Special Focus: Cities

Cities that are LGBT+ inclusive are better placed to develop their global competitiveness: evidence shows they have stronger “innovation ecosystems”, greater concentrations of skills and talent, and better quality of life. LGBT+ inclusive cities may be more likely to become globally integrated hubs for high value businesses.

Why do LGBT+ inclusive cities have better economic performance?

Our analysis shows that LGBT+ inclusion can boost competitive advantage in cities in three main areas, each of which is explored in detail below:


The capacity to foster innovation is a key driver of city competitiveness. This is particularly true at a time of global disruptive technological change, when a city’s industrial and economic orientation may quickly change. The evidence shows that innovation in cities and LGBT+ inclusion go hand-in-hand.

The graph to the right shows the clear positive relationship between a city’s potential for innovation and its openness to LGBT+ inclusion.

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Quality of Living

Providing a good quality of living is essential for cities seeking to compete on a world stage. The evidence shows that quality of living goes hand-in-hand with LGBT+ inclusion, and the presence of a visible LGBT+ community may be taken as a signal that a city will be a attractive place to live.

The graph to the right shows the clear connection between a city’s quality of living and it’s openness to LGBT+ people.

Talent & Skills

Cities with advanced education and high-level skills are better able to compete in today’s global economy, and attracting talented and skilled professionals is a priority for cities. The evidence shows that LGBT+ inclusive cities have higher concentrations of talented individuals.

The proportion of individuals that have attained a higher education qualification can give an indication of the skill level in a city. Data from 123 cities gives us a ranking of cities according to higher education attainment: all of the cities can be described as LGBT+ friendly, with the exception of Singapore, which tops the chart. (see the section Singapore: the exception that proves the rule on p35 of the report).

Cities - quality of living.PNG

Open For Business City Ratings

The report includes a rating system that evaluates 121 cities around the world on their economic competitiveness and environment for LGBT+ people. SImilar to a credit rating, the best-performing cities score a AAA and the worst-performing cities score an E. In the 2018 City Ratings, New York City was the best performing city in the world.

Cities making strides to be open for business

Many cities that are at different points on their journey to become modern economies have employed openness and diversity as key strategies. Below, we profile four such cities around the world.



Medellín was named Most Innovative City by the Wall Street Journal; it rates B on our Open For Business Cities Ratings, but 20 years ago this rating would have been considerably lower. 


Guadalajara is a classic example of an urban economy evolving from a market town into a production center, and then transforming into a hub for high value industries.

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is forecast to become Asia’s second fastest-growing economy over the next five years, and this growth is already well underway. 


Bangalore (or Bengaluru, as it is now officially known) is the world’s 4th largest tech cluster, and on track to become the world’s largest by 2020, according to the local government. 

City Mayors leading the way on LGBT+ inclusion

The following quotes are public statements of support for LGBT+ inclusion from city mayors in different parts of the world.

We have taken a step forward in fostering understanding and tolerance, as well as eliminating prejudices and stereotypes. We have also given a good example to cities trying to improve the position of LGBT people .“

Mayor Sandra Pantelic, Belgrade, Serbia

As mayor, I have a responsibility to all the individuals of Kingston. There are individuals who are minorities who have been struggling in terms of their identity and finding their own space. It is important for us to provide safe spaces for them.“

Mayor Angela Brown-Burke, Kingston, Jamaica

LGBT+ inclusion is a political manifestation of Lisbon’s affirmation as a free, open and tolerant city, and it is an essential mark of our political project, especially when the world is witnessing a setback in the area of social rights.“

Mayor Fernando Medina, Lisbon, Portugal

It is about time that we should recognize LGBT+ people. They have already been recognized wholly by other countries. Its about time that we give due recognition and respect for them.“

Mayor Joseph Estrada, Manilla, Phillippines

Today this is a city proud to embrace sexual and gender diversity. There is substantial progress in the fight against discrimination. We all can fit.“

Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera Espinosa, Mexico City, Mexico

Welcome to all our guests from abroad to the gay-friendliest city in the world. We’ve been through a lot: in 17 years, we’ve achieved a different reality in this city.“

Mayor Ron Huldai, Tel Aviv, Isreal