Which cities are the best for employers, professionals and innovators? Which offer a great quality of life and a business-friendly environment? In short, which cities are flourishing and will offer the most opportunities for you to thrive?
PricewaterhouseCoopers' Cities of Opportunity study crunched the data, examining everything from the number of flights in and out of a city to green space per capita to average classroom size. The result is a list of the top cities in the world.
Would-be movers (and shakers, no doubt) will notice that the top-ranked cities fall into one of two very different categories: those that have leveraged their historic economic power and cultural heritage to become global juggernauts, and those that are using sustainability and quality of life to attract a new and highly mobile global elite.
Whether you're looking to get a new job, start a company, get transferred, or just find the perfect location for your next act, these cities should be at the top of your list.
To figure out which city holds the most opportunity for you, start here.
Despite all the worries about the changeover to Chinese rule, Hong Kong's business environment is still friendly enough to help push it into the top ten. It's tied with Singapore and Abu Dhabi for first place in the "crime" category (meaning there isn't much of it). Hong Kong also ties with Singapore for ease of hiring, takes first place in flexibility of visa travel, and second place in ease of entry. It's not all business, though: The report gives Hong Kong's lovely skyline first prize.
Plus: Hong Kong ranks first in managing inflation.
Achilles heel: Hong Kong is in a five-way tie for next-to-last when it comes to air pollution. The other offenders are Mumbai, Santiago, Beijing and Moscow. Mexico City has the dubious distinction of having the absolute worst air quality on the list.
Paris almost seems beyond a ranking like this one: You're either in love with the city or you're not. For those few who are still on the fence, consider this: Paris is close behind London and New York in economic importance, and not surprisingly, ranks fifth in the number of museums. It also has the best mass transit coverage of any city on the list, so you can actually get around to see all that culture.
Plus: Paris ranks third both in the number of Global 500 companies headquartered there and in the strength of its financial services sector
Achilles Heel: No longer makes the top ten in sustainability
Singapore offers the most stable business environment, exposing companies to the least operational risk of any city on the list. It also gets good marks for ease of doing business and ties with Hong Kong for being an easy place to hire workers. It's as safe as Hong Kong or Abu Dhabi, and, with Stockholm, gets the top slot in easing traffic congestion, even though that means sharp limits on who can own cars.
Plus: Singaporeans are entitled to more visa waivers than citizens of any other country.
Achilles heel: Despite its reputation for excellence in education, classroom size, believe it or not, is actually quite high, and there aren't many libraries with public access.
Chicago, according to this study, is a city on the move. It gets plaudits not just for its striking siting and architecture, but for being a transportation hub. With Paris and New York, Chicago gets top marks for transportation and infrastructure. After New York, it has the most flights. Like the other U.S. cities on this list, it's a relatively easy place to do business and a very easy place—if you find this attractive—to fire someone.
Plus: Chicago ranks first for the quality of its hospitals.
Achilles heel: Ranks fourth-from-last for sustainability. Hey, at least Houston, Moscow, and Abu Dhabi all did worse.
5. London: Rich with History, Healthcare and Business
The triumvirate of London, Paris and New York all get top slots on this list thanks in large part to their historical economic clout. How long that clout will last is anyone's guess, but in the meantime, London gets a nod for being a particularly easy place to do business.
Plus: "End of Life Care" is actually its own metric in this report, defined by a "Quality of Death" index. In that regard, London takes top honors.
Achilles heel: Along with Paris and New York, London no longer makes the top ten for sustainability. And if you think New York gets crazy during the winter holidays, consider this before making a move: London gets the most international tourists of any city on the list.
Sydney is a sustainability and livability contender, with a delightful twist: Sydney residents have the most purchasing power (within their own city) of any of the city-dwellers featured in the study. If that's not enough to make you pack up and move, consider the fact that Sydney, Stockholm, and San Francisco tie up the top three slots in the demographics and livability category, which includes metrics such as commute time, housing, and quality of life.
Plus: This is the place to get your green on. Sydney has the smallest carbon footprint, per capita, of any city on the list.
Achilles Heel: The city isn't big in either financial services or business services in general.
Stockholm is another city whose reputation for a high quality of life is paying off. It collects top honors all around, in categories from intellectual capital and innovation; health, safety and security, and even demographics and livability. That last is a bit of a surprise, since "demographics and livability" includes a measure of a city's climate. But what Stockholm lacks in warmth it makes up for in air quality—the city comes in first in the 'pollution' category, meaning there isn't much pollution at all.
Plus: Stockholm ranks first in intellectual capital and innovation. (San Francisco comes in fourth in this category—pretty good, considering that all those Silicon Valley whiz kids are located outside of San Fran's city limits, and therefore, don't count.)
Achilles heel: Shareholder protections are relatively weak
Toronto comes in second in the overall ranking, thanks to its reputation as a uniquely livable city. While Toronto doesn't dominate any particular broad category, the fact that it comes in second in both intellectual capital and innovation on the one hand, and health, safety and security on the other bodes well for Toronto's future. It shows that in Toronto, a well-known phenomenon is picking up steam: bright and creative people are flocking to a city where their health and personal safety are assured.
Plus: If you've had it with the real estate bust in the U.S., head north: Toronto has more skyscraper construction activity than any other city in the study. Its lack of pollution ties it with Stockholm for first place in that category.
Achilles heel: It's cold. Commutes tend to be longAnd the city doesn't attract a ton of foreign investment.
Let's face it: There's a reason Sinatra sang about New York, not Vegas. New York takes the prime position not only because of its economic might, but because of its high scores in so-called lifestyle assets. Those include measurements of a city's cultural vibrancy (the number of museums in a city), sports, hotel rooms, tourism and green space—all New York strengths.
Plus: New York did well this year partly because its economy is better diversified than that of other cities. Also, New York wins the top spot in a metric called "technology readiness," which concentrates specifically on hardware.
Achilles' heel: Of 26 cities in the report, New York falls to 14th in the broad category called "demographics and livability," thanks in part to its long commutes. Along with Paris and London, New York no longer has a top-ten ranking in sustainability. (Want to read about an American city that ranks high in this category? Click here)