Which is the best city in Canada for youth to work?

Introducing the YouthfulCities Urban Work Index

We know that the world of work is changing, and that the jobs of the future will be vastly different than today’s. We know, too, that educators, policy makers, and change-makers share a collective responsibility to help young people prepare for this changing world, but how about our cities? How are our Canadian cities preparing for the future of work, and how do they fare as places for young people to work and gain an education? What makes a healthy, vibrant, youthful city?

Find out in the inaugural YouthfulCities Urban Work Index.

The Index

The YouthfulCities Urban Work Index is a research-driven report created in partnership with RBC Future Launch, which pulls together data and key insights on 21 Canadian cities, all through a youthful lens. The Index ranks each city against indicators categorized by four central themes: Employment, Education, Affordability, and Entrepreneurship, and the rankings result in a cumulative “score” for each city.

The indicators are as interesting as they are varied. Affordability indicators, for example, measure the monthly cost of a one bedroom apartment; the cost of a one month gym membership; and the cost of a monthly public transportation pass, among many others. Education indicators, on the other hand, measure the average tuition cost; the number of post-secondary institutions per capita; and the number of local, federally funded summer student jobs. Each indicator represents an important building block, adding to a comprehensive assessment model for our Canadian cities.

The Results

How did cities across Canada rank?

In the overall rankings, Edmonton was the top ranked city in the country for youth to work. Edmonton scored 713.86 points out of a possible 1310, with Montreal placing a very close second (708.13 points), and Ottawa following in third (697.91). Toronto (622.60) and Vancouver (571.00) ranked tenth and fifteenth, respectively, and Winnipeg (488.55) landed in the twenty-first spot.

Results from the Education rankings, on the other hand, paint a very different picture. While St. John’s ranked eleventh overall, it ranks first overall in Education, followed by Victoria, Quebec City, and Montreal. Oshawa, Mississauga and Halifax took the final three spots.

The Index’s education theme is organized to capture the school-to-work transition, and ranks Canadian cities on how they are facilitating this transition successfully. In this way, the Index acknowledges the fundamental role that post-secondary education plays for young workers, and captures how education sets up youth for their careers.

To be clear, the Index is not a list of winners and losers. Instead it provides a closer look at the opportunities that exist within our urban centres, and suggests where more support is needed. As the results illustrate, there is more work to be done.

The Impact

An important takeaway from this research is the expansive understanding of what ‘work’ truly means. Straightforward employment and unemployment measures are important, yes, but to understand the ‘why’ behind these measures we need to broaden our understanding of what factors into ‘work’. Work and employment do not operate in silos, but are deeply connected to indicators such as: access to education, government attitudes toward entrepreneurship, work integrated learning, and affordable housing. Creating a great city for young people to work in means broadening our definition of ‘work’ itself.

Beyond expanding our definition of work, the Index also compels us to confront Canada’s demographic reality: as the Canadian population ages, we need to make sure our cities are vibrant places for youth to work. Canada’s ‘brain drain’ is an oft-cited issue, and critical to curbing this issue is offering vibrant, affordable, and opportunistic cities for Canadian youth. As we look ahead, the YouthfulCities Urban Work Index is a great starting point to expand this dialogue.


For more information about YouthfulCities, and to download the full report, please visit YouthfulCities.com/urban-work-index.


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