Urban policymakers must not lose sight of the basics of liveability - transport, roads, schools and safety - as they seek to boost their city's economic growth, according to a new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Expanding green space and cultural attractions are contributors to long-term liveability, but for city residents, would-be migrants and investors, job creation and costs currently trump all other factors.
The report, Liveanomics: Urban Liveability and Economic Growth, which was commissioned by Philips, is based on a global survey of urban professionals, as well as interviews with civic and business leaders and other experts.
A key finding of the survey is that jobs are the primary driver in that group's decision to relocate to a city, rather than factors such as family, education or culture. Of the survey respondents who moved to their current city, nearly 90% did so either because they were looking for better job opportunities or because their employer asked them to relocate. When asked to nominate the most important factors in making a city an attractive place in which to live and work, respondents name jobs and cost of living ahead of others.
The findings appear to run counter to some recent thinking on urban policy, which says that making a city more appealing for people to live in—by investing in cultural facilities or sporting events, for example—will help to attract highly-prized skilled workers and knowledge-intensive industries.
The report argues that what business primarily wants from good city leadership is policy that helps to stimulate job creation, but points out that basic liveability factors—such as transport infrastructure, housing and educational facilities—are also key areas on which urban policy should focus. More than 60% of respondents identify improvements to transport as one of the top three priorities for their city leaders in order to make their cities more competitive for business, along with improving schools (33%), encouraging multinational companies to invest (32%) and improving safety and security (29%). By contrast, only 11% of respondents feel that their civic leaders should prioritise attracting major sporting or cultural events.
The report's key recommendations for policymakers include enlisting the help of the commercial sector. Respondents to the survey consider that the public sector should shoulder most responsibility for services such as public transport and the maintenance of parks and schools. But the business sector already plays a key role in developing cities' liveability, supporting culture, sporting events, healthcare services, transport infrastructure and environmental initiatives. As civic leaders face tighter budgets, they should be open to the idea of asking business for more help.
The report also recommends opening the door to foreign investment. When their economies falter, city leaders might be tempted to shore up local support by implementing policies that favour local businesses over foreign investment. "But only 15% of respondents to our survey believe that that is a good idea, against nearly one-third who say multinationals should be encouraged to set up shop in their city," says the EIU.
MORE ARTICLES ON HUMAN CAPITAL MANAGEMENT