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Study: Barriers to Labour Mobility in Canada

Released: 2017-11-17

Over the past five decades, the percentage of the working age population migrating to other provinces has dropped from roughly 2% in the early 1970s to about 1% in 2015.

Against this backdrop there has been long-standing interest among economists and policy makers in the factors that may encourage or impede the movement of workers from regions of Canada with higher rates of unemployment to regions with lower rates. While differences in earnings and employment opportunities across the country might induce labour mobility, factors such as housing prices, social ties and transfer payments may inhibit mobility.

The 2016 General Social Survey provides, for the first time in Canada, representative survey-based information on barriers to labour mobility collected directly from unemployed individuals aged 15 to 64 who were not students.

While 32% of unemployed Canadians reported that nothing would stand in their way of accepting a job in another province, the remaining 68% said they would not move if they were offered a job in another province.

Family and friends were the primary reason, with one-half of unemployed individuals saying they would not move to another province for work because they wish to stay close to family and friends, must provide care for relatives, or because their spouse or children would not want to move.

About 11% would not change provinces because moving would be too demanding, housing was viewed as too expensive elsewhere, or moving would not be feasible for financial reasons.

Only 1% said they would not move because their credentials would not be recognized in another province, while 6% would not move for other reasons.

The survey also asked about the prospect of mobility within the respondent's province. Among unemployed Canadians, 43% reported that nothing would stand in their way of accepting a job in another city within their home province while 57% said they would not move.

Again, family and friends was the most frequently cited factor, with 36% of unemployed individuals saying they would not accept a job elsewhere in their province for this reason. Almost 15% said they would not move within their province because moving would be too demanding for them, housing would be too expensive elsewhere, or moving would not be feasible for financial reasons. Meanwhile, 6% reported that they would not move for other reasons.

These findings highlight the importance of social networks for individuals' willingness to move to other local labour markets for employment opportunities.

Products

The research article, "Barriers to Labour Mobility in Canada: Survey-based Evidence," which is part of the Economic Insights series (Catalogue number11-626-X), is now available.

Contact information

For more information contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca).

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact René Morissette (613-951-3608; rene.morissette@canada.ca), Social Analysis and Modelling Division.

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