Newcomers find jobs, prosperity in Atlantic Canada — if they stay

Some good data and analysis in this article, which conform with the unemployment data I have looked at but not median income(slides below):

Immigrants who stay in Atlantic Canada have higher employment levels, higher wages and face less discrimination than immigrants to other parts of Canada, yet the region struggles to attract newcomers and has the lowest retention rates in Canada.

Atlantic Canada is engaged in a radical experiment in population management that has profound implications not just for this region, but for the country as a whole. The demographic bomb that threatens Canada is set to go off here first:

— Atlantic Canada has Canada’s lowest birth rate, highest median age and often sends more residents to other parts of Canada than it takes in.

— Francis McGuire, president of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, points out that there are more than 20,000 jobs unfilled in the region.

— Across Atlantic Canada, one in every five residents is already over the age of 65. That compares to a rate of one in six across Canada.

— Newfoundland and Labrador schools have lost a third of their students since 1996; more people have died than were born in the province for each of the last three years and the average age is almost three years older than the Canadian average of 41. The Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development at Memorial University predicts the provincial population will drop 10 per cent by 2036 and that some towns could see drops of 30 per cent or more.

— New Brunswick had an actual population decline in 2016 and has lost one fifth of its school-age children in the last two decades.

— In Nova Scotia, the resilient economy of Halifax is the only factor propping up the province’s population. Every region outside the provincial capital declined in the last census.

Immigration the solution

Many agree that a massive increase in immigration is an inescapable part of the solution. All four provincial governments have made boosting immigration a key priority and Ottawa has stepped in with Canada’s first regional immigration program: The Atlantic Immigration Pilot.

But deciding to transform your society with new blood is easier than actually doing it.

Only 18 per cent of the immigrants who landed in Prince Edward Island in 2011 were still there five years later. The rates are better in New Brunswick (52 per cent), Newfoundland and Labrador (56 per cent) and Nova Scotia (72 per cent), but they still fall far behind Ontario and Alberta, which kept 91 per cent of the immigrants who arrived in 2011, and British Columbia, which had a retention rate of 88 per cent over the same period.

Ottawa began shifting immigration responsibility to the provinces about 20 years ago.

The learning curve was steep. Initial programs in several provinces fell apart.

Now provincial recruiters target specific countries, make sure that potential newcomers know that Atlantic Canada is cold, rural and not particularly diverse, and they design immigration programs that encourage newcomers to settle.

How Canada’s Atlantic provinces are trying to attract – and keep – newcomers. Public Policy Forum, Author provided

The decision to come to Atlantic Canada and the decision to stay are two very different things.

Surveys show that immigrants leave the region in search of better jobs, but research suggests that’s not what they will find. In fact, immigrants in Atlantic Canada fare better economically than the average immigrant across Canada, and in some cases better than native-born Canadians.

Higher wages in Atlantic Canada

A profile of immigrant tax filers in Atlantic Canada published by Dalhousie University professors Yoko Yoshida and Howard Ramos found that immigrants to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland were more likely to be employed and earned higher wages than the average immigrant in Canada who landed at the same time. Immigrants to P.E.I. were below the Canadian average, as were spouses of primary applicants and refugees.

Professor Ather Akbari at Saint Mary’s University found that immigrants in Atlantic Canada actually earn more than Canadian-born workers with similar skills who live in Atlantic Canada, though that wage advantage has narrowed over the last decade.

Research also disputes the familiar assumption that urban areas are more welcoming than small towns.

Dalhousie University’s Ramos recently looked at actual experiences of discrimination based on ethnicity, race and language. Overall, the incidence of discrimination was far lower in rural areas than in big cities. Atlantic Canada came out particularly well, with very low rates of discrimination compared to Ontario, the Prairies and British Columbia.

To be sure, newcomers do encounter hate and discrimination in Atlantic Canada, as in any other place.

via Newcomers find jobs, prosperity in Atlantic Canada — if they stay

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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