The youngest generation of Canada’s workforce won’t compromise: Millennials’ “nice to haves” are becoming Gen Z’s “must haves.”

And, apparently, these essentials can be found on the country’s east coast, in the charming city of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Point2 Homes’ 2023 City Readiness Index for Gen Z highlights how Gen Z – those born between 1997 and 2012 – prioritizes mental health, financial stability, and a work/life balance. With their competitive work cultures and sky-high living costs, Canada’s largest and most fast-paced cities don’t exactly facilitate these things. At least, not naturally, anyway.

For this reason, the report suggests that the Gen Z set could shift their focus to smaller urban cities that are more aligned with their priorities (whether these cities are ready for an influx of new residents is a different story).

Analyzing 35 factors across four main dimensions revealed how ready Canada’s cities were to meet Gen Zs needs – especially the high demands and expectations of young professionals. These included income, education, cost of living, remote work opportunities, mental health indicators, and more. Each city was scored on a 100-point scale for each metric, resulting in a comprehensive ranking of the largest Canadian cities.

Researchers took into account the financial security given by local median incomes, home price-to-income ratios, and unemployment rates. They also considered the security offered by access to medical professionals and mental health services. Lastly, they analyzed air quality, walk scores, entertainment opportunities, and even the 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,” reads the report.

Of the 35 metrics that Point2 analysts took into consideration for this report, six stand out, according to researchers: Income, cost of living, house-price-to-income ratio, share of Gen Z, perceived mental health, and number of non-profit organizations.

While none of Canada’s most populous 50 cities got the perfect score, the smaller ones scored higher in affordable housing, cost of living, work/life balance, and perceived mental health, among others.

Size indeed seems to matter: eight of the top 10 cities have populations below 300,000, with some even below 200,000. Apparently, an office in the big city may no longer be the dream: aside from Montreal, none of Canada’s large business hubs made the top 10.

St. John’s takes the title for the star city of the young generation. Known for its small-town charm, “Jellybean Row” of colourful houses, scenic coastal trails, world-class seafood, and a bustling live music scene, the city earns the most points in the 35 categories that embody the ideal lifestyle for the Gen Z-er.

The city shines in the lifestyle department. St. John’s is emerging from the shadows as an increasingly popular destination for foodies, with newer restaurants having topped Canada’s best restaurant lists in recent years. Its downtown core is also known for its vibrant arts and culture scene. Of course, the downtown has been long known for housing no shortage of high-energy bars and restaurants.

The city’s residents enjoy relatively attainable housing costs for both buyers and renters. Music to the ears of those who’ve grown accustomed to sky-high rents in places like Toronto, the average two-bedroom in St. John’s will set you back just $1,795 per month, according to – hundreds of dollars less than the average one-bedroom in Toronto.

While St. John’s has been historically known for its employment in fishing, tourism, and the government, it’s become an increasingly attractive spot for tech companies in recent years, bringing with them many opportunities for skilled tech workers. In fact, Newfoundland and Labrador is expected to hire more than 2,000 employees in the next five years.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the province of Quebec is also a place to be for young professionals 18-26, based on the study's criteria. Eight of its cities made it into the top 10, with the highest scores in categories like median income, cost of living, access to health services (especially mental health support), and share of young homeowners. Regina, Saskatchewan rounds out the top 10.

While neither St. John’s nor Regina are exactly known as business hubs, and doing business in Quebec may present a language barrier for some, today’s remote work culture makes it simpler for employees to live far from their company headquarters.

With a strong desire for stress-free workplaces, a better work/life balance, and heightened environmental awareness, the bottom line is that big-city life could be losing its appeal for the younger generation.

"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,” reads the report.

Urban Living