Skilled professionals want urban balance

Seeking professional opportunity and quality of life

Do educated working professionals want beauty and quality of life utmost in their city? Or do they want opportunity? What are they willing to put up with, and what do they expect in return for fighting the everyday hubbub of big city life?

To answer these questions, we looked inward at PwC’s own urban anthropology. PwC offices are based mainly in the central business districts of those cities worldwide that serve as regional or global hubs of our economy and culture—of course, including the 30 cities we study in Cities of Opportunity 6. PwC people also serve as a good proxy for the skilled, highly educated professional demographic that cities seek to attract—the globally mobile service sector of engineers, technicians, skilled trade workers, and others that urban economies depend on for growth.

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Moving to "opportunity"

Overall, the survey shows the world is getting smaller for the types of people who work at PwC. Cities look more alike than apart in terms of city dwellers’ desires for today and aspirations for tomorrow. PwC professionals told us:
They want opportunity foremost in a city, and they’re willing to brave the scrum and cost of London and New York to get it. People in every one of our cities, no matter how far away and often in good number (averaging 20% for London and 18% for New York as their first choice relocation) are ready to seek their fortune in the two world centers of capital markets, commerce, communications, and culture. However, the beauties of Sydney, San Francisco, and Paris are not lost on us, attracting 10%, 9%, and 5% of the survey sample, respectively.

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We recognize the good and bad of urban life and love our cities nonetheless.

Urban values are a common denominator, and opportunity is the key word. We consulted with our own professionals on city life because they offer a broad proxy for the educated, globally mobile service sector of engineers, technicians, skilled trade workers, and others upon which cities depend for growth. We also recognized PwC is among the world’s most urban and globalized businesses, organized in strategic cities to reflect the needs and footprint of our clients. Many of our almost 190,000 people work in the very cities we study in Cities of Opportunity.

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The universality of the urban experience: The powerful draw of London and New York

For educated, globally mobile professionals like those who work at PwC, what has changed in the last few decades is the universality of the urban experience. Today, the world is smaller. Urbanites speak about the same challenges, the same opportunities, and the same facts of life in cities the world over.

The top five cities PwC people select as their first choice to work in other than their current city, paint a clear picture of the urban qualities that globally mobile professionals want. The powerful draw of London and New York is striking, with 20% and 18% choosing the cities, respectively. London and New York offer a wide range of career directions, as well as the chance to excel on the firm’s, and the world’s, largest business stages.

Interestingly, the march to London and New York occurs with eyes wide open despite the hurdles posed by those massive, competitive, relatively expensive cities. News reports abound about the cost of living in London and New York (such as renting walk-in closets as flats in London or being forced to share with a small army of strangers to live anywhere near Manhattan). Both cities finish in the top 10 most expensive in the Cities of Opportunity 6 cost of living variable (although that doesn’t include accommodation expenses for rent or mortgage).

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