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Canberra The Best Place To Live, In The World's Best Country: OECD

Canberra The Best Place To Live, In The World's Best Country: OECD

31 October 2014

Canberra is the best place in the world to live.

And Australia is the best country, despite its problems.

That's the result of an Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development report, which has ranked 34 countries on nine measures of well-being.

The report is a serious attempt by economists to provide a clearer picture of how life is lived at a regional and local level around the world, rather than just a national level. It comes with a big online well-being matching machine that allows you to compare living standards between 362 regions across 34 countries.

The report has the Australian Capital Territory topping the global regional ranking on measures of well-being. Those nine measures are income, jobs, health, access to services, environment, education, safety, civic engagement and housing.

An earlier version of the report was released in June but it has been updated to include another access to affordable and quality housing as a measure of well-being. It shows NSW and Victoria are among the worst in Australia when it comes to housing, coming 6th and 7th out of 8 regions measured (the worst is the Northern Territory).

But the ACT clearly comes out on top.

The nation's capital ranks 10 out of 10 for income – the ACT's average income is the highest of the any of the 300 developed nation regions identified by the OECD.

It also rates 9.6 for access to services, 9.6 for jobs and 9.5 for environment.

The OECD believes regions in the world that are similar to the ACT include western Norway, New Hampshire and Stockholm. Canberrans already know this, of course. They have a flower festival on at the moment.

NSW and Victoria rank close to each other in most dimensions. NSW does better in income, scoring 7.1 out of 10, compared to 6.4, while Victoria is better for jobs (8.5 compared to 8.3) and safety (9.6 compared to 9.2).

Australia places best in the world when it comes to country-by-country rankings. It is followed by Norway, Canada, Sweden and the United States. 

All of its states and territories are among the top 20 per cent OECD regions in environment, civic engagement (due to its compulsory voting system) and income. Even the low performing regions in Australia fare better than the OECD average in all of the well-being measures.

But it is not all good news.

Education is a big exception – the share of the workforce with at least a secondary degree in the bottom 20 per cent of regions in Australia is 13 percentage points lower than the OECD average.

And Australia has the fourth largest regional disparity in health and the fifth largest disparity in safety among OECD countries.

It is important to think about what this means.

As the OECD points out, large regional disparities in education, health, jobs and key services can damage economic growth, and lower well-being outcomes at a national level. The OECD hopes policymakers will use this report when considering policies for the future.