Today, for example, Mercer, a global HR and financial consultancy published its Quality of Living index which covers 221 cities worldwide, including Ireland's two (real) cities, Belfast and Dublin.
The rankings are based on a point-scoring index, which sees first-placed Vienna score 108.6 and worst-placed Baghdad 14.7. Cities are ranked against New York as the base city, with an index score of 100.
Living conditions are analysed according to 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories:
- Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement, etc)
- Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services, etc)
- Socio-cultural environment (censorship, limitations on personal freedom, etc)
- Health and sanitation (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc)
- Schools and education (standard and availability of international schools, etc)
- Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transport, traffic congestion, etc)
- Recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure, etc)
- Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc)
- Housing (housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services, etc)
- Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters)
However, for Ireland's two cities the situation is mixed. Dublin ranks at number 26 worldwide – better than any city in the USA or the UK (New York is placed 49, London 39). But Belfast comes in at number 63 – better than Athens, but is that really the best point of comparison?
Ireland's cities should do better. Clearly it is hard to compete on criteria like climate, when Auckland, Perth and Sydney are in the race, but since Ireland has no record of natural disasters and ought to have excellent levels of social provision, medical and educational provision and recreation, there is room for improvement.
All politicians, from every tradition, should see the Quality of Living index as a challenge, and should focus their efforts on moving our cities up the rankings until Ireland achieves Top 10 status.
There is one small piece of good news for Belfast buried in the Mercer's press release – in the parallel Eco-City ranking (based on water availability, water potability, waste removal, sewage, air pollution and traffic congestion) it comes in at number 30 worldwide – ahead of Dublin which is at number 33. There is definitely work to be done here too, of course, and all of these issues are entirely the responsibility of locally elected politicians – the climate or natural factors do not play a part.
Wake up, Ireland's politicians, and take the decisions necessary to bring our cities up to the level of Switzerland, Scandinavia and the antipodes!