All capital cities come in for a beating at some point.
By and large they are the most densely populated areas of any country which, as a result, compounds social and economic problems; being the capital, these problems then get magnified.
So, how much interest should we be taking in the fact that London consistently ranks so low in surveys which rate quality of life, cost of living and safety?
Need to Send or Receive Money Abroad?
Some banks charge you up to 5% in hidden costs when sending money to a bank account abroad. TransferWise is up to 8x cheaper.
How? It’s simple. Banks set their own exchange rate to make money off you. TransferWise gives you the real exchange rate, also known as the "mid-market rate".
Cut out the bank charges, get started with TransferWise today.
How Does London Rank So Low?
In a recent survey of 35 capital cities, London ranked 27th as the best place to live; the categories of questions to determine this result ranged from quality of life, safety and security to personal happiness, health and wellbeing.
Here’s how the UK’s capital fared:
|Quality of Life||24th out of 35|
|Leisure Options||26th out of 35|
|Personal Happiness||33rd out of 35|
|Travel & Transport||18th out of 35|
|Health & Well-being||24th out of 35|
|Safety & Security||24th out of 35|
London voted worst city in precisely zero of the categories, but that fails to detract from a poor performance across the board.
In this particular survey it was expats themselves who were quizzed and, of the 14,000 respondents, London ranked consistently low on the indices used to decide on the best cities to live.
In fact, it was only the transport system which notched up respectability, yet even this was ranked in the lower half of the league table.
Hardly a glowing endorsement from London expats, but some way short of making London the worst city in the world.
In this year’s CBRE Global Living Report, London was named the second most expensive city in the world when it comes to property rental prices, only just behind Singapore but way ahead of Los Angeles, Abu Dhabi, New York and Rome. The average rent in London is £2,136 per month which is double what you would spend for something similar in Miami.
When it comes to buying property you would still feel a considerable sting in your pocket where London ranks 4th at £734.18 per m2, six times more than in Johannesburg yet over 50% cheaper than Hong Kong.
While this makes London a terrible city for renting, it paradoxically makes it a very attractive destination for landlords and investors.
Cost of Living in London
The short story: it’s painful.
Numbeo, the city comparison website, ranks London as the 26th city by cost of living. Out of 372 entries, only a handful of European cities rank as more expensive places to live. In fact, only Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark and Iceland had higher costs of living.
The index is produced using real data submitted by residents in each of the cities and includes groceries, restaurants, local purchasing power and incidentals. It doesn’t include rental costs.
If you factor rental prices in then London ranks 14th, only behind Swiss and Norwegian cities as well as New York and Washington.
Even though London has an immense infrastructure of CCTV (estimated at one camera per six citizens) crime is still rife and people who live in the city do report feeling vulnerable. Mercers, one of the world’s largest HR consultancy firms produces an annual report on the quality of living across 450 cities worldwide. In the most recent findings, London ranked a dismal 72nd when it comes to personal security.
However, when it comes to digital security London leads the way across Europe but still only ranks 16th in the world’s cities.
The London Economy
Pre-Brexit, London was viewed as a high ranking city with reasonable job prospects, political stability and higher than average job satisfaction. Whilst there are no reports that yet detail how the Leave vote has affected the perception and real impact of Brexit, the majority of commentators are anticipating a decline in London’s status on this front.
Once again in The Economists annual report, London ranks 22nd in the table for Health Security at just 69.78%.
In the liveability ratings, also produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit, where 1 is the most liveable and 140 is the least liveable, London rates 55 and is one of the lowest rankings for a capital city in Europe.
The Mercers Quality of Living report ranks London at joint 39th with Barcelona but behind Singapore, Paris, Boston, Dublin and Berlin.
Best Cities to Live
The Economist produces annual figures derived from a variety of indices, questionnaires and research to determine key attributes of the world’s cities. Their most recent report details the top cities to live; and where does London feature? 22nd, behind Osaka, San Francisco, Santiago, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Chicago, Taipei and Paris.
In fact, the response of expats living in London on the issue of personal safety is just 77% positive, which is on par with the global average but trailing several other major capitals.
There is no doubting that London has many plus points, including access to some cultural goldmines, being easily accessible to the rest of the UK as well as being an important economic hub; however, the statistics tell a different story of a capital city that is consistently failing to meet high living standards and remain affordable.
London: The worst city in the world?
Not by our estimation; not by a long shot.
But it’s easy to see why so many expats are reluctant to move back to London after tasting a higher quality of life elsewhere.
The increased political turmoil of Brexit could yet see even more Londoners moving abroad.
What do you make of your own quality of life in London?
How does it compare to other major capital cities?
Let us know your thoughts and experiences below.