Livability & Economic Activity – An Unusual Combination

October 23, 2011 / By

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), I now live in the world’s most livable city. It may not have the culture of Europe, the bright lights of Hong Kong, the weather of Queensland or the beaches of New South Wales – but Melbourne ranks as number one on the EIU’s livability index.

Questions will always be asked of livability surveys in terms of methodology, weightings and criteria. I myself query the pertinence and value of such research. That being said, there is no doubt that Melbourne does in fact have a very high standard of living. It is the purpose of this blog to outline the unique position of the city.

An indication of the quality of life enjoyed in Melbourne can be gauged by the population growth over the past decade. Over the 10 years to 2010, the population of Victoria (of which Melbourne is the capital) grew by over 800,000 people. Over the same period, the state of Victoria has accounted for 25.4% of the national population growth despite only accounting for 23% of national output. Furthermore, Victoria now has a positive net balance of interstate migration which is a large turnaround from the mid 1990’s where Victoria was losing residents to the other states.

So the question remains…why is Melbourne doing so well? Firstly, the city has been beneficiary to a steady release of residential land on the urban fringe, giving the city affordable housing options within the metropolitan area. Secondly, Australia has two commercial hearts – Sydney and Melbourne – and has afforded Melbourne with significant employment opportunities for skilled migrants. In fact, twenty of the companies that make up the S&P ASX 50 are headquartered in Melbourne.

Melbourne’s combination of livability and economic activity is unique. Over the next 10 years, Deloitte Access Economics project a further 820,000 people will live in Victoria, taking the total to around 6.4 million. Population growth will continue to drive residential housing investment in Victoria. Strong population growth will also flow through to the demand for retail floorspace, industrial warehouses and office accommodation.

The future for Melbourne is positive – the issue is there is only one way to go from number one. The EIUs livability report stated that one major area for improvement was the city’s prevalence of petty crime. Another area that will come under pressure will be the public transport infrastructure. The state will have to address these issues and remain proactive in terms of maintaining and increasing the scope of the public transport infrastructure. There will also need to be provision for new infrastructure within the urban growth areas which is where a high proportion of the population growth is expected to be accommodated.

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