Top 5 Millennial-Friendly Cities in Asia-Pacific

In an increasingly globalised society, young people are more likely to have the opportunity to choose the city in which they live. To help those that might be interested in moving abroad, we decided to lay out some of the best options in Asia-Pacific based on economic and social factors.
Millennials in Singapore

Many young people are willing to move abroad in order to pursue personal and career opportunities. In fact, the World Economic Forum found that 4 out of 5 millennials would be willing to relocate internationally for work. This made us wonder which cities in Asia might be great fits for millennials. In order to investigate, we conducted a wide ranging data analysis for 20 of Asia-Pacific's most notable cities in order to help narrow down the best options for young people.

Study Highlights:

  • Singapore's robust economy makes it a great place for young people to find jobs with startups and other employers.
  • After adjusting for per capita GDP, we estimate that the cost of living is the lowest in Seoul and Guangzhou where entertainment and rent are relatively inexpensive.
  • Singapore and Melbourne topped our list for high quality of life due to their low pollution, strong health indicators and high level of safety.

Top 5 Cities for Millennials

1. Singapore

According to publicly available data, Singapore is the best city for millennials seeking to build a career and enjoy a great quality of life. Our analysis indicates that Singapore's thriving economy provides strong job opportunities for young people. For example, the city had the highest GDP per capita (S$79,000) and the second lowest unemployment rates (2.2% total, 3.96% for youth) of the 20 cities we studied, which suggests that individuals living in Singapore may find relatively easier to find good paying jobs. Furthermore, Singapore had the lowest gender wage gap. Additionally, Singapore's low levels of pollution (4th) and high safety ratings (2nd) make it a great place for anyone to call home.

Employment Prospects1st
Cost of Living7th
Quality of Life1st

2. Tokyo

Tokyo came in second in our rankings for the best cities for millennials. Japan's capital city has a great balance between a strong economy, reasonable cost of living and nice living environment. For example, the country's unemployment rate is just 2.5% and GDP per capita is among the highest of the locations in our study at about S$53,000. Additionally, we estimate that residents spend less of their income on rent compared to residents of other cities, at about 27%. Finally, Tokyo ranked extremely well in terms of low pollution and safety, putting it in our top 5 for overall quality of living.

Employment Prospects5th
Cost of Living6th
Quality of Life5th

3. Hong Kong

Hong Kong ranked third in our analysis. The city stands out due to its strong economy, with low unemployment (2.8% total, 8.12% youth) and high GDP per capita (approximately S$63,000). It also appears to be a healthy city, given it's incredibly high life expectancy (84.2 years) and low child mortality rate (0.27%). On the other hand, the city is still quite expensive. We estimate that residents spend about 31% of their income on rent, which represents a relatively high financial burden for young people.

Employment Prospects2nd
Cost of Living9th
Quality of Life6th

4. Guangzhou

Guangzhou is fourth in our ranks of best cities for millennials, which was primarily due to its low cost of living. In fact, the city was one of the most affordable cities in our review. For example, the average cost of a pint of beer in Guangzhou is just S$1.22, and we estimate the average resident spends only 22% of their income on rent. Unfortunately, for residents of Guangzhou, pollution is relatively high compared to other cities in our study.

Employment Prospects7th (tie)
Cost of Living1st (tie)
Quality of Life11th

5. Melbourne

Australia's second largest city, Melbourne, rounds out our top 5 cities for millennials. Melbourne has very low levels of pollution and was ranked highly by the Global Peace Index, both of which suggest it would be a great environment to live in. Additionally, Melbourne appears to be a relatively affordable place to live. We estimate that residents spend about 20% of their income on rent, on average. The downside of life in Melbourne is that unemployment rates in Australia are higher (5% overall, 12.49% youth) than those in other countries our list.

Employment Prospects18th
Cost of Living3rd
Quality of Life2nd

Categories Used for Ranking Cities

Our analysis incorporated a wide variety of data in order to best characterise each city's appeal for young people. We categorised this data into three groups: employment prospects, cost of living and quality of life. We then ranked cities based on these factors.

