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More youth leaving Alberta than moving in for first time in generations: reports

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Two studies from the Canada West Foundation show more young people are leaving Alberta than moving to the province for the first time since 1988.

The reports, titled “Work to Live: Alberta Youth Mobility” and “The Young are Restless: Western Youth Migration,” state that Alberta had nine per cent fewer 25- to 29-year-olds in 2021 than in 2016.

“They think they have no choice but they need to leave. They need to go to Toronto, Vancouver because my career path doesn't exist here,” said reports co-author David Finch, a marketing professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

Between 2017 and 2021, Alberta saw 1,133 more youth leave the province than migrate to it.

The reports cite a perception that Alberta has opportunities for those in the energy industry but not necessarily for those working in other fields.

“The noise and the narrative of oil and gas in this province is actually over-represented,” said Finch.

In compiling the reports, researchers surveyed youth in Alberta, Vancouver and Toronto.

They found a close correlation between oil industry booms and youth migration, but also that the province couldn’t count on a similar pattern amid a recent run of high oil prices.

“Alberta could always expect youth would return to the province with the next boom. However, the world has changed and so too has the oil and gas sector. Alberta’s economy and communities are in transition.”

Researchers found quality of life was among the most important factors for youth in determining where they wanted to live.

“This study found that youth in Alberta, Vancouver and Toronto perceive that Alberta does not offer a breadth of career choices, that the province lacks vibrancy and that there is a lack of inclusion of diversity,” reads one report.

The authors made several recommendations to change that perception, including career-focused education and training, as well as community improvements such as improved public transit and an overhauled Alberta brand that “emphasizes the diversity of people and opportunities in the province.”

“A turn-around in the oil and gas sector is not the answer this time,” reads the “Work to Live” report.

“Alberta will need to increase efforts to ensure that young people are aware of and engaged in building the diversified economy and communities of the future.” 

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