HR can earn an advantage when understanding the livingÂ preferences of the younger generation.
By Michael Switow
For organisations looking to hire millennial talent,Â which Asian cities are the bestâand worstâplaces toÂ base company operations?
Singapore, Tokyo, and Hong Kong are the mostÂ welcoming cities in Asia-Pacific for millennials,Â according to a study by consumer research firmÂ ValueChampion. New Delhi and Mumbai tied for lastÂ place in the survey of twenty major cities.
âSingapore is the best city for millennials seekingÂ to build a career and enjoy a great quality of life,âÂ explains ValueChampion senior research analystÂ William Hofmann. âOur analysis indicates thatÂ Singaporeâs thriving economy provides strong jobÂ opportunities for young people. Admittedly itâs notÂ the most affordable place. It ranks in the middle of theÂ pack when you adjust for GDP per capita. But it ranksÂ number one for quality of life.â
Singaporeâs spot at the top of ValueChainâs studyÂ will not surprise students of the city-state. The islandÂ nation, which celebrates its 54th anniversary this year,Â consistently wins the gold medal in global surveysÂ like HSBCâs Expat Explorer and ECAâs annual locationÂ ratings. Singapore has occupied the top spot in ECAâsÂ liveability rankings every year since the survey began inÂ 2005.
âSingapore once again remains the most liveableÂ location in the world for expats relocating fromÂ elsewhere in East Asia,â says ECA InternationalÂ regional director Lee Quane. âA number of factorsÂ make Singapore the ideal location, including accessÂ to great facilities, low crime rates, good qualityÂ healthcare and education, as well as a large expatÂ population already living.â
Some analysts warn, though, that recently announcedÂ policy changes tightening the proportion of foreignÂ workers a firm can hire may affect SingaporeâsÂ attractiveness.
Millennials Are Keen to Relocate
Hofmannâs interest in determining the best placesÂ for millennials to live was sparked by a 2017 WorldÂ Economic Forum study indicating that four out of fiveÂ global youth are âwilling to live outside their country ofÂ residence in order to find a job or advance their career.â
ValueChampionâs survey analysed publicly-availableÂ data from The World Bank, The Economist, and otherÂ sources to compare youth employment opportunities,Â living costs and the quality of life in each city.
âWe tried to factor in considerations that youngÂ people might have,â says Hofmann. âWe expectÂ millennials want to live in a city with job prospects andÂ where they can advance their careers. They also wantÂ it to be a liveable place, which is why pollution, safety,Â and healthcare are important.â
Indian cities fared poorly in the ValueChampionÂ rankings, due to high unemployment and badÂ pollution. Unemployment hit nearly 7.4 per cent inÂ December, according to the Centre for MonitoringÂ the Indian Economy. Government figures putÂ unemployment at 6.1 per cent. Either way, itâs theÂ highest rate since the 1970s and bodes poorly forÂ millennial job prospects.
âCompanies will often need to provide a financialÂ incentive, what we refer to as a location allowance, toÂ encourage an employee to move to locations that areÂ further down in the rankings,â advises Lee.
Chinaâs Most Attractive Cities
Guangzhou ranks highest among Chinese cities on theÂ ValueChampion list. The average resident spends lessÂ than a quarter of their income on rent. If it wasnât forÂ costs, Beijing and Shanghai would likely rank higher.Â Shanghai is the top Chinese city in ECAâs poll, but itÂ places less emphasis on living costs.
âChinese millennialsâparticularly those with the bestÂ talent, skills and educationâmostly prefer the bigÂ cities, like Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, ShenzhenÂ because there are more opportunities. These citiesÂ are cosmopolitan with a lot of international talentÂ and new ideas, and they can keep up with the latestÂ changes in the market here,â says Career InternationalÂ President and CEO Guo Xin. âBut the cost of livingÂ in Beijing and Shanghai is skyrocketing, particularlyÂ housing costs, and itâs just too steep for many newÂ graduates.â
In Shanghai, for example, rents have been pushed upÂ recently as landlords sell off apartments in advance ofÂ a proposed new property tax that is slated to beginÂ next year.
High prices are leading many youth to look to outsideÂ the biggest cities, though itâs not just the cost of livingÂ that is driving them to regional centres like Chengdu,Â Hangzhou, and Xian.
âThese cities have a lot of policies to attract talent,âÂ Guo notes, âincluding incentives for jobs, housing,Â and assistance to new residents. The quality of lifeÂ is getting better there as well. Transportation is notÂ as jammed as in the big cities. Plus, in Beijing andÂ Shanghai, itâs even hard to buy your own car becauseÂ of the local city regulations.â
The trend towards second- and third-tier citiesÂ is guiding corporate expansion plans. CareerÂ Internationalâs newest office, for example, recentlyÂ opened in Changchun, a provincial capital with aÂ population of more than seven million in the northeastÂ of China. Businesses are also being proactive in makingÂ efforts to attract talent to the Chinese provinces.
âIn terms of effective approaches that we are takingÂ to attract and retain talent in growth cities, we helpÂ the whole family settle in so that the employees willÂ feel a stronger sense of belonging to the company,â HeÂ XinYing, the director of human resources at Shanghai-listedÂ UE Furniture, told Mercer in response to a survey.
In that survey, People First: Driving Growth inÂ Emerging Megacities, Mercer explores gaps betweenÂ what employees value and what companies thinkÂ people value when deciding whether to migrate orÂ switch jobs. Among the conclusions: The top twoÂ factors for millennials when deciding whether to moveÂ cities are life satisfaction and safety and security.Â Employers, though, place more on career and jobÂ opportunities.
Mercer polled 7,200 people and 577 employers fromÂ 15 mega-cities, each with more than U.S.$4 billion inÂ annual foreign direct investment and populations ofÂ at least three million. All four Chinese cities in theÂ surveyâChengdu, Hangzhou, Nanjing, and QingdaoâÂ scored relatively well in terms of meeting employeeÂ expectations.