- Our 2023 City Readiness Index for Gen Z, which analyzed 35 metrics across four categories, shows that smaller cities have what it takes to help young adults thrive: Smaller cities scored higher in affordable housing, cost of living, work/life balance, and perceived mental health, among others.
- The results indicate that Gen Z’s values might push them away from large, bustling urban hubs and toward more closely knit communities.
- Eight of the top 10 cities competing for Gen Z’s hearts have populations below 300,000 and even 200,000.
- Aside from Montréal, none of Canada’s large business hubs even made the top 10 ideal cities that scored highest for metrics that are most relevant for Gen Z-ers.
- St. John’s, NL is the star city of the young generation, raking in the most points in the 35 categories that together embody the ideal lifestyle for a Gen Z-er.
- Québec is the place to be for young professionals aged 18 to 26, with eight cities making it into the top 10 best cities with the highest scores in categories like median income; cost of living; access to health; (and especially mental health services); and share of young homeowners.
- Regina, SK rounds out the top 10 and is the only other city outside of Québec (besides leader St. John’s, NL) to break into this very exclusive club.
Identifying the values and demands most significant for Gen Z is easy: They want it all. Seeing which of Canada’s 50 largest cities fully meets these expectations is also easy — exactly none.
Of course, that’s the short, tongue-in-cheek answer. The longer, more nuanced answer is that many cities are definitely ticking a lot of the right boxes, as our most recent generational report shows.
Analyzing 35 factors across four main dimensions revealed how ready Canada’s cities were to meet Gen Z’s, and especially young professionals’ high demands and expectations. Granted, none of the 50 most populous cities managed the perfect score, but several contenders are vying for the role of best city for the new generation:
For this report, we started with the financial security given by local median incomes, cost of living, home price-to-income ratios, and unemployment rates. Next, there’s also a different type of security, given by access to medical professionals and mental health services. Lastly, we considered air quality, walk scores, entertainment opportunities and even share of people working in advertising and marketing. Overall, we looked at all of the metrics that would give Canada’s urban hubs an edge in attracting and retaining the youngest, most talked-about professionals.
A Growing Market: Gen Z’s Priorities Could Soon Become Society’s Priorities
Even Millennials’ more forward-looking values might become outdated.
Born between 1997 and 2012, the oldest Gen Z-ers are currently 26, while the youngest are barely turning 11. They’re the new kids on the block, but young professionals aged 18 to 26, meaning those most likely to already have a job and big plans for their future, are taking the world by storm.
From financial security and autonomy to easier access to mental health services, Gen Z young adults know what they want and are much less afraid to ask for it than any of the previous generations. They’re also less likely to compromise: Millennials’ “nice to haves” are becoming Gen Z’s absolute “must haves.”
And, as the second-fastest growing generation in Canada and the generation most willing to make its voice heard, their priorities could soon become society’s priorities.
Because more and more working-age people are drawn by Canada’s dynamic economy, it’s the Millennials and Gen Z-ers who are growing the fastest, mostly due to young, working-age people moving to the country. Totaling around 8 million and 6.7 million, respectively, these two generations are also projected to grow the fastest in the near future:
“Population projections suggest that Millennials may very soon—by 2029—become the largest generation in the country. For the first time, they would outnumber Baby Boomers, who would remain the largest generation until then.
It is estimated that Canada will have 8,616,900 Millennials in 2029, compared with 8,442,500 Baby Boomers. In 25 years, or 2046, there could be 2.2 times more Millennials than Baby Boomers (9,127,900 compared with 4,102,700). At that time, Millennials would be between 50 and 65 years of age and Baby Boomers would all be over the age of 80.
Furthermore, Generation Z could outnumber Baby Boomers in 2032 and Millennials in 2045.”
A Change in Status Quo: Does Big City Life Have the Right Energy?
A stronger emphasis on stress-free work places, better work/life balance, and heightened environmental awareness means big-city life could be losing ground.
Vancouver, BC and Edmonton, AB, post the highest median incomes for Gen Z employees. Toronto ranks quite high in categories like remote work adoption and share of people in STEM occupations, and even has one of the most enviable walk scores.
But Gen Z won’t settle for just one or two strong points: In their ideal city, they can have the best of all worlds.
This change in values and expectations might also come with a change in status quo: Of the five largest metropolitan areas and business hubs that are the current leaders in Canada’s economic landscape — Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, and Edmonton — only Montréal made it to the top 10 cities that manage to balance what’s important for a Gen Z resident.
What’s more, very few of the cities topping the list have populations above 500,000 residents, which could point to Gen Z’s preference for smaller, tighter-knit communities in less populous cities.
