Living life: covid-19’s effect on liveability


By William Thomas, South-east Asia Director

As we envision what a post-pandemic life will be like, business and government leaders spend a lot of time focused on how we will work. But what about how we will live?

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index 2021 came out yesterday, and it gives us an idea of how life will be in 140 cities around the globe. There is a new city at the top of the list this year, with the new ranking of cities driven largely by their response to the pandemic. Some of the key factors that affected the rankings this year appeared to be the imposition of border controls and quarantines, a city’s ability to “flatten the curve” and provide a consistent healthcare response, and the pace and messaging of their vaccination campaigns.

I don’t want to give away all the results, but – spoiler alert – 8 of the 10 most liveable cities are in the Asia-Pacific region.

Of course, the rankings were not determined simply by Covid. For example, Osaka came in at #2 on the list while Tokyo was #4, despite Japan grappling with its fourth wave of the coronavirus. The Index considered a wide range of factors, including social & political stability, healthcare, culture & environment, education, and infrastructure. While some of these were affected by the coronavirus, the real value of this year’s Index might be to show how resilient some cities actually are in the face of a crisis.

So how do you use this as a business leader? Well…

You may be looking for a place to open operations, and from an HR perspective, this sort of information can be invaluable. It can help you understand the local workforce better, and also help you determine how attractive a location this will be for expats. Pay and benefits may be based in part on the liveability of a city, and that can help you decide if this is the right place to open up and, if so, how to staff it.

It can also help you decide where to sell. You might offer a product or service that complements some aspect of the city that is doing well; a manufacturer of green technology, for instance, can probably see opportunities in a city that values a healthy environment. On the other hand, perhaps you can fill a gap, such as a healthcare company entering a market that currently provides poor medical services. Understanding not only how liveable a city is, but why it’s liveable or not, can help you find opportunities.

Sure, maybe you don’t typically make long-term decisions, like expanding into a market, on the basis of a single report, but one advantage of an annual report like this is you can observe trends over time. In our current environment, you are also able to see a “pivot,” as new trends start to emerge based on the perspective we have gained from a new situation. One thing that seems to have changed since the pandemic is that people may value aspects of their community differently now than they did before.

Of course, global mobility is severely limited right now, but it won’t be forever. Consider using the Index to provide a useful data point as you start planning now for your future.

To help you understand that future better, we are hosting our ASEAN Economic Update on June 30, 8:30-10am. In addition to an update briefing, we have a panel of leaders from tech, finance, and talent consulting, along with one of our regional journalists from The Economist. Our in-person session in Singapore already hit capacity within a day of the invitation going out, so we hope our members in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur will join us online!