JUST IN: Here’s how Australia ranked on Oxford Economics’ inaugural Global Cities Index

Australia’s cities have proven their mettle on the global scale, time and time again. Just this month, Melbourne was hailed as the most desirable travel location for retirees, Sydney was ranked as the tenth wealthiest city in the world, and Perth was named as one of the most popular sunset spots on Earth. Now, a brand-new study has ranked the top 1,000 largest cities across the world – and Australia’s seven biggest cities all scored in the top ten per cent. 

The first-ever Global Cities Index, published by Oxford Economics, is one of the most detailed city rankings to be released this year. We’re here to give you a speedy snapshot of Australia’s performance, filled with both expected and surprising results. To determine the rankings, the economic experts scored the world’s 1,000 largest cities on 27 indicators across five categories, including Economics, Human Capital, Quality of Life, Environment and Governance. They then ranked the cities under each of these pillars and combined the scores to create an overall ranking of the top cities worldwide.

Out of 1,000 cities worldwide, Melbourne shone brightly as the ninth top overall. The Victorian capital excelled in the Human Capital (11th) and Economic (16th) categories, with the study calling out its top-notch universities and fast-growing economy, making it a prime destination for immigration and foreign workers. Melbourne also stood out as Australia’s best-ranking city in the Environment category (30th), thanks to its few heavy industries, good air quality and relatively stable climate with limited natural disasters. Where Melbourne dropped in the rankings was in the Quality of Life category (185th). This trend was consistent across all seven Australian cities, as rapidly growing populations have made housing increasingly unaffordable nationwide. 

Photograph: Supplied | Aster, Sydney

Melbourne’s slightly larger and more famous neighbour, Sydney, closely followed in 16th position on the list of the world’s top cities in 2024. Sydney made its mark in the Human Capital category, securing the ninth spot overall, boasting higher average educational attainment, the largest number of corporate headquarters and the highest proportion of foreign-born residents among Australian cities. Sydney also just snuck into the top 20 in the Economics category, thanks to its stable GDP growth rates and large economic boosters from tourism. On the flip side, the NSW capital landed the unfortunate title of having the worst overall Environment ranking (363rd) out of all Australian cities, due to factors like its subtropical climate and greater vulnerability to bushfires. 

Perth cracked the top 2.5 per cent of cities worldwide, securing 23rd spot on the Index. It claimed top 100 positions for all categories, except Quality of Life (135th), with the city’s mining sector boosting its Economic and Human Capital rankings. Brisbane followed closely in 27th place on the global list. Strengths including its young workforce and state-of-the-art infrastructure were weighed down by the city having the highest exposure to natural disasters and steep housing prices. 

Arboretum vista
Photograph: Matt Evans | Arboretum, Canberra

Canberra outranked all other Australian cities on the Quality of Life scale, ranking second best in the entire world. It was the only non-European city to crack the top ten, benefiting from among the highest life expectancy rates in the world and some of the highest and equally paid jobs. The final two Australian cities to make the list were Adelaide in 51st place and the Gold Coast in 81st position. 

You can find a full list of Australia’s rankings in Oxford Economics’ Global Cities Index here, or see our snapshot below:

9. Melbourne 

16. Sydney (#9 in Human Capital)

23. Perth 

27. Brisbane 

44. Canberra (#2 in Environment)

51. Adelaide 

81. Gold Coast

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