New York, London and Tokyo are named as the world’s greatest cities in terms of living, working and doing business, according to a report by international management consulting giant AT Kearney.

Of the top 10 cities in this year’s index, four are Asian cities – Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul. Additionally, Sydney, Australia, an important international connector between East and West, moved from 16th place in the 2008 Index to ninth place in this year’s rankings.

The Global Cities Index lists 65 cities from around the globe based on five categories: business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience and political engagement. The Global Cities Index is unique in that it goes beyond measures of business and finance, and includes measurements of the key dimensions that define today’s global cities.

New York came first on the list followed by London, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, Chicago, Los Angeles, Singapore, Sydney and Seoul. ‘These are the cities where decisions are made, where the world’s movers and shakers come to exchange the latest news and information. They are the places that boast both old-fashioned power and new-fashion flair,’ says the report.

‘They are also where you go to do business but also to see the greatest art, hear the greatest orchestras, learn the latest styles, eat the best food and study in the finest universities. They have global corporations but they also have think tanks, jazz bars and broadband. In a word, they have clout,’ it adds.

It points out that the top cities are not necessarily the most beautiful or the most pleasant. ‘Almost by definition, they are buys, crowded, noisy, even frantic. But they are crowded with those who are creating the future, noisy with the clash of deals and ideas, frantic in the race to stay ahead. They have money and power. They know where the world is going because they are already there. To be a global city is, in this sense, a splendid thing,’ it explains.

There has been no change in the top eight cities since 2008 but overall the average scores have increased, indicating that there are more cities that are global, the report points out. But the gap between the highest and lowest is widening.

Middle level cities such as Sydney, San Francisco and Berlin, are closing the gap with the leaders while those nearer the end such as Osaka, Johannesburg and Cairo, are joining the middle and cities at the very bottom, such as Chong-qing and Dhaka, are falling further behind.

Asian cities are the biggest success story and would have ranked even higher but were let down on the issue of censorship. ‘A country or city that limits the flow of news and ideas limits much else and handicaps itself in the global race,’ the report says.