Media Release
Sydney remains an economic powerhouse but needs to address affordability, resilience to climate change and underperforming night-time economy
26 November, 2019

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Matt Levinson
  • Annual benchmark study measures Sydney against 33 other global cities.
  • Sydney on the verge of joining London, New York, Paris as ‘Top Tier’ cities.
  • City scores well for brand, quality of life and a place to do business but transport and infrastructure need improving.

Sydney is one of the world’s most liveable cities and can boast a booming economy, according to a new report published today (Tue). However, the city’s high cost of living, lack of preparedness for climate change and underperforming night life is threatening the future competitiveness of the city. 

Key findings include:

  • Sydney is seen as too expensive. It remains an affluent but highly unaffordable city even against many elite global cities. For example, the minimum salary required to comfortably afford rent for an unfurnished one-bedroom apartment is higher than in all other English-speaking peer cities except for San Francisco, London, Boston and Washington DC.
  • Sydney is a great place to do business. The city scores highly for female-led businesses and rate very highly in measures and perceptions of business freedom, transparency and risk. However, the report finds that Sydney’s economic narrative is too narrow and we are failing to tell a compelling all-round story beyond the beach and the harbour, particularly that Sydney is a great place to develop your career and to do business.
  • The world loves us. Sydney remains the second most admired city in the world and international visitor growth remains very strong, at 7% year on year. We are one of the most popular cities in the world for international students.

However, the world does not see us as “fun”.

  • Sydney is seen as lacking cultural breadth. Compared to peer cities, Sydney lacks the number and quality of cultural amenities such as museums, theatres and concert halls and for the availability of varied and authentic cultural events that enable visitors to appreciate and experience local heritage and culture. In addition, Sydney’s underperforming night time economy is a major drag on our global reputation.
  • Sydney is not a world leader on climate. Sydney has slipped behind on sustainability, is not preparing effectively for climate change and our Co2 emissions are not going down. Nearly a quarter of the population is exposed to the threat of high urban heat, with up to half of the population now at risk in certain areas (the Western City region) as climate change has intensified. The city performs particularly badly for the adoption of renewable energy sources, electric vehicle provision, and action on CO₂ emissions relative to its peers.
  • Sydney is still too car-dependent. Private cars accounting for 65% of all trips to work within Greater Sydney. Our public transport offering is not on par with our global competitors. Although Sydney is undergoing a substantial cycle of investment in its public transport system, Sydney’s peers are also making rapid progress. Sydney continues to spend a higher level of funding for road infrastructure than most of its peers.

Commenting on the report, CEO of the Committee for Sydney, Gabriel Metcalf said:

“Our findings show that Sydney remains an extremely attractive place to live and work in, with one of the most sophisticated economies in the Southern Hemisphere, a wonderful quality of life and a global brand that is the envy of most other cities”.

“However, as a city we can’t rest on our laurels. We need to continue the incredible investment being put into our transport infrastructure, we need to put downward pressure on housing costs, and we need to take meaningful action on climate change – fast”.

“Sydney has an incredibly bright future ahead and can build upon the amazing progress made in the city over the past few years. We start on very strong foundations and are positioned well to become one of the great global cities”.

Note to editors:

  1. The Committee for Sydney is an independent think tank and champion for the whole of Sydney, providing thought leadership beyond the electoral cycle. The Committee aims to enhance the economic, social, cultural and environmental conditions that make Sydney a competitive, resilient and liveable global city. The Committee has a diverse membership with over 150 member organisations: including the major corporate sectors driving Sydney’s economy; strategically minded local authorities; key NSW Government departments and agencies; not- for-profit organisations; and leading arts and sporting institutions. Members help develop and deliver priorities, provide expertise and ensure a representative geographical spread across the greater Sydney region.
  2. Benchmarking Sydney is authored by The Business of Cities. Sydney is benchmarked against 33 other “contender” cities: Amsterdam; London; Seoul; Barcelona; Madrid; Singapore; Berlin; Melbourne; Stockholm; Boston; Miami; Sydney; Brisbane; Milan; Tel Aviv; Brussels; Montreal; Toronto; Buenos Aires; Munich; Vancouver; Chicago; Osaka; Vienna; Frankfurt; Paris; Washington DC; Hamburg; San Francisco; Warsaw; Hong Kong; Seattle; Zurich.
  3. The report is supported by Innovation Fund Partners, Dexus and ICC Sydney. Our Innovation Fund Partners are future focused, and outcome driven. They are leaders of change. Their combined investment underpins our annual research and policy program and together with our members, enables us to grow our impact and output – striving to create a better Sydney that offers unparalleled opportunity and quality of life for everyone.