As such, big cities could fall out of grace unless they step up in the areas that are non-negotiable for the youngest generation of workers that’s slowly joining the market: Real work/life balance; fair pay; an emphasis on collaboration and community; respect for diversity at and outside of work; access to mental health services; and a dedication to solving environmental challenges.
These metrics are actually the values and strong points that could light up Gen Z's way in their search for the best cities to settle down in. Eager to leave their mark, young people could steer clear of the more traditionally successful cities and challenge themselves by cutting their own path and making it work in a new place.
Gen Z is the Future of Work & They Want Fair Compensation, Flexibility & Growth Opportunities
Growing up and entering the workforce during such turbulent times makes financial stability all the more important.
Of the 35 metrics that Point2 analysts took into consideration for this report, six stand out: Income, cost of living, house price to income ratio, share of Gen Z, perceived mental health, and number of non-profit organizations.
Although many employers (and people, in general) believe that Gen Z-ers are mainly driven by unrealistic expectations and fantasies, the opposite seems to be true: Studies have shown that, both in the work place and in their communities, Gen Z-ers know exactly what they want and they demand to be involved in the nitty gritty and behind-the-scenes aspects for more control over their own lives.
That's why fair compensation, cost of living, and access to health and mental health services, among others, are vital.
Gen Z-ers can expect the highest wages for their age group in Vancouver, BC; Edmonton, AB and Regina, SK. But several other cities have promising figures, as well: Ottawa, ON; Greater Sudbury, ON; Gatineau, QC; Calgary, AB and Langley, BC round out the list of cities where the youngest professionals' median income is above $32,000.
However, incomes are only relevant in the context of cost of living and homeownership. That's why these factors are among the six most important: Being able to use the money they earn to fulfil their homeownership dreams and also their smaller, day-to-day dreams creates the kind of mental safety and comfort that Gen Z knows are indispensable for a well-lived life.
Speaking of mental safety, there are many cities on the list where young people report good and excellent levels of mental health. This means they have easy access to mental health services and professionals, and they also use these services to improve their lives.
As the first generation to be born and grow up wholly in the digital era, Gen Z is much more adept at communicating easily across different environments and platforms, finding the information they need faster and connecting dots that previous generations weren't even aware of.
Clearly, Gen Z is uniquely poised to tackle the world from a truly different angle. They're becoming financially savvy early on; have access to a wealth of information about global events and geopolitical forces; are much more educated on the importance of physical and mental health; and have significantly more information about what makes people happy and fulfilled.
Therefore, deciding how much of the status quo they want to preserve and how much control they have over changing it might just be their biggest and best challenge.
- For this report, we considered the 50 largest Census Subdivisions (Cities) based on the most recent data from Statistics Canada 2021 Census of Population.
- To discover the cities that could become the most attractive for Gen Z professionals, we analyzed 35 different metrics grouped into four categories:
1. Demographics & Education:
o Share of Gen-Z in city
o Migration in the city
o Median age of the population
o Share of people with higher education
o Tuition cost
2. Economy & Real Estate:
o Median after-tax income for people aged 15-34
o Unemployment rate
o Cost of living
o Remote work
o Share of people in HR occupations
o Share of people in Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations occupations
o Share of People in STEM occupations
o Homeowners under 35
o House price/income ratio for Gen Z
o Transportation - Monthly pass price
o Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) price
o Mobile Phone Monthly Plan with Calls and 10GB+ Data price
3. Community & Environment
o Safety (crime severity index)
o Performing arts establishments
o Spectator sports establishments
o Independent artists, writers and performers
o Amusement and recreation industries (except gambling)
o Food services and drinking places establishments
o Greenness Index
o Air quality
o Commuting using public transit, walking or biking
o Walk Score
o Non-profit organizations
4. Health & Wellbeing
o Perceived health
o Perceived mental health
o Perceived life stress
o Employed specialists, general practitioners and family physicians
o Employed psychologists
o Share of people who regularly see or talk to a healthcare provider
- The report uses a combination of ranking scores and weighted averages. We analyzed 35 metrics, each graded on a 100-point scale, with 100 representing the most proficient city with regards to that specific metric.
- Data per Statistics Canada is at city level, with exceptions where lack thereof led to data at metro level being used instead.
- Cost of living, Transportation - Monthly pass price, Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) price and Mobile Phone Monthly Plan with Calls and 10GB+ Data price as per Numbeo.
- Walk Score® as per walkscore.com; The study uses a Walk Score estimate based on 15 geographical points distributed citywide for the following locations: Greater Sudbury and Halifax.
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