Reports of a “death of the city” due to the Covid crisis have been greatly exaggerated, according to a survey of Parisians and Londoners that found little change in people’s satisfaction with urban life or plans to move out in the near future.
The report by King’s College London and the Université de Paris, based on polling carried out in April and May, found that cafe, club and restaurant closures, lockdowns and home working had not dented inhabitants’ enthusiasm for the two capitals.
Compared with a pre-pandemic survey in 2019, the study found little change in the share of Londoners and Parisians planning to leave, greater satisfaction with local services and majorities believing their capital will bounce back, albeit slowly.
“The pandemic has forced a change in the way we live our lives, and that has had a particular impact on cities, with offices left vacant or only minimally used for long periods of time,” said Kelly Beaver of pollsters Ipsos Mori.
“The ‘decline of the city’ doesn’t seem to take enough account of the views and beliefs of the people who live in them – who are mostly happy with where they live. The future of London and Paris as powerhouse capital cities seems secure.”
The survey showed 56% of Londoners were satisfied with their local services such as schools, transport and police, a large increase from the 37% recorded in 2019, while satisfaction levels with services in the greater Paris area rose from 41% to 51%.
People’s satisfaction with their local area as a place to live was almost unchanged in Greater London at 63% from 64% two years ago, and higher in Paris (59% from 53%). While slightly more Londoners said they planned to leave in the next five years (43% against 37%), the proportion of Parisians was almost unchanged (45% against 44%).
Most Londoners (66%) and Parisians (57%) said they thought it likely their city would bounce back from the Covid crisis, although most also expected the recovery to be slow rather than fast (57% in London and 58% in Paris).
“At a time when the pandemic has brought the future of urban life into question, it’s reassuring to see that the ‘death of the city’ feared by some has not manifested,” said Jack Brown, a lecturer in London studies at King’s College.
The survey also revealed “shared and specific challenges” for the two cities, Brown said. “London seems to be viewed as a place of great economic opportunity but harsher for the less well-off, elderly, families and women. Parisians feel social cohesion remains an issue in their city and are more negative about immigration.”
More than 60% of greater London residents said they thought immigration from outside the UK has had a positive impact on the capital, compared with 27% of greater Paris residents who said the same about immigration from outside France.
However, London was seen by 84% of its residents as largely a place for the rich; only 63% of Parisians said the same of their city. By contrast, Parisians (34%) were more than twice as likely as Londoners (14%) to say their capital was good for poor people.
Similarly, 53% of people in greater Paris said they felt their city was a good place to live for families, compared with 43% of Londoners, and 50% of Parisians said their city is good for older people, compared with 31% of Londoners.
Among people who do not own their own home, Londoners (89%) were more likely than Parisians (76%) to agree property was too expensive for them – but 73% of Londoners thought their city was a good place to start a career, against 51% in Paris.