The most affordable city in the world for young people is … Paris?

It’s more affordable than you think.
It’s more affordable than you think.
Image: Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes
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For young people, the lure of living in Paris goes well beyond its legendary cafes and cultural offerings. Combining France’s minimum wage—generous by global standards—with prices for items that serve as something of a proxy for the lifestyle of urban youth, Paris ranked No. 1 in a new index measuring the affordability of 25 of the world’s cities from the perspective of young adults.

If that sounds unbelievable given that Paris is also, by some counts, one of the most expensive cities in the world, bear in mind that The Youthful Cities index (pdf) puts a heavy emphasis on minimum wage data—and by that measure, Paris is tough to beat. Workers there earn at least $12.84 an hour, versus $10.20 in Tokyo, and $8 in New York (it was $7.25 when the index data was compiled).

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Of course France has also recently been called a “sick” economy by its own economy minister, with its high unemployment rate and reputation for worker inefficiency. The high cost of doing business in France means that some employers consider it a risk to take on young people. So it may not be easy to find a job.

Some of the cities with the lowest minimum wage were Lagos, $0.68, Mumbai, $0.60, Mexico City, $0.53, and Nairobi, $0.14. (For cities without a legislated minimum, average minimum wage was based on typical pay for a fast-food job or other entry-level work.)

Closely behind the City of Light in the overall ranking: Toronto, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Berlin, in that order.

The index, from Decode, a youth market consultancy based in Toronto, also measured affordability based on everyday expenses for young people (rent, consumption tax, public transportation, a carton of eggs), plus a few extras, like the price of a movie ticket, fast food, and weekend getaways out of the city. For the purposes of the index, prices were expressed as the number of hours one must work at the local minimum wage to afford the item.

The cheapest movie tickets are in Rome, where people have to work only 0.92 hours at minimum wage to afford a seat at the cinema, followed by Berlin at 0.94 hour, and Paris at an hour even. Berlin was tops for rent, with residents having to work 115 hours at minimum wage to rent a furnished apartment for one month; followed by Rome (185 hours) and Chicago (189 hours). Berlin also was cheapest, by number of hours worked, for a dozen eggs, a fast-food meal, and a concert ticket.

Istanbul offered the cheapest getaways outside of the city (residents have to work 13.65 hours on minimum wage to purchase an airline ticket) and Buenos Aires had the cheapest monthly public transit pass, on the basis of how many hours you’d need to work to afford one. And Lagos, which ranked on the bottom (expensive) end for most of the categories, tied with Tokyo for the most affordable consumption tax.

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Here is the overall ranking of the 25 cities:

  1. Paris
  2. Toronto
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Chicago
  5. Berlin
  6. Dallas
  7. Rome
  8. New York
  9. Tokyo
  10. London
  11. Seoul
  12. Buenos Aires
  13. Istanbul
  14. Cairo
  15. Johannesburg
  16. Bogota
  17. Lima
  18. Mumbai
  19. Lagos
  20. Sao Paulo
  21. Manila
  22. Shanghai
  23. Mexico City
  24. Nairobi
  25. Kinshasa