The Urban Millennium

overpopulationAs a result of rural migration and suburban concentration into cities, particularly the largest ones, the majority of people worldwide today lives in towns and cities.

Urbanisation is not merely a modern phenomena, but a rapid and historic transformation of human social roots on a global scale, where predominantly village culture is being replaced by an urban culture and we have now passed the tipping point where the urban culture becomes predominant.

According to a friend of mine who is an academic in this field, the last major change in settlement patterns was the accumulation of hunter-gatherers into villages many thousand years ago. Now we go through an equally drastic change.

The increasingly rapid process of urbanization is closely linked to modernisation, industrialisation, and the sociological process of rationalisation, and it is changing our society in all aspects, from nutrition habits to social linkages and behavior patterns.

 World population

To help us understand the changes, there are a number of studies that can be quite interesting to follow. PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) has just released its annual Cities of Opportunity report , and has given us a new perspective on the current state of global cities.

PWC believes that the intellectual, social and economic capital this represents makes cities important drivers of our future prosperity and well-being. The Cities of Opportunity report benchmarks city performance to answer questions on, “What direction will cities go in the years to come?” and ”What are the key ingredients needed to make a city strong and resilient to financial downturns and other risks?”

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ease of doing businessTheir overall findings are that the better balanced a city is for both business and residents, the better it will fare. Quality of life is a tangible economic asset. The cities of Chicago, Stockholm, Toronto, Sydney, Singapore, London and New York City are among the cities that demonstrate this balance.

The new study shows that New York and London still lead cumulative scoring among the 27 cities included in the study, although emerging cities are closing the gap for key economic indicators. New York officially edges out London by one point across 10 economic indicators, and Toronto came in third. Paris and Stockholm rounded out the top five.

For this edition of the report, diversity indicators were added to the set of 58 variables against which cities were ranked. Toronto popped to the top of the rankings, leading the study in city livability, with high quality of life and health and a diverse population with advanced education. The study suggests that diversity maps well to creative knowledge-based economies and that diversity, innovation and social cohesion are entirely compatible outcomes of urban migration.

PWC researchers have made this data fun to play with. The study also includes an interactive database that allows you to compare 21 cities against key city indicators, from purchasing power to the number of medical schools to which cities ranks as the top global fashion capitals.

The “Ease of doing business” indicator results saw little change this year,  as compared to last year, with the top five remaining virtually the same. Singapore and Hong Kong swapped the top spot, followed by New York, London, and Toronto.

While both New York and Toronto scored high overall, neither topped any of the 10 categories. It’s also telling that San Francisco ranked high for technology readiness, sustainability, and demographics and livability, without being in the top five for cost or ease of doing business.

The city of Stockholm ranks high. Relatively small in size, the Swedish capital ranks first or second in: higher education, e-readiness, miles of transit track, congestion management, infant survival, greenness and air quality and R&D spending per capita.

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