Young adults represent the future of our economies and are our current and future parents.  Data shows that they are increasingly to be found working in cities in many countries around the world. Countries such as China are trying to deter more young people from moving to urban areas because they are needed in farming communities.  In Sussex, England they are also taking steps to reverse an exodus of young people. Strategies include considering better tourism, transportation, housing, industrial and commercial development, reducing the regulatory burden, and agricultural development.

Here in New Zealand, a country built on farming, there has been discussion in recent months about the future of rural communities and ways to attract young people to rural areas and smaller towns.  Businesses and the farming sector need them if they are not to close down altogether.  Those who do choose to live in such areas have plenty of space for their children, a significantly more affordable house, and often a very similarly paying job.  Yet, it seems young people are still attracted to cities.

Here are some interesting dotmaps using New Zealand Census data to show population changes between 2013 and 2001. There is one blue dot for each new person in census area units that experienced population growth over this time, and one red dot for each person lost in areas where the population shrank.

The data defines young adults as those aged 20 to 34, because it is people in this age group who are moving into the workforce, starting families, and buying houses. Where people choose to live is a good indicator of their earnings and the cost of living. 

The maps show that the youth population increased in all of the major cities, and declined in many other areas.  However, within the major cities, young people have been forced out of the central suburbs due to high house prices and land values into either fringe suburbs or apartments in the very centre of the CBD.  This doesn’t look good for families if this also means smaller plots of land and smaller houses.  However, some positive changes have taken place with city planners taking more notice of the number of families within the CBD. Recently Auckland’s waterfront has become more family friendly with more playgrounds in the central business district being built and the council offering more family friendly aimed events such as movies in parks.  Any positive change supporting parents must be a good thing for our cities.  It is also so important to keep lots of big green spaces when children increasingly don’t have these at home.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...