Working Age People Drive Inter-provincial Migration

August 22, 2013
Ken Peacock

After many years of a net inflow of people from other parts of Canada, BC is now in a period of net interprovincial outmigration. As the graph below depicts, net migration tends to cycle up and down, largely reflecting relative economic strength and job opportunities. This is the fourth period of negative interprovincial migration BC has experienced since 1970.

BC Net Interprovincial Migration

The next two graphs below show the actual number of BC interprovincial migrants by 5-year age cohorts. Not surprisingly, people in their 20s and early 30s are the most mobile. After that the propensity to move to another province declines steadily with age. If one looks closely at the differences between the two charts, it is evident that the core working age group (people 15 to 44) are the ones who drive much of the fluctuation in the migration numbers. For the year 2011/12, up to the age of 44 the number of people moving to other provinces exceeded the number moving to BC. Collectively the net outflow amounted to 4,780. For people aged 45 to 64, there was a net gain of 567 and over the age of 65 the net increase was 353. In contrast, back in 2006/2007 (when our economy was comparatively strong) there was a net inflow into BC across all age groups. In that fiscal year, the core working-age group population increased by 7,674.

BC Interprovincial Migration by Age Cohorts, 2011/2012, persons

BC Interprovincial Migration by Age Cohorts, 2006/2007, persons

The final graph shows the three age groups (core working age, middle age/pre-retirement years, and post retirement years) over time. Depicting interprovincial migration patterns in this manner makes it clear that the group between the ages of 15 and 44 accounts for most of the fluctuation in migration (the net flow fluctuates between -10,000 and +25,000). In comparison, for the group between the ages of 40 and 64, migration patterns are more stable with BC typically seeing a net annual inflow between 2,000 and 5,000. Apart from just two years in the late 1990s, net migration for this group has always been positive. And as most people would guess, BC always gains more people over the age of 65 than we lose to other provinces. Note, however, that the annual inflow of retirees is not that large in absolute terms, typically being in the hundreds.

BC Interprovincial Migration by Age Groups, persons

Labour mobility across provinces is undoubtedly a good thing from a Canadian perspective; but if BC continues to see steady outflows of working age migrants to other provinces, this will pose a challenge to BC employers seeking qualified workers and also suggests that BC is lagging other provinces in providing appropriate employment opportunities.

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