The average score of the 111 cities is the least on the economic ability pillar. The average score on this pillar is 13.17 compared to 51.38 for quality of life, 53.63 for sustainability, and 76.1 for citizen’s perception.
The average score of the 111 cities is the least on the economic ability pillar. The average score on this pillar is 13.17 compared to 51.38 for quality of life, 53.63 for sustainability, and 76.1 for citizen’s perception.

Most cities low on economic ability

  • The last, which has a weight of almost one-third in the rankings, is a completely subjective parameter.
By Abhishek Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 01:58 AM IST

Which city in India is the best to live in?

The Ease of Living Index 2020 report released by the housing and urban affairs ministry on Thursday ranked 111 cities on the basis of a score for ease of living. The 111 cities selected for the analysis were those identified under the Smart Cities Mission, state capitals, and cities with a population of over one million. The report does not include West Bengal as the state decided against participation in the rankings.

The cities were ranked on the basis of scores on four pillars with different weights: Quality of Life (35%), Economic Ability (15%), Sustainability (20%), and Citizen Perception (30%). The last, which has a weight of almost one-third in the rankings, is a completely subjective parameter.


The four pillars were divided into a total of 14 categories, such as education, health, housing, etc. under the quality of life pillar. Scores on these categories were themselves generated on the basis of a total of 49 indicators, such as household expenditure on education, literacy rate, etc. for the education category.

Here are four charts that explain the major findings of the analysis, apart from the rankings.

West, South perform better than North, East


The cities that have scored the best on the ease of living index (EOL) are predominantly from the southern and western regions of the country, while the worst performers are predominantly from the eastern and northern states. This is reflected in the average scores for different regions. The report identifies this disparity as a cause for concern. “Since the turn of the century, the northern and eastern regions have lagged behind the rest of the country in terms of economic growth and development. Despite efforts to correct the imbalance, the gap is only widening,” the report says. According to the report, the top five states by per capita income were 145% richer than the bottom states in 2000s. This gap increased to 289% in 2010-11 and 338% in 2017-18. (See Charts)

To be sure, the report makes a distinction between cities of different sizes for a fair comparison. Making such a distinction shows that there was less regional disparity among cities with population less than a million (or less than million cities) than among the million plus cities. This is because a majority of large metropolitan cities are located in the southern and western regions. “Since these cities are leading in urban development, they leave the eastern and northern regions far behind. This is why greater disparity is visible among Million+ cities,” the report says.

Economic ability is the worst performing pillar


The average score of the 111 cities is the least on the economic ability pillar. The average score on this pillar is 13.17 compared to 51.38 for quality of life, 53.63 for sustainability, and 76.1 for citizen’s perception. It is also the pillar where the metropolitan cities are much more ahead of the rest of cities. Bengaluru, for instance, has a score of 78.82 on this pillar. This pushes the average or mean score up to 13.17, even as half of the cities have a score below 9.9, the median score. A comparison of mean and median scores shows that the mean is 33% ahead of the median for economic ability, while it is only 0.1% and 0.24% ahead of the median for sustainability and citizen’s perception. For quality of life, the median is 0.84% ahead of the mean.

Statistically speaking, mean is a simple average of all scores, while median is the middle value in a distribution. The low difference between mean and median in pillars other than economic ability shows the average on those pillars is less skewed by outliers.


What is the reason for a large number of cities scoring low on economic ability? Economic ability was measured under two categories. One category is economic development. The report argues that since the indicators used for this category are based on factories per lakh population and per capita wages, cities whose economic activity is not manufacturing dependent might unfairly perform low. This is the reason why Tiruppur in Tamil Nadu; a known apparel manufacturing cluster scores the highest on this count among cities with a population of less than a million. Bengaluru, known for its IT services, also performs well in this category, which highlights its ability to attract industries along with high-end services. The report says the low scores in the economic opportunities category is a cause for concern. “The goal of financial inclusion has clearly not permeated beyond these major cities..., and can affect the growth of these cities into potential economic hubs, the report says.

Citizens in better performing cities have higher expectations


An interesting aspect of the report is that citizen’s perception of the ease of living does not always match the city’s score on the first three pillars that are outcome based rather than perception based. The cities that performed the best on citizen’s perception, such as Bhubaneswar in Odisha or Davanagere in Karnataka, are not the leaders in the average score of the first three pillars. On the other hand, the cities that performed the best on the average score of the first three pillars -- such as Bengaluru, Pune, and Ahmedabad — do not lead in their citizen’s perception.

To be sure, the relation between these two sets of numbers is not exactly inverse. “Nevertheless, it can be definitely deduced that residents in worse performing cities have a lower benchmark of evaluation, whereas residents in better performing cities have a higher benchmark and greater demands from the city. Inversely, it can also be said that a higher benchmark of evaluation by citizens push the city administrations. Cities in North-east India have the strongest feel-good factor to reform their policies and strive for improvement in developmental outcomes,” the report says.

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