The economic impacts of migrating from New Brunswick to Alberta/Saskatchewan and return to New Brunswick | UNB

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The economic impacts of migrating from New Brunswick to Alberta/Saskatchewan and return to New Brunswick

Author: Herb Emery, Ted McDonald and René Morissette
Year: 2017
Category: Population Dynamics and Immigration

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Are New Brunswickers who leave the province for work any better off if/when they return? 

For many years now, large numbers of young, working-age New Brunswickers have migrated to other provinces for work. While the most popular Canadian destinations for New Brunswickers in the past were Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Quebec, this has changed over the past 20 years, with New Brunswickers migrating more frequently to Alberta and Saskatchewan – likely due to growth and employment opportunities in the oil and gas industry. 

There is a general assumption that New Brunswickers who leave the province to work elsewhere are better off when they return. But does the evidence suggest this is true?  

To answer this question, researchers at the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training (NB-IRDT) use Statistics Canada tax-filer data to compare the characteristics and earnings of New Brunswickers who migrate Alberta/Saskatchewan and then return (i.e., “Returners”) against those of 

  • NB workers who migrate and remain in AB/SK (“Permanent Migrants”) 
  • NB workers who remained in NB. (“Stayers”)  and
  • NB workers who migrate to Alberta/Saskatchewan and then return ("returners")

Results show that Returners and Permanent Migrants experienced equally advantageous earnings gains from migrating to AB/SK. There are many possibilities why this is the case. It is possible that Returners are penalized by diminished opportunities. Perhaps they are less motivated to work for lower earnings. Maybe they accumulated enough savings to work fewer hours. 

These findings suggest that policies aiming to boost economic growth through increased GDP, immigration, and return migration in New Brunswick should focus on increasing labour demand, rather than marketable human capital.