Prosperity of a society or a city no long means what it used to in the past – instead of its traditional evaluation of merely the material wealth of a city, it now refers to a more holistic notion, of the overall quality of life enjoyed by people in a city. Accordingly here are ten most prosperous cities of the world, based on the “State of the World's Cities” 2012 report1 by the UN Habitat which analyses prosperity of the cities on five dimensions like productivity, quality of life, infrastructure, equity and environmental sustainability1.
At the top of the list of most prosperous cities in the world is the Austrian capital, Vienna with a city Prosperity Index of 0.925, Productivity Index of 0.939 and Quality of Life Index of 0.8822. Apart from having a history of political importance as the seat of the Hapsburg dynasty, Vienna is one of the most important centers of finance and culture in this part of Europe. It has a per capita GDP of 34,000 Euros which is not only higher compared to most cities of the continent but is in fact almost evenly distributed among the. Vienna is home to several high-profile multinational companies and international organizations. Some of the most famous of the latter are the OPEC, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Vienna also has the largest number of UN offices after New York, Hague and Geneva. Besides Vienna has a rich tapestry of culture which ranges from the unique ‘kaffeehaus’ to the high tradition of balls and operas.
Next on UN Habitat’s report of the most prosperous cities in the world is the Norwegian capital of Oslo. Like many other Scandinavian cities to follow, Oslo scores high with a Prosperity Index of 0.924, Productivity Index of 0.870 as well as Quality of Life Index of 0.914. Norway has long been regarded as one of the best places to live in the planet with its natural beauty, high ranking in human development index as well as a stable political system. All these conditions have further contributed to the nation’s prosperity which is why it enjoys one of the highest per capita GDP in the world and as the capital of the country, Oslo benefits from all these advantages. Apart from the traditional energy sector, most people in the city are employed in the growing hi-tech sector as well as the public sector. Most professionals working for the government are not only well-paid but also have access to numerous privileges in healthcare, paid leave and social security. In fact, the egalitarian values of the Norwegian society ensure that the wage difference between the lowest paid worker and the CEO of most companies is much smaller than in comparable western economies. Apart from the economic welfare of its citizens, Oslo offers its people a high quality of life with ample green spaces as well as varied cultural attractions which range from the Oslo Opera House - home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet – to Henie-Onstad Cultural Center famous for its combination of fine arts and fantastic food and ultra-hip nightclubs playing to contemporary crowd.
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With a City Prosperity Index of 0.924, Productivity Index of 0.890 and Quality of Life Index of 0.905, Helsinki ranks high among the most prosperous cities in the world. Helsinki is the capital of Finland which not only boasts of a highly advanced economy and widespread social services, but also environmental sustainability and large educated population. The electronics industry in the country relies on heavy investment in research and development and has been accelerated by the liberalization of global markets. The best known name is of course Nokia, the world-famous cell phone manufacturer and world-leader in mobile communication but presence of other companies such as Instru, Vaisala and Neles which is now part of Metso – indicates that a large part of the population is employed in areas such as industrial automation, medical and meteorological technology. Also the presence of research centers such as The Helsinki University of Technology and the Technical Research Center of Finland indicate the Helsinki is a major knowledge center is this part of the world.
Next on the UN list of the most prosperous cities in the world is the Danish capital city of Copenhagen with a Prosperity Index of 0.913, Productivity Index of 0.855 and Quality of Life Index of 0.871. While traditionally, the city has benefited from businesses like shipping and agriculture, in recent times, the country has emerged as one of the one of the top locations in the world for Information and Communications Technology activities, a large part of which is centered in Copenhagen. Apart from this Denmark has considerable sources of oil and natural gas in the North Sea and has long been an exporters of crude oil. However in recent times the country has been focusing on alternative energy sources and it is thus promotion of clean energy technology that has, among other things, ranked Copenhagen as one of the prosperous cities of the world.
