Dublin ranked fourth most prosperous city in UN index

Buoyant Dublin: the Irish capital is in joint fourth place with Denmark's Copenhagen

Buoyant Dublin: the Irish capital is in joint fourth place with Denmark's Copenhagen


Don’t tell the troika but Dublin has just been ranked the world’s fourth most prosperous city.

Despite a major slowdown in economic activity, and severe cuts to public services, the Irish capital has retained a remarkably high position in the United Nations habitat index.

Releasing the findings yesterday at a conference in Dublin on urban poverty, Sally Fegan Wyles, secretary general of UN research agency Unitar, said she was pleasantly surprised by the ranking but warned that it was dependent on the relatively low level of inequality among Dublin’s population compared to other capital cities.

“Although Dublin is not the best on anything, it’s quite good on all the indicators, and the gap between rich and poor is much less than in bigger cities like London and New York,” said Ms Fegan Wyles who is originally from Rathgar in Dublin.

Five indicators

The index marks countries against five indicators: productivity, quality of life, infrastructure, environment and equity. If the equity index is removed Dublin slips from joint fourth place, with Copenhagen, to joint seventh, with Oslo. Vienna, Austria, ranks first with or without the equity index included in calculations.


Addressing the Cities Against Poverty conference at the RDS, Fegan Wyles stressed the need for collaboration between government, the private sector and local communities for effective solutions to poverty and social exclusion. The private sector was an “effective operating agent”, government was most capable of “looking after the vulnerable and weakest”, while citizens were best placed “to keep an eye on things”.

Speaking on the need to move away from public-private partnerships (PPPs) towards “public-private collaboration and shared responsibility”, she noted there was an “over-enthusiasm” about PPPs that continued well into the 2000s “despite early warnings by a number of UN agencies that these policies were increasing inequalities, with negative impact on the poorest and the most vulnerable . . .

“The global economic crisis demonstrated that such a complete reliance on the private sector was not the answer.”

The conference also heard from Sascha Haselmayer, chief executive of Citymart.com, who said by publishing their needs, local authorities can attract private sector investors.

This theme was seized upon by Dublin Lord Mayor Naoise Ó Muirí who said he would “urge cities to identify their challenges” for a return forum in the city next year. Delegates pledged to identify specific issues for inclusion in the Great Dublin Book of City Challenges.

Vienna: top city

Vienna, Austria, is ranked the world’s most prosperous city in the 2012-13 UN habitat index, followed by Helsinki in Finland and Oslo in Norway in joint second place.

Dublin sits in joint fourth place with Denmark’s Copenhagen, followed by Tokyo, Japan; London, UK; Melbourne, Australia; Stockholm, Sweden and Paris.

Senior UN official Sally Fegan Wyles notes, however, that most of the data dates from 2010 and the picture may have changed. Moreover, it only surveys one city per country and “it may be that other cities in Ireland are more prosperous”.

Under the survey, prosperity is measured against all citizens, including the most vulnerable, and seeks to capture “effective urban planning and management; decentralised policies and appropriate institutions; a system that creates equal opportunities for all; participation of civil society; elected local officials; a favourable business environment; access to basic amenities; and, public transport and mobility.”

Once the indicator for equality is removed, Ireland’s ranking falls to seventh place, while New York jumps to second place behind Vienna, while Canada’s Toronto leaps into third.