World's safest cities: The Safe Cities Index 2019 shows Tokyo at the top as Sydney overtakes Melbourne

Sydney has overtaken Melbourne as the safer Australian city in new rankings, though both can lay claim to being among the safest cities in the world.

Meanwhile, risk-averse travellers would do well to head to the Far East, with a new report suggesting Tokyo, Singapore and Osaka are the three safest cities in the world. 

The Safe Cities Index 2019, produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit, ranked 60 major cities, looking at everything from crime rates and road safety to digital security and quality of healthcare.

The Japanese capital held onto the top spot for the third year running with an overall score of 92. Of the four main categories, it came first for digital security, second for health security, and fourth for both personal security and infrastructure security.

Singapore and Osaka retained their positions of second and third respectively, but there were shuffles elsewhere in the top 10.

Melbourne was ranked the fifth safest in 2017, but dropped this year to tenth. Sydney overtook its southern rival to climb from seventh to fifth. Sydney outranked Melbourne on two measures, including personal security (86.8 to 89.1) and health security (79.3 to 79.8). The two cities were equal on infrastructure security (93.5) and digital security (89.4). 

Amsterdam - one of only two European cities to make the top 10 - rose from sixth in 2017 (the Safe City Index is released biannually) to fourth this year, moving Toronto down from fourth to sixth. 

The world's top 20 safest cities in 2019

  1. Tokyo 92.0
  2. Singapore 91.5
  3. Osaka 90.9
  4. Amsterdam 88.0
  5. Sydney 87.9
  6. Toronto 87.8
  7. Washington DC 87.6
  8. = Copenhagen 87.4
  9. = Seoul 87.4
  10. Melbourne 87.3
  11. Chicago 86.7
  12. Stockholm 86.5
  13. San Francisco 85.9
  14. London 85.7
  15. New York 85.5
  16. Frankfurt 85.4
  17. Los Angeles 85.2
  18. = Wellington 84.5
  19. = Zurich 84.5
  20. Hong Kong 83.7

Gone from the top ten altogether are Stockholm (then eighth, now 12th); Hong Kong (then ninth, now 20th) and Zurich (then tenth, now 18th) New top-ten arrivals included US capital Washington DC at number seven - a sizeable leap from 23rd in 2017; a time period, interestingly, that coincides with Donald Trump's presidency - and Copenhagen and Seoul, which tied for the eighth position.

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London this year placed 14th, up from 20th last year, just ahead of New York, at 15th this year. Rome was rated the least safe city in Europe at 30th, followed by Milan (29th), Barcelona (26th), Madrid (25th), Brussels (24th) and Paris (23rd).

At the bottom end of the table, Lagos - a new entry this year - was rated the least safe overall with a score of 38.1. Nigeria's largest city was bottom, too, in the health and personal security subcategories.

Behind Lagos was Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, (which dropped from 53rd in 2017 to 59th this year); Yangon, in Myanmar (up from 59th to 58th); Karachi in Pakistan (from 60th up to 57th); Dhaka in Bangladesh (up to 56th from 57th); and Cairo, Egypt's capital, which dropped from 50th to 55th.

What do these findings tell us?

"Humanity is a predominantly urban species, with over 56 per cent of us living in cities," the report reads. "By 2050, 68 per cent will do so, reflecting a speed of urbanisation even faster than previously predicted. This process is occurring most visibly in developing countries, some of which struggle to deal with the extent of change."

It was quick to point out that despite Tokyo's consistent position at the top of the charts, and the fact that Asia-Pacific cities make up six of the top ten, their geographic region does not have a statistical link with results.

"Tokyo, Singapore and Osaka lead because of their specific strengths, not because they happen to be in Asia," it states. Rather, the results underline the importance of getting the basics right.

"Leo Tolstoy famously wrote, 'All happy families are alike: each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.' A look at the top five cities in each pillar - digital, health, infrastructure and personal security - yields a similar message," the report goes on.

"In each area, leading cities got the basics right, be it easy access to high-quality healthcare, dedicated cyber-security teams, community-based police patrolling or disaster continuity planning. Even among the leaders, the weaknesses of those not in first place tended to vary from city to city. Those who want to improve need to get the basics in place and then consider their own specific situations."

Why, then, is Japan so successful?

With two of Japan's cities making the top three, Tokyo's Governor Yuriko Koike said of the report: "One idea is that of 'self-help' mutual help and public assistance.

"The hope is that residents should take the initiative to help themselves when needed. And they should then work together to help others. The administration should be there to provide backup."

Our Tokyo expert Danielle Demetriou reflects this, writing: "Perhaps one phrase that best sums up the Japanese spirit is ganbatte! (with obligatory exclamation mark). Loosely translated as anything from "do your best!" and "stick with it!" to "be strong!" and "hang in there!", it is something of a national mantra. It reflects the utmost importance Japan places on doing your absolute best – not for your egotistical self, but for the wider good of the collective community."

Incidentally, Japan has won itself another accolade of late: that of having the most popular tourists in the world. A YouGov poll published last week asked residents from 26 countries to rate which nationalities behaved the best abroad, and Japan won hands down. British tourists, on the other hand, didn't fare so well across the board. Both Spain and Germany ranked us as being the worst holidaymakers, and nearly 60 per cent of Britons agreed, and said their fellow countrymen were deserving of this bad reputation.

The Telegraph, London

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