Our global city

Our global city

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Sydney as a global city

The City of Sydney is one of 35 local government authorities within Greater Sydney as classified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This was reduced from 45 following the 2016 council amalgamations and boundary changes. In 2016, 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 – Sydney Opera House and Sydney 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 Traveller by Conde Naste. 

Between March 2016 and March 2017 the Sydney metropolitan area hosted over 3.7 million international visitors who spent a total of more than 75 million individual visitor nights in the region – over 18% came from China.

Sydney hosted nearly half of all international visitors to Australia during the same period, who spent on average almost $2,400 each, representing $8.6 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 2015 Anholt-GfK City Brands Index ranked Sydney as the 4th best city in the world for its brand appeal and image. Sydney was voted the best city for ‘people’ and for ‘prerequisites’. 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 2016, Sydney improved its ranking to 8th place and 4th in the Asia-Pacific region. This global ranking increased by a full 7 places from 2013.

The Global Power City Index ranked Sydney 14th in 2016 among 42 of the world's major cities, behind familiar leaders New York, London, Paris and Tokyo. In the same index, Sydney's economy was ranked 10th based on market size and, attractiveness and human capital and 9th on environment (ecology and air quality) while cultural interaction placed Sydney 14th, covering visitor facilities, cultural resources and trendsetting potential. The yearly ranking is compiled by the Japan-based Mori Memorial Foundation.

Sydney was ranked number 1 in Australia by the University of Canberra Knowledge City Index 2017, 14th by 2thinknow’s Top World Cities for Innovation and 16th in the World’s Top Cities for Startups by Compass.

Quality of life indicators are increasingly being recognised for a city's importance beyond economic factors. Led by its 8th place for City Infrastructure, Sydney was ranked in the top 10 world cities in the 2017 Mercer Quality of Life Index covering 231 cities. It has held the top 10 place each year since 2010. The quality of life survey is conducted to help governments and major companies place employees on international assignment.

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 in the city.

More than three quarters of all foreign and domestic banks in Australia have their headquarters located in Sydney. In 2015/16 Greater Sydney had a GDP of approximately $400 billion per year, which was almost one quarter of Australia's GDP and around three quarters 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: Tuesday, 26 September 2017