This is why young people say they are leaving Alberta

A new report says that despite rising job opportunities, more young Albertans are choosing to live outside the province.

For a report from the Canada West Foundation (CWF), young people in Alberta, Vancouver and Toronto were surveyed to find out why they moved and what they were looking for in a new community.

“They’re leaving Alberta. Some are very interested in leaving Alberta, and perhaps just as hard to hear is that young people aren’t as attracted to coming to Alberta as they used to be,” Janet Lane of CWF, co-author of the report, told the Calgary Eye Opener

“We do know that we’ve had a net migration, which means more people, more young people, have left Alberta than entered.”

From 2017 to 2021, the net emigration of people aged 25 to 29 in Alberta was 1,133 per year, which is just two percent of that age group. But because there were fewer young people in the age group behind them, Alberta had nine percent fewer 25- to 29-year-olds in 2021 than five years earlier.

For decades, Alberta saw younger people move to the province, often as a result of the oil boom. But in 2016, the trend reversed. That year, for the first time since 1988, more people between the ages of 15 and 29 left the province than entered, the report said.

The report notes that in recent decades, the number of young people moving to the province has gone hand in hand with boom cycles in the oil and gas sector. But now young people are leaving because they don’t see Alberta as a diverse economy.

“They see that the oil and gas sector is still the largest employment sector as far as they see it, and that’s perception for them,” Lane said.

She also said that especially Calgarians are interested in leaving Alberta.

Young people are no longer as attracted to coming to Alberta as they used to be.– Janet Lane, Canada West Foundation

The report says that while young people are motivated by career options when considering a move, non-economic factors — such as public transportation, cleanliness, safety and proximity to experiences — also greatly influence their decisions.

Despite a growing tech industry, relatively affordable housing, and sprawling parks and outdoor activities, the report found that many young people feel Alberta lacks vibrancy and diversity.

Most of the young people surveyed also negatively associated the province with conservatism and intolerance.

‘Huge consequences’ for youth migration

Losing the county’s youth could have “huge consequences,” said David Finch, another co-author of the report and a professor at Mount Royal University.

“If we start bleeding the best and brightest, it will have a direct impact, especially…for investors who think that if they don’t have enough competencies or expertise in this area, why would I move my company there?”

Finch said Alberta has the assets of being exceptional. It just comes down to a challenging perception.

“Young people not only within Alberta, but people outside Alberta have very traditional views of the province and the cities, both economically and socially, and so the perception is driving them away.”

To attract more young people to the province, the report recommends better communication about Alberta’s diverse career opportunities, the use of forward-thinking municipal government policies, and ongoing efforts to revitalize the community.

An accompanying report from CWF showed that all four western provinces saw job openings increase between 2019 and 2021. In Alberta, job openings rose 63 percent, while BC saw a 48 percent increase.

Which report also said: Alberta saw a drastic decline in net youth migration in 2015, after positive growth in youth migration over the past 30 years. Since 2015, migration has been negative within the subcohorts aged 24 to 29 and 30 to 34 years.

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