Interprovincial Migration

Figure IPM-1. Interprovincial Migration to/from Saskatchewan, 1973-74 to 2002-03.
Canadian Plains Research Center
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The comment is often heard that Saskatchewan’s most valuable export is its young people. There is more than a grain of truth in this: the province’s population has been kept at or near one million by the large number of Saskatchewan residents who move to other provinces.

Interprovincial statistics are best examined on a net basis—the number of people who move to the province relative to the number who leave. This is because Saskatchewan is a destination as well as a source for interprovincial migrants.

Figure IPM-1 shows interprovincial migration over the past thirty years (the most recent years are preliminary estimates). Several observations can be made about the flows, the most obvious one being that the net flow has only been positive for six of those thirty years. In and out migration were roughly in balance in the first ten years of the period, that is until the mid-1980s. The net outflow averaged just over 1,000 people per year, compared with an average of 9,000 per year from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Out-migration has slowed in the last ten years, with an average outflow of 5,000 people per year.

Most of the province’s interprovincial migrants —both those who come and those who leave—are young adults because they are the most mobile and arguably the most drawn to opportunities away from home: in the most recent ten years, 40% of those who left the province and 39% of those who came were in the 20–34 year age group. Alberta is the destination of choice for Canadian interprovincial migrants, and Saskatchewan is no exception. Indeed, the proximity of Alberta may be one of the reasons for the province’s perennial migration outflow: over the most recent ten years, 55% of out-migrants have gone to Alberta. British Columbia is a distant second with 18% of out-migrants. Alberta is also the most common origin for people moving to Saskatchewan: over the same ten years, 46% of those moving to Saskatchewan from other provinces came from Alberta.

Saskatchewan is not the only province that loses people to interprovincial migration, although it is a major concern here. The young people who leave are the source for future population growth and major contributors to the economy as they work, build homes, and send their children to schools. They also tend to be the ones with the highest level of the education and often the most willing to accept change and do things differently. The province is therefore poorer without them.

Doug Elliott