Overall RankCountryEmployment ProspectsCost of LivingQuality of Life
3Hong Kong296
7 (tie)Seoul1717
7 (tie)Shenzhen889
12 (tie)Beijing81113
12 (tie)Shanghai81410
14 (tie)Kuala Lumpur61316
14 (tie)Ho Chi Minh City41417
17 (tie)Jakarta201712
17 (tie)Bangalore131818
19 (tie)Mumbai132019
19 (tie)New Delhi131920

Employment Prospects

Finding a job is an essential aspect of moving to another country for work. In order to assess the strength of the labor market in each city, we accounted for a range of economic factors. For instance, our rankings for this category were based on youth (15-24) and total unemployment rates, GDP growth, GDP per capita and wage equality between genders. While these measures do not provide individuals with any certainty about their job prospects in a given city, we believe they broadly represent the climate of each city's job market.

Unemployment by Country

Singapore stood out in our analysis due to strong economic factors including an unemployment rate of just 2.2%, high GDP per capita (S$79,000) as well as the most equitable wage equality of any country in our study. Other factors that make Singapore a great place for millennials to find jobs include its diversity of languages, reputation as a global finance hub and appeal as a location for startups.

Cost of Living

Given the burden of student loans and other financial pressures, millennials are often price conscious. Therefore it is important to factor in the comparative cost of each city. However, assessing the cost of living between cities can be difficult. We simplified this process quite a bit by focusing on the cost of housing and entertainment. To determine the cost of housing in each city, we divided the average monthly rent in each city by the country's GDP per capita. Similarly, we used the average price of a pint of beer in each city as a proxy for the cost of entertainment in each city. We found that Guangzhou was a particularly affordable city based on the relatively high GDP per capita in China and very low rent and beer prices

Price of Beer by City

Quality of Life

It is difficult to measure something as subjective as quality of life. For this reason, we focused on a number of high level data sets in order to generally characterise all of the cities in our study. We chose to score cities based on their ranks for safety, health and pollution. To make this possible, we examined statistics including life expectancy, child mortality, a pollution index produced by Numbeo based on air pollution data produced by the World Health Organisation as well as the Global Peace Index.

Cities in New Zealand and Australia performed particularly well in this part of our analysis, as did Singapore. These cities all have low levels of pollution and crime and have relatively strong health outcomes compared to other cities in Asia Pacific.

Numbeo Pollution Index by City 2018

Methodology & Study Limitations

In order to conduct our analysis, we gathered publicly available data from sources such as the World Bank, The Economist, Deutsche Bank. We created a number of rankings within each major category (Employment Prospects, Cost of Living, Quality of Life). For example, key factors that we considered for job prospects included GDP growth rates, GDP per capita, youth (15 to 24 years old) and total unemployment rates and the World Economic Forum's Wage Equality Score for Similar Work. For the Cost of Living category, we considered average monthly rent for 39 square meters (or 1-bedroom) of unfurnished living space as well as the price of a pint of beer in each city. We considered each of these costs in terms of GDP per capita in order to adjust for varying salaries in each city.


Data Set
The EconomistGDP Growth, Unemployment Rate (total)
World BankGDP per Capita, Youth Unemployment Rate
World Economic ForumWage Equality Score for Similar Work
Deutsche BankAverage Beer Prices
NumbeoAverage Rent Prices, Average Beer Prices, Pollution Index
Nest PickAverage Rent Prices
World Health OrganizationChild Mortality Rates, Average Life Expectancy (at birth)
Institute for Economics & PeaceGlobal Peace Index

We would like to clearly state that there are many caveats to be aware of in our analysis. First and foremost, due to varying preferences, these findings are not applicable for all millennials; for example, language barrier can be a significant deterrent for some young adults considering a move. Additionally, our analysis was simplified in order to broadly illustrate relative affordability, livability and job markets. Another complicating factor is that it is difficult to find comparable data points for cities, compared to countries. For this reason, our analysis relied, in part, on the use of country level data for some. For example, we would have ideally compared the cost of living by comparing wages in each city to monthly rent in each city. However, it was not possible to find accurate and comparable wage data across cities, so we relied on GDP per capita as a proxy for income.

William Hofmann

William is a Product Manager at ValueChampion Singapore, helping consumers and SMEs find the best banking products through comprehensive analysis of data. He previously was an Economic Consultant at Industrial Economics Inc, where he conducted a variety of research and economic analyses. He graduated from University of Vermont with degrees in Economics and Psychology. His work has been featured on a variety of major media such as the Straits Times, the Business Times, the Edge, DailySocial, the Entrepreneur and more.