By 2030, cities will house 60 per cent of the estimated 8.6 billion world population, and understanding the ambitions and drivers of youth will pave the way for faster economic growth, and better quality of life.


While city planners tend to focus on infrastructure, public space, access, transport and built form, it is the ambition, entrepreneurship and innovative drive of today’s youth that will help determine the vitality of tomorrow’s cities.

A global research initiative across 35 cities by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), and commissioned by Citi Foundation, determined youth are optimistic and entrepreneurial, but struggle to find work, access technology, achieve pay equity, and networks that can help them thrive.

The research included a survey of 5000 young people aged between 16-25 years across the 35 chosen cities, with 77 per cent indicating a desire to work for themselves or start their own business.

Innovation package an ingredient for youth engagement

The research was released in November 2015, so it would not have considered Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s release in early December 2015 of a $1.1 billion innovation package.

The package includes tax offsets for early stage investments in start-ups, reducing the default bankruptcy period from three years to one year, and bringing in new laws to encourage crowd-funding. Those initiatives will appeal strongly to young people seeking to start a business, and provide incentive to take on the risk inherent with start-ups.

New payment systems encourage entrepreneurism 

There is also the looming New Payments Platform (NPP), which will create the framework for innovative new services on a real time payments system. Leading payment provider BPAY has already announced the first service that will run on NPP when it goes live in the second half of 2017.

BPAY Chief Development Officer, Mark Williams, said BPAY’s offering, which allow payment to mobile numbers and email addresses, would be adopted quickly by young people.

He said it will also be an enabler of business, as it enables businesses to establish payment capabilities quickly and easily, whilst also simplifying cash reconciliation and procurement, due to information that can be included with each transaction.
“The NPP will have many new services created to ride on its infrastructure in the years ahead, and no doubt some of those as yet unformed innovations will come from today’s youth as they search for new business ideas”
“The NPP will have many new services created to ride on its infrastructure in the years ahead, and no doubt some of those as yet unformed innovations will come from today’s youth as they search for new business ideas,” said Williams.

But youth cannot, and don’t want, to be simply left to their own devices to create new ideas and businesses.
The EIU survey found there is high mobility of young people within, and travelling to, urban areas, and connection with mentors, jobs and new opportunities is fundamental to their ability to boost their economic standing.

While Australia is already a city centric nation, 47 per cent of respondents said they moved to a city within the past five years, with nine out of 10 indicating it was driven by employment or education opportunities, or a better life.

Researchers also created a Youth Economic Strategy Index (YES Index), broken down into four key categories: Government support and institutional framework for youth; employment and entrepreneurship; education and training; and human and social training.

Sydney in top 10 youth friendly cities

While Toronto topped the list as the city best prepared for catering to the needs of its youth, Sydney came in 9th. Other cities in the top 10 included, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, Taipei, Madrid, Chicago, Washington DC and Miami.

Chair of the Committee for Sydney, Lucy Turnbull, said: “I am pleased to see Sydney in the top 10, and am particularly heartened to see the city ranked first for quality of education and employment opportunities for youth, acknowledging efforts to support education and youth employment programs.

“This research provides us with powerful data about the ambitions of young people in our city and offers insights into the economic outlook of our city’s future decision-makers and leaders. It also provides important learnings from other global cities around the world that we can use to inform our efforts going forward.”

While Sydney achieved a high index rating overall, its came in 34th for cost of living. And 30th for economic growth rates and 29th for employment growth rates.

Youth unemployment needs global focus

Australia youth unemployment rate in October was 12.23 per cent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Youth unemployment averaged 13.5 percent from 1978 until 2015, reaching an all-time high of 20.22 percent in October of 1992, and a record low of 7.61 percent in August of 2008.

Averaged across the 35 cities included in the research, youth unemployment was 3.4 times higher than for the rest of society. That certainly feeds into how optimistic young people feel about their prospects. Sydney youth need a boost to their future outlook, as the city ranked 29th for optimism about future economic prospects.

But even Toronto, which topped the YES Index, ranked 30th in youth optimism, reflecting the difficult economic conditions currently being experienced in Canada due to low oil and commodity prices.
This article represents the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BPAY.
Published by BPAY Pty Ltd.  BPAY is offered by over 150 Financial Institutions. Contact your Financial Institution to see if it offers BPAY and to get the terms and conditions. This is general advice – before using BPAY please review the terms and conditions and consider whether BPAY is appropriate for your personal circumstances.

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