How Canadian cities fare in the eyes of Gen Z

New research suggests the country is an attractive place to work, but improvement is needed on digital integration and affordability.
Gen Z

The eldest members of the Gen Z cohort are beginning to graduate from university this year and will be entering the workforce at a time of rapid change and global instability. Luckily for Canada, several of the country’s largest cities appear well-aligned with the concerns and values of the demographic, putting them in a good position to compete globally.

A new survey by apartment search site Nestpick suggests Toronto ranks number four worldwide in the eyes of the cohort, while Vancouver and Montreal also place within the top fifteen cities deemed most attractive to the demo, based on a variety of social factors.

The study looked at 110 prominent cities and ranked them according to 22 different criteria, including education, privacy, affordability and the AI industry, to better understand how well prepared they are for the up-and-coming generation. Results were based on the Pew Research Centre’s definition of Gen Z, meaning those born between 1997 and 2012 who have grown up in a similar social, political and technological context.

Previous research suggests Gen Z value security, diversity and autonomy, a finding that was backed up once again in the Nestpick survey. That means they are drawn to cities that are perceived as being technology integrated. They’re also attracted to places that have a strong entrepreneurial spirit fostered through factors such as affordability, the density of social enterprises and the number of coworking spaces, as well as cities that demonstrate a focus on gender equality, environmental action and multiculturalism.

Based on these factors, it seems Canadian cities are in a fairly strong position to attract Gen Z talent.

When it comes to catering to the digital needs of Gen Z, Canadian cities are middle-of-the-pack, with Toronto ranked #42, followed by Vancouver (#47), Montreal (#55), Quebec City (#67) and Ottawa (#78). The cities have average rankings on the factors of government digitization and digital social habits (such as social media use and mobile applications for productivity and news) and ranked poorly on government commitment to protect user privacy and online security.

On education, Toronto took tenth place for the number of higher education institutions that offer degrees in computer science, technology, and innovation-focused programs within a 200-km radius of the city centre. In addition, Toronto ranks #7 for the development of its AI industry, a particularly important factor for members of Gen Z, who have grown up in a world where AI is expected to replace a number of jobs, leading to an interest in fields that are highly technical.

The cities also perform well when it comes to connectivity  Ottawa is ranked #16 worldwide  on digital payment and banking (Canadian cities take the #7 through to #11 spots globally) and on digital mobility and the sharing economy, with Vancouver ranked #9.

Canadian cities also collectively fare well on gender equality (ranking between #27 and #31), while Quebec City ranks #33 globally for LGBTQ+ rights and Vancouver and Ottawa land at #28 and #29, respectively, on environmental action. Toronto, meanwhile, ranks sixth in the world for its commitment to internationalism, while all Canadian cities place in the top 30 on the question of the right to protest.

Also of importance to Gen Z, Canadian cities hold their own when it comes to business and economic outlook.

Quebec City, for example, places at #13 for entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. And while Toronto ranks low (#42) on the number of co-working spaces available, it performs extremely well on social entrepreneurship: #2 in the world for the number of social enterprise start-ups, with the city offering the right conditions to start and grow a business. In total, four of the top-ten cities were Canadian when it came to overall business outlook.

Nevertheless, affordability remains a big challenge for Canadian cities in the eyes of Gen Z, with Montreal ranking #42, followed by Quebec City (#48), Ottawa (#55), Vancouver (#69) and Toronto (#95).