Despite not being known among the wealthiest cities of the world, Dublin nevertheless figures among the most prosperous cities on other counts like a thriving culture, having a historic heritage and newer economic opportunities. According to The UN Report, the capital city of Ireland, scores 0.913 on City Prosperity Index, 0.901 on Productivity Index and 0.867 on Quality of Life Index. Though Ireland was largely bypassed by the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century, it saw a dramatic economic reversal in the 1990s. Nicknamed the ‘Celtic Tiger’, the Irish economy experienced massive surge in the period 1995-2007 and Dublin naturally reaped the benefits. Today the city is not only home to a lucrative services sector but also the hub of many new opportunities in arts, culture and sports.
The Japanese capital of Tokyo ranks as the sixth most prosperous city of the world with a Prosperity Index of 0.905, Productivity Index of 0.850 and Quality of Life Index of 0.931. Despite being subjected to crippling bombings which ended the Second World War, Japan is today the third largest economy by nominal GDP as well as purchasing power and most of this economic power is concentrated in the national capital Tokyo. The city is recognized as one of the leading global financial centers and its Stock Exchange is the largest in the continent and third largest in the world. The service sector especially is important in Tokyo and accounts for around three quarters of the total economic output of Japan. Also the country has become a by-word for the ultimate in technological advancement. This is not only because of the fact that Japan promotes the use of latest technology in manufacturing processes but also because it pours thousands of billions of dollars every year in research that takes place in the highly advanced universities and research centers of Tokyo. Finally the city has a thriving cultural life from the glitzy nightspots in Ginza to traditional theater and music.
With a Prosperity Index of 0.904, a Productivity Index of 0.923 and a Quality of Life Index of 0.898, London figures next on the list of the most prosperous cities in the world. The capital of United Kingdom is one of the oldest capital cities in Europe; it is one of the major financial power centers of the world besides attracting successful people in the arts, academics and various cultural pursuits. In recent times, London has acquired the reputation of being the culinary capital of the world with famous fine-dining destinations like Quo Vadis, Gordon Ramsay’s, Murano and Nobu. London’s appeal as a global city was well entrenched in the fantastic opening as well as closing ceremonies of the recently-concluded 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Here the traditional jostles with the uber-modern while multicultural groups from across the world have the best of educational, professional and recreational opportunities.
Among the relatively newer cities which figure among the most prosperous in the world the Australian cultural capital Melbourne. The city gets a Prosperity Index of 0.903, a Productivity Index of 0.867 and Quality of Life Index of 0.875 in the UN Report. Melbourne is the second most populous city in Australia and home to a young thriving population. Together with this, a vibrant cultural scene and a rapidly growing economy make Melbourne one of the most exciting places to live. Melbourne has been consistently judged as one of the best places to live on earth. In a survey carried out by The Economist of the Most Livable Cities of the World, Melbourne shared the top spot for three years in 2002, 2004 and 2005. Its oceanic climate, cultural attractions, great landscape and economic opportunities make Melbourne in Australia one of the best places to work and live in this part of the world.
The ninth most prosperous city in the world appears to be the Swedish capital of Stockholm with a City Prosperity Index of 0.898, Productivity Index of 0.896 and Quality of Life Index of 0.925. Ever since the mid-thirteenth century when Stockholm was founded on the south-central east coast of Sweden, the city has been an important economic, cultural and political center in the whole of Scandinavia. The city is home to several high-tech multinational companies like Ericcson, IBM and Electrolux; at the same time the services industry makes up the largest segment in the economy of Stockholm of which the financial services sector is particularly lucrative. This is evident from the fact that almost all major Swedish banks, such as Swedbank, Handelsbanken, and Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken are headquartered in Stockholm. The city is again perhaps the most important center for culture, research and higher education in the region. Ever since the early nineteenth century – when the Royal Institute of Technology was founded in 1827 – Stockholm has attracted students of a variety of sciences, humanities and arts and today the city boasts of several universities, colleges and research institutions.
The home of Eiffel Tower is the last among the top ten cities in the UN report. Paris gets a City Prosperity Index of 0.897, a Productivity Index of 0.895 and a Quality of Life Index: 0.925. Famous as the Mecca of arts and fashion, Paris not only attracts honeymooners and visitors because of its architectural and artistic treasures but also because of its refined culinary and lively youth culture. A long history of Enlightenment and political revolution also means that the city believes has a more equitable approach to work and economy than in many other cities of the world.