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World's top 20 cities of opportunity

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New York and London top this year's list of leading global centers of opportunity, though emerging cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are catching up quickly. Beijing actually tops the list in terms of overall economic clout. The top cities for business and financial services employment? Milan and Paris.

These are the conclusions culled from the latest edition of Cities of Opportunity, released by PwC and the Partnership for New York City.

While New York officially edges out London by one point across 10 economic indicators, the city wins in no individual category. Toronto, which finishes third, also shows great balance yet wins no category. London, however, takes the lead in "city gateway," an indicator introduced this year that measures global interconnectedness and international attraction. Rounding out the leaders are Paris, which advances four spots from 2011 to number four, and Stockholm at number five.

Here are the top 20 cities, ranked by innovation, technology, infrastructure and health:

  1. New York
  2. London
  3. Toronto
  4. Paris
  5. Stockholm
  6. San Francisco
  7. Singapore
  8. Hong Kong
  9. Chicago
  10. Tokyo
  11. Sydney
  12. Berlin
  13. Los Angeles
  14. Seoul
  15. Madrid
  16. Milan
  17. Beijing
  18. Kuala Lumpur
  19. Shanghai
  20. Moscow

In addition to looking at the current performance of cities that are global capitals of finance, commerce and culture, the study for the first time analyzes city employment in the most significant and telling job sectors. Here are the top 10 cities by employment in key sectors of financial and business services and manufacturing:

Financial and business services:
(% of total employment)

Milan                   39.9%
Paris                   36.3%
London               35.7%
Beijing                 34.2%
San Francisco     33.4%
Stockholm           33.3%
Chicago              30.0%
Toronto               27.8%
New York             26.9%
Buenos Aires      25.5%

Manufacturing:
(% of total employment)

Shanghai           33.9%
Istanbul              28.0%
São Paulo          19.1%
Singapore          16.5%
Beijing                14.7%
Johannesburg    12.7%
Mexico City        12.2%
Tokyo                 11.1%
Moscow             10.2%
Seoul                 10.2%

Financial and business services, when grouped together, account for more than a third of the jobs in Milan, Paris, London, Beijing, San Francisco and Stockholm. One in three Shanghai jobs today is in manufacturing, although the study projects the city shifting to a more diversified economy by 2025. Wholesale and retail make up more than 20% of the workforce in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow, Mumbai, Mexico City and Istanbul.  New York leads the world in healthcare employment with nearly 16% of its workforce in the field, while Abu Dhabi takes the lead in hospitality and tourism.

The study projects that by 2025, an additional 19 million individuals will live and 13.7 million will work in the cities. They will generate an additional $3.3 trillion in gross domestic product—all predicated on a world of modest growth. At the same time, the wealth divide will remain much the same in 2025 as it does today.

The cities ranking highest in terms of the PwC report's key indicators include the following:

  • Intellectual capital and innovation: Stockholm, Toronto, Paris
  • Technology readiness: Seoul, San Francisco, New York
  • Transportation and Infrastructure: Singapore, Seoul/Toronto (tied for second), Tokyo
  • Health, safety and security: Stockholm, Toronto, Sydney
  • Sustainability and the natural environment: Sydney, San Francisco/Toronto (tied for second), Berlin
  • Economic clout: Beijing, Paris, London/New York (tied for third)
  • Ease of doing business: Singapore, Hong Kong, New York
  • Cost: Berlin, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur
  • Demographics and livability: Paris, Hong Kong/Sydney (tied for second), San Francisco
  • City gateway: London, Paris, Beijing

Beijing advanced to the top spot in "economic clout" while Shanghai placed fifth behind Paris, London, and New York. This is the first time two emerging cities appeared in the top five of this indicator category.

Beijing and Shanghai are also in the top five in a new category, “city gateway,” along with London, Paris, and New York. Balanced progress across a range of social and economic indicators represents the next step for these cities in transforming exceptional growth into sustainable performance for these emerging cities.

Despite the rise of emerging cities in key indicators, Cities of Opportunity details some of the long-term challenges facing developing cities due to rapid growth. For example, both Beijing and Shanghai will need to devote roughly 42% of GDP to infrastructure between now and 2025 to accommodate growth, while cities such as London and New York only need to invest 17% and 20%, respectively.

(Photo: Joe McKendrick.)

— By on October 15, 2012, 11:27 AM PST

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure