cities considered. Only Helsinki, Vienna and Zurich fared worse among the 10 leading cities in the study. Meanwhile, just 30% of residents said they felt they could “influence things in this city,” compared to 66% in Abu Dhabi. Considering the UAE is an autocracy, it might not be surprising it can muscle its way through change projects faster than most – but it the fact people there still feel they have more “influence” on things may well raise a few eyebrows.