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Which is the most liveable city in Asia?

Many places have lost appeal compared with those in the West

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IKIGAI, A JAPANESE philosophy, describes the act of striving for a fulfilled life. And in Asia, there is no better place to find it than Osaka. Japan’s second city came joint first with Melbourne in a recent survey of “liveability” in Asian cities (which include those in Oceania) by the EIU, our sister company. Both received top marks for the education on offer. Indeed Japan and Australia dominated the upper reaches of the index. Tokyo came fourth and four other Australian cities—Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth—made the top ten.

The EIU’s global index ranks living conditions in 172 cities—up from 139 last year—across the world. Over half that have been added this year are in Asia, taking the regional total to 58 cities. The firm’s analysts and correspondents judge each on a broad range of measures in five categories: culture and environment, education, health care, infrastructure and stability. On average, Asian cities achieved a score of 69 in 2022, compared with 91 for cities in Western Europe and 88 for North American ones. Sub-Saharan Africa is rated the least liveable region with an average score of just 50.

Many places across Asia lost ground to the West. In particular, countries with strict border controls have fallen behind as others return to normality. In China, where millions of people have experienced tough lockdowns recently, the rankings of all eight cities included in the index in 2021 fell. Farther afield, New Zealand experienced another wave of covid-19 in February and March, when the survey was conducted, and introduced new restrictions. Auckland, which topped the worldwide index in 2021, plunged 33 places as a result.

The average rating of cities across Asia improved by just 1.3 points on last year, compared with a 7.9-point rise for Western Europe and a 5.4-point one for North America. The biggest gains were in the culture and environment category, thanks to the resumption of cultural and sporting activities that had been stopped by earlier covid restrictions. But Asian cities’ scores lag behind their average pre-pandemic numbers in all categories except infrastructure, the only one largely unaffected by the pandemic. As energy prices soar and water becomes a hot commodity, even that might not last for long.

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