Toronto is the 4th best city in the world for Gen Z. But can they afford it?
The research, which defined Generation Z as people born between 1997 and 2012 (experts in the field have different start and end dates), identified the demands and values most important to the demographic.
Researchers then analyzed major cities around the world for how well they meet these expectations.
“Born into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a post-9/11 world, the climate crisis and a recession, Gen Z-ers are known to be digital natives who value security, diversity and autonomy, and aim to achieve it through pragmatism and determination,” said researchers.
“We wanted to find our to what extend a city supports Gen Z principles.”
Cities that stood out
Some of the factors included in the analysis was social equality, internationalism and a commitment to climate.
The degree of digitalization was also a top value.
Digitalization was determined by evaluating things like a city’s willingness to incorporate new technologies, the prevalence of digital payment options and the strength of a city’s sharing economy (defined by the prevalance of services like Uber).
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The result was an index of 110 cities around the globe, ranked according to 22 factors.
London, Stockholm and the other cities previously mentioned were found to be the best suited for Generation Z overall, but the rankings change when individual factors are considered.
When it comes to gender equality, for example, Oslo tops the list. Bergen is next, with Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo following closely behind. The top two cities are in Norway, and the latter three are all in Sweden.
Looking specifically at the cities most prepared to meet Generation Z’s digital needs, Seoul and London clinch the top spots. Boston, Stockholm and Los Angeles are next in line.
According to experts, a city’s digitalization is a prime concern for Gen Z-ers right now.
‘Digitalization’ is a major priority for Gen Z
Generation Z grew up using fast and reliable technologies, and they’ve come to expect exactly that in their daily life.
“Millennials and boomers are addicted to their phones. Generation Z simply hasn’t known a time without the device,” MaryLeigh Bliss previously told Global News. She’s the chief content officer at Ypulse, a millennial and Gen Z research and consulting agency based in New York.
“Tech is seamlessly and vitally integrated into their friendships,” Bliss said. “To the point where we see trends like live hangouts — live streaming one friend to another — while doing mundane things like homework. They’re not even speaking.”
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Generation Z and millennial researcher Jason Dorsy agrees. According to his research, members of Generation Z expect to use their mobile device “seamlessly in every area of their life.”
“I mean that beyond the obvious (social media, dating and banking),” he told Global News. “[I mean] to really seamlessly connect with transportation, with shopping, with rentals, with entertainment, with safety, and certainly with employment.”
He notes that several of the top cities on the Nestpick index are also considered to be international and multicultural, which makes integrated technology even more important.
“Technology is what helps to break through cultural and language differences, as well as other barriers… it can become the glue that brings people together,” and unity is a crucial value for this generation, said Dorsy.
Although it might be a new idea for past generations, prioritizing equality and inclusion is “normal” for Generation Z, Dorsy said. “Being able to live in a place where that is a priority is a big deal to them.”
Generation Z’s priorities will shift
The next step is to follow Gen Z-ers into their adulthood — a time when, according to Dorsy, these priorities are likely to shift.
“What’s important now is not just reflective of the generation but also their life stage,” said Dorsy. “When they get married and have kids… what’s important to them will shift.”
This will happen in the next five to 15 years, and Dorsy predicts it will greatly affect the Nestpick index.
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A good example is the cost of living in the top cities on the list. The cities which scored the highest overall — London, Stockholme, Los Angeles, Toronto and New York — have all been historically associated with extremely high costs of living.
However, because Gen Z-ers are still relatively young, it’s not yet considered one of their major concerns.
“This is where wishlists crash into reality,” said Dorsy. “What we see through our research is that Gen Z is the most fiscally practical generation… if you’re practical with your money, it’s even harder to justify living in an expensive city.”
Dorsy said the cost of living is a “hidden driver” which isn’t talked about enough when studying Generation Z.
“There’s always a challenge between ‘here’s everything I would want in my dream scenario’ and ‘in reality, this is what I have to spend,'” he said.
In Dorsy’s opinion, affordability is one of many things cities can prioritize in an effort to attract Generation Z.
What cities can do to attract Generation Z
There are three main things cities need to entice Gen Z-ers: affordable education, diverse job opportunities and economical housing.
“Offering an affordable education is a great way to bring [Gen Z-ers] into an area,” said Dorsy. “They’re [really focused] on trying to graduate with as little debt as possible.”
The idea being that, once a Gen Z-er is in an area for school, they’re more likely to consider seeking full-time employment and living there for the long term.
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“We certainly see that communities need to offer… more affordable housing options,” Dorsy said. “Gen Z is more practical — they’ll take a smaller place [to be] in a better area.”
Dorsy recommends that cities increase apartment and condo availability, as well as incorporate “micro-housing” into the market.
One other initiative that would attract Generation Z is an “advisory group of people under the age of 30.”
Gen Z-ers like to be involved in decision-making and planning, but “most city government tends to skew significantly older,” said Dorsy.
“Being able to have a direct line of input really does seem to help bring their perspective to the table… Giving them a vehicle for that access is really important [to them].”
— With files from Arti Patel
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