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Our global city

Sydney as a global city

The City of Sydney is one of 43 local government authorities within the Sydney metropolitan area, which is classified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as Greater Sydney. In 2012, Sydney represented just over one-fifth of Australia's total population, reinforcing its status as the nation's premier city.

Other dynamic factors help elevate Sydney's position to being a global city, aside from its large population. A global city is characterised by its strength in shaping economic, social and cultural links to the rest of the world including its ability to influence the flow of resources, capital, innovation and knowledge.

The evolution of a global city

Greater Sydney has been inhabited for more than 30,000 years by 29 different Aboriginal clans including the Gadigal, Wangal and Kameygal people, who make up the Eora nation. The Gadigal people of the Eora nation are the traditional custodians of the place we now know as the City.

In its built form, Sydney is a young city by European and Asian standards, being colonised by the English in 1788. While the city has many examples of 19th century colonial architecture, it is mainly recognised by 2 more recent icons – the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

Up until the mid-1970s, Sydney remained relatively isolated culturally from our Asian neighbours, drawing migrants initially from Britain and Ireland. During the post-war manufacturing boom migrants mainly came from continental Europe, notably Italy, Greece and the former Republic of Yugoslavia.

Australia's relative cultural isolation extended economically, with relatively high tariff protection barriers to support our strong manufacturing base built upon the country's raw materials and agricultural exports.

More recently, however, the country has opened up considerably, welcoming migrants from many diverse regions around the world, particularly from our Asian neighbours to the north.

Sydney is now one of the world's most multicultural cities attracting people from all over the globe, who bring a huge range of languages, cultures, cuisines and ideas to share.

International visitor gateway

Sydney is Australia's iconic face to the world boasting 7 of the country's top 10 most popular visitor attractions. The city has consistently been named a favourite international tourist destination over the past 15 years in reader surveys for travel magazines such as Conde Naste and Traveller. In 2011, Sydney was voted number 1 among Conde Naste readers and in 2012 it was number 5 in the Travel+Leisure list of top 10 cities.

Between September 2012 and September 2013 the Sydney metropolitan area hosted over 2.8 million international visitors who spent a total of more than 59 million individual visitor nights in the region – nearly 18% came from China and Hong Kong.

Sydney hosted nearly half of all international visitors to Australia during the same period, who spent on average more than $2,100 each, representing $5.9 billion – nearly one-third of Australia's international tourism earnings.

Global city rankings

A number of organisations around the world have developed their own rankings that measure cities across a diverse range of social, economic, environmental and cultural indicators. Arguably, some rankings attempt to quantify cities in terms of their global status and influence, which provides us with an alternative understanding of how Sydney is positioned against other cities around the world.

Sydney is considered an alpha+ world city, according to Loughborough University's globalisation and world cities research network, which measures the connectivity of cities in terms of position and influence. According to its model Sydney is ranked in the top 10 most connected cities alongside New York, London, Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong. Alpha cities in general have critical links with major economic regions and states that are linked to the world economy.

The 2013 Anholt-GfK City Brands Index ranked Sydney as the second best city in the world for its brand appeal and image. Sydney was also voted the safest and friendliest city. More than 5,000 people from 10 countries were asked to judge cities' international status and standing, physical aspects, basic requirements such as affordable housing and public amenities standards, interesting things to do and economic and educational opportunities.

The Global Financial Centres Index measures competitiveness between 75 international finance centres and their performance in business environment, finance sector development, infrastructure, human capital and reputation. In 2013, Sydney improved its ranking by 8 places to 15th, and 5th in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Global Power City Index ranked Sydney 13th in 2013 among 40 of the world's major cities including Toronto, Frankfurt and Los Angeles, behind familiar leaders New York, London, Paris and Tokyo. In the same index, Sydney's economy was ranked 9th based on market size, attractiveness and human capital while cultural interaction placed Sydney 11th, covering visitor facilities, cultural resources and trendsetting potential. The yearly ranking is compiled by the Japan-based Mori Memorial Foundation.

Quality of life indicators are increasingly being recognised for a city's importance beyond economic factors. The Economist Intelligence Unit ranks cities each year based on political and social stability, health care, culture, environment, education and infrastructure. Sydney was ranked in the top 10 world cities 2 years in a row in 2012 and 2013.

Banking on it

Sydney is Australia's main financial centre being home to the Australian Stock Exchange and the Futures Exchange. According to the 2011 census there were over 151,000 workers employed in the finance and financial services sector in Greater Sydney with more than 55% located within the City.

More than ¾ (76%) of all foreign and domestic banks in Australia have their headquarters located in Sydney. In 2011/12 Greater Sydney had a GDP of approximately $300 billion per year, approximately one-fifth of Australia's GDP and around two-thirds of the NSW GDP.

A large number of information and communications technology companies have recently been attracted to Sydney and as a result the city dominates internet media design and production employment in Australia.

Last updated: Thursday, 30 January 2014