Who is affected?
Indeed the increase in out-migration of youth from the province of P.E.I. is worrisome. Over the past decade, P.E.I. has lost more than 6,500 people aged under 45 to inter-provincial migration (CBC Web, 2016). The phenomenon not only affects the youth in the province but everyone and the province itself. Out-migration for youth has its pros and cons. While much attention has been given to the immigration of youth to PEI, what of the loss of our youth? The biggest negative impact on our province is the fact that young graduates, skilled labour and professionals, leave to offer their services to another province. The skills offered by new nurses, veterinarians, metal workers, electricians, engineers and other professionals are lost to other provinces. With an aging population, this problem is made worse on P.E.I. because many young people are leaving, while at the same time older people are moving into the province (CBC. web). Due to the out-migration of our island's graduates, there has also been higher demand for young people in the work force, and it is becoming more difficult to fill minimum wage or entry level positions (CBC P.E.I., 2015). In addition, businesses do better with bigger markets and more buyers. A growing and healthy population often provides the needed market for economic growth and development.
There are many contributing factors as to why young Islanders are leaving our province. The three issues we will focus on are: Islanders believe jobs in other provinces offer better pay, that it is harder to receive notable promotions on Prince Edward Island, and also that some people aren't satisfied with what Prince Edward Island has to offer in terms of a career path.
Cause 1: Salary Perceptions
As I mentioned above, one of the main issues we focused on was how a lot of jobs in other provinces often offer higher pay. This, in our opinion, is a huge factor when youth consider leaving Prince Edward Island. Take Alberta for example, a few years ago almost anyone could go there and find work with very enticing pay. The demand for workers has subsided over the past couple of years, but the base pay for a lot of the jobs out west are still is much more than what a lot of jobs offer here. For example, we conducted a quick job search for bookkeepers on the job-bank website. On Prince Edward Island the offered hourly wage for a bookkeeper was between 13 and 15 dollars per hour (Province and Territory, 2016). However, in Alberta the average wage for a bookkeeper was 20 to 25 dollars per hour. If both of these jobs were for 40 hours per week the wages would range from 520 and 600 dollars on PEI and 800 to 1000 dollars when working in Alberta. That difference, in our opinion, is substantial. Sadly, Alberta is not the only province that can, and does, offer a more competitive wage. Below we attached a chart which compares Prince Edward Island’s average weekly wage to each province and territory in Canada as well as Canada as a whole.
Cause 2: Perceived Lack of Job Diversity
Another notable reason as to why youth are leaving our island is because it is difficult to “climb the ladder” with many jobs here, or, there are limitations to the size of the ladder. In my experience it is common to have to leave P.E.I. in order to grow with many companies. For example, you can have an entry level position at a bank on P.E.I. and you can move up to several other positions in the retail branch, but if you wish to join the executive team, you must move to work wherever that company's head office is. This can make getting promotions, especially notable ones, extremely difficult if you aren't mobile. A lot of big companies, like TD Bank and Shoppers Drug Marts, do not have head offices in the maritimes. In order for workers to get the "big promotion," typically they must be willing to travel or move permanently. On top of that point, Prince Edward Island’s economy relies on small, locally owned businesses. The abundance of locally owned small businesses here are one thing that differentiates our island from most other Provinces in Canada. It can be extremely hard for these small business owners to offer competitive wages and promotions relative to the offers that larger corporations may offer. P.E.I. has a small population and in order for a lot of small businesses to stay afloat and be competitive with big corporations they must keep their expenses to a minimum. Often times, one of those main expenses is wages.
Cause 3: The Reputation of P.E.I.'s Social Scene
Solution 1: Relative Salary Awareness
In response to our first mentioned cause of youth out-migration which was negative salary perceptions, we propose that the province and employers provide more awareness of the lifestyle that the typical island salary can afford vs other provinces. We also propose that they make a few adjustments to make living on P.E.I. a little bit more affordable.
If we want to compare salaries between provinces, there is so much we must take into account. The cost of living includes things like groceries, property taxes, personal taxation, gas and home heating oil, real-estate, education, and many personal services. To compare the prices of real estate, we have decided to compare island prices to those of Alberta. The typical home in Alberta costs $404,000 while on P.E.I. the cost is an average of $180,000 to purchase a home. Although the typical island salary might be less, we would suggest that by looking at home prices, perhaps the wages are more comparable than people think. It is perceived that wages earned out west are much more than here, but it is also perceived that there is a high cost of living out west. We would suggest that the two are much more comparable than people think.
The reason that many islanders might be struggling on their $40,000 per year salary is not necessarily because their employer isn't paying enough, but because there are still two prominent causes of the high cost of living on PEI: High provincial personal taxation and the high cost of groceries (Government of Canada, 2016). More offerings of grocery choices of P.E.I, would help to mitigate the monopoly that corporate grocery stores have on the island food market.
There is little awareness of the programs on PEI which offer locally grown Island fruits and vegetables for low costs. Not only would it be beneficial to the economy for us to support our local growers, but the cost of fruit and vegetable supplies could be as low as $20.00 per week which would help islander's save money and eat healthy. It is our opinion that there is still a lot of opportunity for growth of local farmers who could be better leveraging community relationships. New grads with a background in marketing and sales might be the perfect solution to solve the problem of the high cost of island groceries. As for the high provincial tax rates, we will have voice our opinions and vote accordingly at election times if this is one of our concerns.
Solution 2: Encourage Job Diversity
There are many solutions to the lack of job diversity of P.E.I., but what is more important is how islanders perceive the job market. Anywhere in Canada, there will be competition for jobs, and there will be limitations to that geographical area. Of course large cities will provide more job diversity, but not necessarily more opportunities. There is one special advantage that Prince Edward Island has in the job market, and that is that there is such little diversity. This means that there is room to create, and room to grow. There are committees, buildings, and campaigns popping up around P.E.I. which are trying to promote entrepreneurship and new growth. One such business is the Start up Zone in Charlottetown. This business is a space for new entrepreneurs to come and work, make social connections, take advantage of networking opportunities, and learn from other entrepreneurs.