Toronto most youthful city in the world, global index says

WATCH: Interview with Robert Barnard, co-founder of Youthful Cities.

TORONTO – Toronto is the most youthful city in the world, topping New York City, Paris and London, a new report suggests.

The Youthful Cities Index’s inaugural report is a new global comparison stacking the world’s countries side-by-side looking at where youth see the most potential for work and play. It named Toronto as the ‘Youthful City of the Year’ in 2014. 

“It’s a city that’s amongst the most diverse in the world. It’s got a great film and music scene and it’s on the leading edge of things like digital access. On an economic standpoint, it’s a pretty good place even up against its American competition,” Robert Barnard, cofounder of Youthful Cities, told Global News.

READ MORE: Canada is 6th happiest country in the world, global study finds

“The excitement comes from the diversity and the playful aspects of Toronto. And there’s balance to it – overall it seemed to do pretty well in everything.”

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Toronto was followed by Berlin, NYC, Dallas, Paris, Chicago and London, according to the report released Monday morning.

Youthful Cities says its index is the first to quantify on a global scale which cities are the most attractive to people between 15 and 29 years old.  A string of factors were looked at: do employment opportunities or support for entrepreneurship look bleak for young people? How much is a movie ticket, a month of rent, a subway ride or a dozen eggs? What kinds of options do I have for night life, concerts, film festivals?

Younger generation in the workforce

The fledgling index in its first year is an important one for economies to take note of, Barnard said. Ultimately, a city’s fate is left in the hands of its youth. They’re the ones who will be bringing their skills and savvy to a region’s workforce.

Right now, more than half of the world’s population is under 30 and more than half of these youth live in cities.

They’re educated and delaying marriage, parenthood and settling down so they could migrate to other parts of the world for work. This index could help cities recognize what’s important to this growing segment of the workforce.

READ MORE: Childbirth economics: What older moms and teenage pregnancy say about opportunity in Ontario

“Youth are the closest thing we have to the future. Urban youth has a negative connotation but it’s really about changing the conversation and engaging young people to build better cities,” he said.

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Barnard said young people were included in every step of the process – from creating the comparisons, to data collection, weighing in and reporting the results.

Five of the largest cities in five main regions of the world were isolated for the index. For example, in English North America, Chicago, Dallas, Los, Angeles, NYC and Toronto were selected. In Europe, Berlin, Istanbul, London, Paris and Rome were shortlisted and in Asia, Manila, Mumbai, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo were in a grouping.

READ MORE: Canada’s baby bump: highest rates of youth in Alberta, Quebec, Saskatchewan

The index is meant to compare how countries fared in a list of things that are important to young people. That included indicators like:

–          Economic status: A high minimum wage, good annual income, affordable housing

–          Political participation: voting age, youth voter turnout, volunteer opportunities

–          Diversity: openness to LGBT communities, immigrants, different religions

–          Employment: youth employment rates, employment rates post-graduation and student debt levels

–          Encouragement of entrepreneurship: startup loans, age to register a business

Dozens more categories – from safety, cost of groceries to commute times and variety of nightlife – were also included. In total, there were 112 indicators.

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It was diversity and entertainment that put Toronto over the top. It was mere points away from Berlin and New York City, though.

Toronto didn’t fare well in civic engagement – voting, taking part in municipal politics – and in mental health, where suicide rates in the general population are high, Barnard said.

READ MORE: Young Minds: Stigma keeps youth suffering from mental health issues in the dark

The findings from the youth perspective mirror the current state of each city. In Rome and many parts of Europe, for example, an aging population and a crippled economy brought the historic city down in the rankings. London was weighed down by the eurozone’s troubles even with a fairly young population and lots of things to do.

But not every city was hit by its economic circumstances. Johannesburg, for example, had high youth unemployment rates but young people applauded its assistance with helping entrepreneurs. It came in 14th place.

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1.                   Toronto

2.                   Berlin

3.                   New York City

4.                   Dallas

5.                   Paris

6.                   Chicago

7.                   London

8.                   Los Angeles

9.                   Tokyo

10.                Seoul

11.                Buenos Aires

12.                Mexico City

13.                Rome

14.                Johannesburg

15.                Lima

16.                Mumbai

17.                Sao Paulo

18.                Bogota

19.                Istanbul

20.                Shanghai

21.                Cairo

22.                Manila

23.                Lagos

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24.                Nairobi

25.                Kinshasa

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