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Leading Economic Change: Population Change


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Issue #3 of Leading Economic Change from the Nova Scotia Association of Regional Development Authorities.

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Leading Economic Change: Population Change

  1. 1. Population Change Leading Economic Change Number 3, March 2012Where Have All The People Gone?Population counts from the 2011 Census were released major cities, in suburban and rural early February. From 2006 to 2011, Canada’s totalpopulation increased by 5.9% while Nova Scotia saw Migration is also complex for communities,only 0.9% growth. We only out-performed the especially when considering both the in- and out-Northwest Territories. Even Newfoundland & Labrador flows. Surprisingly, the greatest out-flows are fromleft Nova Scotia in the dust, posting growth of 1.8%. economically prosperous cities rather than rural areas. On the surface we only see the net effect:Within Nova Scotia, only four counties saw notable more people arriving than leaving.population gains: Halifax, Antigonish, Hants andColchester. Meanwhile, sizeable declines (of 4% to 10%) In Newfoundland, for example, high out-migrationwere recorded in Cape Breton, Guysborough County, rates were never the problem. Newfoundland’sand the South Western region. communities have struggled for decades with too few people choosing to in-migrate.The media and general public have focused on agingand urbanization as the causes of this change, and they It turns out that population mobility actually helpsare partly right. Birth rates have fallen dramatically regions adapt to economic change. In economicsince the baby boom. Meanwhile, cities continue to terms, people leave regions where their skills aredrive the post-industrial economy. People around the not needed or valued. They move in search of theworld are being drawn to urban life in search of right opportunities for themselves and theireconomic and socio-cultural density. families. Then new arrivals bring with them new skills that match local labour market needs.But not all migrants have the same motivations. Whilemigration almost always begins with economic These market forces are leading to a newconsiderations, it is also a social and emotional decision. economic development reality: less focus onIt is a major biographical event. Some groups, like young attracting jobs and more on attracting & cultivatingfamilies and recent retirees, often choose to live outside skills. NSARDA is the link between the Nova Scotia RDAs, providing support and collective strength. Since 1999, the Association has helped the Nova Scotia RDAs in improving the economy of communities across Nova Scotia. For more information about NSARDA and the Nova Scotia RDAs please visit Leading Economic Change: A Discussion Paper Series from NSARDA
  2. 2. How Can Community EconomicDevelopers Respond?Population decline is part of the economic “domino learning and transferable skills are increasingly vital.rally” that Nobel Prize winning economist Gunnar They allow a workforce to adapt, rather than migrate.Myrdal called “cumulative causation.” His idea was thatcomplex social problems result from vicious cycles. Job Meanwhile, training for under-employed individualslosses can cause out-migration, lower consumer (such as Aboriginal, African-Canadian, and Disabledspending, and declining public revenues & services. In persons) increases their participation in the labourturn, these cause further job losses. market. It ensures that every individual can fully engage in meaningful work.Reversing these factors can slow the spiral.Traditionally, economic developers focused solely on And engagement is key. More than sheer numbers ofattracting new employers. But population change has people, our regions need every individual to becreated skills shortages, making it difficult to attract productive and innovative. We need to make full use ofjobs. There is now a question of which comes first, jobs our diverse human capital: talents, knowledge, andor people. Many regions have responded with competencies.successful campaigns to attract skilled immigrants, The “war for talent” is also not simply about attractingreturn migrants, and newcomers. And some regions the “best and brightest”. It is about developing andhave also promoted education and training for the nurturing “the right talents”. It requires deep insightexisting population. into current and future economic opportunities. AMyrdal called education, “the major hope for improving population, workforce, or human capital strategy isthe individual and society.” Adult education is an often a good place to start.extremely effective tool for reversing these downward We all know that there is no silver bullet fordeclines, particularly when offered to displaced and population change. But there are many ways to builddisadvantaged populations. This was the essence of human capital. And once we get started, human capitalCoady’s Antigonish Movement, and the foundation of grows cumulatively from one generation to the next.Community Economic Development in Nova Scotia.Training helps displaced workers realign their skills to Ryan MacNeil, EcD, is Principal of Ryan MacNeil & Co., a company that helps development leaders & organizations become focusedlocal labour market needs. The new reality is that few and effective. Reach him at today will hold one career for life. Life-long Who is working on it? Nova Scotia’s Regional Development Authorities (RDAs) have been building human capital since their creation. In fact, “Skills, Learning and People Development” is considered one of the core RDA service areas. For example, last year, the Colchester Regional Development Association sent 345 “Colchester Cares Kits” to students who are away at university, welcomed 32 new immigrants, and supported 25 training programs with 316 participants. One of the three pillars in Nova Scotia’s jobsHere strategy is, “Learning the right skills for good jobs.” A comprehensive Workforce Strategy was released in November 2011. This work is led by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education in partnership with Economic and Rural Development and Tourism. The federal government is also encouraging training and education with the current phase of Canada’s Economic Action Plan. The plan’s focus on jobs and growth includes support for apprentices, older workers, and employers. Leading Economic Change: A Discussion Paper Series from NSARDA