Government-commissioned report says lack of employment opportunities, cost of living drawing people away
Why are people leaving Newfoundland and Labrador? For the most part, it’s to find a job.
A $22,000 government-commissioned report, released through access to information legislation after a request made by the Tory opposition, found a lack of jobs, a high cost of living and lacking government services as the main reasons people leave Newfoundland and Labrador.
The report was received by the government in December 2018, but was not mentioned publicly until Progressive Conservative MHA Paul Dinn brought it up in the House of Assembly on Monday.
The report, submitted by Goss Gilroy Inc., received 3,460 suitable responses out of more than 12,000 in total received. It asked expatriate Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for their reasons for leaving the province, what it would take to get them back and whether there is any chance they would return.
As for why they left, a number of trends emerge in the data. Survey takers could choose one or multiple options in each question.
Just over half (51 per cent) of respondents listed “better employment opportunities” or “to take a job” as the single biggest reason for leaving the province, according to the report.
Sixty-two per cent of respondents said they were working before leaving the province. After they left, 95 per cent of respondents said they had found a job elsewhere.
When it comes to quality of life measures, 46 per cent of respondents said “better government services” as their reasoning, with 45 per cent selecting “more leisure/cultural options” and 42 per cent selecting “affordable cost of living” as factors in their leaving the province.
Respondents were then asked to select any reasons they would return to the province. Eighteen per cent said they would not return under any circumstances.
Of those who would return, similar reasons for why people left emerge: 47 per cent said they would come back for better employment opportunities, 31 per cent said they would come back to take a job and 26 per cent said better job security would bring them back home.
Under quality of life, 46 per cent of respondents said they would return if the cost of living were more affordable, while 28 per cent said they’d come back for better government services, and a better work-life balance.
During question period in the House of Assembly on Monday, Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Minister Bernard Davis said the report will inform future policies – including a social media campaign – aimed at getting those who left to come back to Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We want them to choose to raise their families here and, hopefully, that will be the case, but sometimes when you move away and you meet people, whether it be a spouse or a partner, and create a family, it's very difficult sometimes to move them back to this province, but one thing is for sure, creating opportunity is the only way that we see as an opportunity to bring them back, so that's why this government is so committed to the cabinet committee on jobs and creating opportunity,” Davis said.
There have been 11 months of job growth in the province, Davis said.
"...creating opportunity is the only way that we see as an opportunity to bring them back." — Bernard Davis
Opposition critic Paul Dinn quoted previous drafts of the report, which show frustration with the status quo.
“The first draft shared the following information from a participant. Again, I quote. ‘The old boys club is a problem. You either need a family member in politics or someone needs to rub elbows with someone in public service or someone on a board,’” Dinn said.
“‘If you don't know them, you are a persona non grata. We weren't going to use politics or friends to get a job in Newfoundland. People should get hired on merit.’”
Statistics Canada reported the estimated population of Newfoundland and Labrador as 527,609 in the first quarter of 2018. In the first quarter of 2019, the population fell to 523,790.
The report notes the information in the report is imperfect, given the nature of a voluntary online survey, and notes the respondents were more educated and older than the average of the population, which may skew the overall results.