Basque city of Bilbao in top 20 of new PICSA ‘Inclusive Prosperity’ global ranking index

The Basque city of Bilbao is the only Spanish city in a new index that ranks global cities by criteria including inclusiveness, which has never been done before

Bilbao was in 20th place in the the PICSA Index produced by consultants D&L Partners that attempts to measure the ‘inclusive prosperity’ of cities around the world. Bilbao was the only Spanish city in the top 20.

Swiss city Zurich was number one, followed by Vienna and Copenhagen in the second and third place, respectively. Others in the top 10 include, Luxembourg (4th), Helsinki (5th), Taipei (6th), Oslo (7th), Ottawa (8th), Kiel (9th) and Geneva (10th).

The inaugural index ceremony and dinner took place at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao on the 21st November, sponsored by the Basque Region of Bizkai, and the city of Bilbao. As the main sponsor of the new index, it might have been a bit embarrassing if Bilbao had not made it into the top 20.

Inclusiveness Prosperity

The PICSA index attempts to capture the inclusivity of cities, not just the more traditional characteristics like wealth and safety that other rankings use . “We need a new way of measuring how cities are creating inclusivity and prosperity for all, not just the few,” explains Bruno Lanvin, Founder and CEO, of D&L Partners.

If you’re wondering what ‘inclusive prosperity’ is, the PICSA Index website defines it as a “multi-dimensional concept involving spatial factors, social goods, and established measures of economic health.” It is a measure of economic productivity that reflects how far all sectors of the population are empowered to contribute to the economy, and share in its benefits.

The index includes prosperity defined as “GDP per capita and empirical quality of life measures”, social inclusion as “personal safety, access to education, and access to ICT (Internet)”, and spatial inclusion as “affordability of housing, environmental quality, and access to healthcare.”

This video explains the PICSA Index concept:

It’s the spatial inclusion dimension that sets this index apart, and makes it relevant in a world where the world’s leading cities are increasingly hollowed out by high prices and tourism. Which explains why the world’s richest cities like New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo, don’t rank high for inclusivity.

That said, how did Zurich land the top spot? It may be one of the world’s most attractive cities, but it’s not exactly cheap. I’ve heard that even supermarket checkout staff in Zurich earn thousands of Euros per month, so maybe the high cost of living isn’t so bad considering the high incomes.

Why Bilbao?

Bilbao is sponsoring and promoting the PICSA Index. Why? Because, after reinventing itself following the collapse of its heavy industries, Bilbao is now a “city with its conscience trained on the principles of inclusive prosperity: social cohesion, economic prosperity, quality healthcare, educational access, sustainable environment, and a vibrant quality of life,” explains the PICSA website. By sponsoring this index, Bilbao is signalling that it values inclusivity in an ear of rising wealth inequality.

Though Bilbao is one of Spain’s most prosperous cities, with relatively high incomes, low unemployment, and a peace dividend after the Basque terrorist group ETA gave up its armed struggle, house prices in the prime Abando district of the city are lower than equivalent districts in Barcelona and Madrid.

Zorrotzuarre Island

If Bilbao has a promising future, then investors should keep an eye on the Zorrotzuarre island development in the middle of Bilbao estuary at the heart of the city. This is an 84-hectare urban redevelopment project of an island in the Bilbao estuary with plans to turn a derelict industrial site into a mixed-use city district with luxury developments, social / affordable housing, an eco-friendly business park, plus cultural and leisure facilities. In the long-term this project could add value to the whole area.

Zorrotzaurre as it was

Zorrotzaurre as it was. Photo credit: Zorrotzaurre project

Zorrotzaurre project bilbao basque country

Zorrotzaurre as it will be. Photo credit: Zorrotzaurre project

About Mark Stücklin

Mark Stücklin is a Barcelona-based Spanish property market analyst, and author of the 'Spanish Property Doctor' column in the Sunday Times (2005 - 2008).

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