Brisbane is the real ‘most liveable’ city


The Economist’s ‘Most Liveable City’ must surely rank near the top of all the stupid ‘awards’ handed out.

The Economist Intelligence Unit assesses the Global Liveability Ranking yearly, and in 2023 the index ranked 173 cities based on “over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors” across five categories – stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.

However, the ranking does not assess liveability for a city’s residents. Rather it measures liveability from the perspective of expat executives who get their housing, travel, and all of their expenses paid for by an international firm.

Therefore, the ‘Most Liveable City’ label is next to useless for actual residents of a city.


Nevertheless, the 2023 Global Liveability Rankings have been released with Melbourne ranking highest among Australian cities and third overall:

Most liveable cities

Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews, quickly jumped on the results to throw shade at his interstate rivals, in particular Sydney.


“Melbourne’s back, Victoria’s back. When you think about major events, food, wine, medical research”, Andrews said on Thursday.

“In every field, whether it’s critical thinking, discovery, all those creative industries, great experiences, Melbourne and Victoria, there’s nowhere else like it”.

“This is the centre of so many things that are important, and this is in every respect the real capital of our nation”.

An objective analysis would rank Brisbane the nation’s ‘most liveable’ city.

Why? Because Australians are moving to Brisbane in droves, mostly from Melbourne and Sydney.


The next chart shows net internal migration over the pandemic, with Queensland receiving more than 100,000 residents from other states of Australia between March 2020 and September 2022:

State internal migration

By contrast, NSW and Victoria lost 72,300 and 39,100 residents respectively over the same period.


In a similar vein, Brisbane gained 43,100 residents from internal migration in the two financial years to 2022, whereas Sydney (-86,600) and Melbourne (-59,700) both lost large numbers of residents to other areas of Australia:

Capital city internal migration

In short, Australians are voting with their feet and choosing Brisbane over its larger east coast rivals.


This surely makes Brisbane Australia’s ‘most liveable city’?

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.