Muskens: Post-secondary education gives graduates an edge in job market

At a conference in Banff last week I met a man who monitored and collected data on the Canadian labour market for the federal government.

I asked him if the government is taking seriously the high youth unemployment rate and whether they have any plans to address this problem.

I was surprised by his answer: He told me the government views labour mobility as a much larger issue.

This surprised me as I always thought Canadians were the type of workers willing to move for employment.

How many people have you met who moved to B.C. from somewhere else for work? How many families do you know of where one parent, usually the father, works out of town in places such as Grande Prairie or Fort McMurray?

So what happened?

From 1971 to 2006 there has been a downward trend in labour mobility rates to a low of 0.9 per cent in 2004.

This contrasts with the 1990s when some provinces saw as many as 3.6 per cent of their workers leave.

What is happening today is that some workers will move and others will not.

Apparently workers in Quebec and Ontario are the least likely to leave their home province for work.

Age is another factor, the younger the worker the more likely they will move for employment but this is changing as young workers without a post-secondary education may find they won’t receive the wage they need to justify leaving home.

This is especially an issue today when we are coping with price increases in food and transportation.

Those who lived in small towns with less than 15,000 people were more likely to move for employment compared to those living in cities greater than 500,000.

Smaller communities tend to have fewer opportunities for young workers, chances are many moved to either attend college or university, to work or, in some cases, both.

The biggest factor influencing mobility rates is the unemployment rate.

People will move away if they can’t find work and are enduring economic hardship.

In various communities across the country if the unemployment rate increases by one per cent there is a direct correlation with increased labour migration.

This is probably why you see so many people move to resource-based growth economies such as Alberta and Northern B.C.

Based on income, those with annual incomes of less than $25,000 are more likely to migrate for employment.

Those with incomes between $25,000 and $100,000 are more likely to remain.

What’s interesting is that those making $100,000 or more were similar to the lower income earners and had a higher rate of labour migration.

Other variables that influenced workers to move were loss of EI benefits and receipt of social assistance.

Labour mobility is important because it reduces the overall national unemployment rate as workers move to where the jobs are.

It also has many advantages in terms of national economic performance.

Economists would coin it the efficient re-allocation or workers from provinces with lower productivity to provinces with higher productivity.

On the other hand, labour mobility tends to increase disparities and leads to a redistribution of human capital from poorer to richer provinces.

It also impacts on family dynamics as parents must live away from their children and young families raise their children with the support of grandparents.

It can erode our sense of extended family and community, although some would argue that social media and other technology has helped families stay connected.

Post-secondary education plays a significant role as it provides workers with greater capacity to take control of their destiny, including where they want to live.

With any credential, it’s that paper that will give you the edge you are looking for and that can include staying where you are or moving somewhere else for work.

Jane Muskens is the registrar at Okanagan College.




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