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:

Talent and 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.

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Cities that are not LGBT+ inclusive suffer “brain drain”

For cities suffering brain drain, it is a serious problem: a study of global emigration in high-skilled workers showed that the top professions are scientists, engineers, IT, doctors and academics. Many factors account for brain drain, and LGBT+ inclusion is not likely to be a primary driver for many emigrants; however, there are clear indications that emigration is likely to take place from anti-LGBT+ countries to open and inclusive countries. A review of recent media coverage on brain drain shows that it is commonly reported in countries with anti-LGBT+ policies or cultural attitudes:

–  More than half of graduates from cities such as Accra, Kampala, Lagos or Nairobi are likely to emigrate, according to an OECD study.

–  A report in the Moscow Times stated that levels of brain drain in Moscow are “worse than previously believed” and emigrants were mainly “upwardly mobile, ambitious youth”.

–  Young people are emigrating from Istanbul, according to a report titled “Escaping disillusion: The skilled youth quitting Turkey”.

–  A report titled “Azerbaijan is losing its brains” describes how educated young people are leaving cities such as Baku and moving to the West.

–  Malaysia “will continue to be a net exporter of talent,” according to a report which shows skilled workers are leaving cities like Kuala Lumpur.

–  A World Bank report finds that the highest rates of emigration of high-skilled workers take place in the Caribbean, Central America and Eastern Europe regions often associated with a lack of LGBT+ inclusion.

LGBT+ inclusion is a signal of openness, diversity and culture

A survey of skilled workers who had moved to one of 13 cities found that motivating factors included “hard factors” (transport, connectivity, etc) and “soft factors” (openness, diversity and culture). The survey found that “gay/lesbian friendliness” was a factor considered by skilled workers. Although it may not be a deciding factor for non-LGBT+ employees, this is likely to send a clear signal about the culture of the city – the crucial “icing on the cake”, according to the study.


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

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Data from 100 major cities around the world shows that LGBT+ inclusion is a predictor of the potential for innovation in a city: the stronger the performance on LGBT+ inclusion, the more likely a city is to provide an enabling environment for innovation. The outliers in this analysis include Beijing and Shanghai (towards the top left of the cluster); both have high potential for innovation and lower performance on LGBT+ inclusion – but the data shows that cities like these are exceptions to a clear global pattern.

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.

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LGBT+ inclusive cities have a better quality of living

Mercer, a global HR consultancy, publishes an annual Quality of Living Index, based on data from 450 cities across the world. The cities that rank top of this index are all LGBT+ inclusive environments; conversely, the cities with the lowest quality of living are all LGBT+ unfriendly environments. The extremes at the top and bottom of the list dramatize the global pattern.

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

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

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

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

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

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 


Full Report 2018


Report Highlights 2018