Nova Scotia stems youth out-migration.

AuthorRobinson, David

Younger people are leaving the North in droves to find work and better education, according to well, just about everyone. Youth out-migration and the brain drain has been a concern since the 1980s. No one has really tried to do anything about it. Now the aging population and a growing labour shortage have added to the problem.

Most are putting their money into attracting international immigrants. You know, people who will travel tens of thousands of miles to an area where locals don't see great opportunities. It might work. Or it may be time to think more seriously about Northern youth. Retaining their slightly used brains may be more efficient than importing new ones.

The main causes for youth out-migration are a lack of employment, education opportunities and fun. In fact, far more leave for jobs than for education and fun, together, according to a report by Stats Can.

Economic development is the only long-term answer to outmigration.

And, obviously, many kids should leave the North. It is a bit of a problem for us in the North that the most academically able, creative, innovative and entrepreneurial are most likely to leave and least likely to come back.

Young people with post-secondary education are 23 per cent more likely to leave than stay. High school graduates were 25 per cent more likely to stay than leave. It is not really a problem for the economy, as a whole, that talent moves to where it is needed. It is a problem for the long-term sustainability of Northern communities.

So what does the research tell us about keeping young people in rural areas? First, that everyone is having the same problem. Rural Quebec and Nova Scotia, Mongolia and parts of Nigeria all suffer from declining and aging populations. They all wonder whether they can make themselves attractive to young people.

Second, once young people with postsecondary education get into their 30s, the chance they will leave drops dramatically. Get them back for their 20s and they are likely to stay.

The third message from the research is that there are strategies that can increase youth retention and return. They take a community-wide effort. Nova Scotia, for example, with a population just 25 per cent larger than ours, was losing 1,300 young people a year. Population was aging, businesses reported labour shortages, government revenues were in decline. The province...

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