Why do people immigrate to Nova Scotia— and why do they leave?

Published on December 14th, 2020 at 04:00am EST

The main deciding factor on whether or not immigrants stay in Nova Scotia depends on the job opportunities that are available.

About 46 per cent of immigrants who had left the province between 2011 and 2018 reported that it was due to a lack of employment opportunities. This could be related to finding a job, or finding one that matches with their training or experience.

This, according to a recent survey of 2,815 immigrants who had either left Nova Scotia, or stayed in the province. The study was authored by Ather Akbari from Saint Mary’s University, and prepared for Nova Scotia’s immigration department.

About 74 per cent of immigrants who had arrived between 2011 and 2018 stayed in the province. Based on the intentions expressed in the survey, Akbari wrote that it is possible an additional 10 per cent of participants could also leave within the next five years, on top of the 26 per cent who had left during the study period.

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The top three reasons these respondents gave for leaving the province, or just thinking about it, were: to seek better job opportunities; better wages and lower taxes; and trying to find better healthcare. Some respondents also reported discrimination in the workplace.

Most of the immigrants who left were younger and more likely to be single. They had relatively the same education level as those who stayed. There was not a significant difference in gender between those who left Nova Scotia and those who stayed.

What are the factors in destination choice?

A combination of economic and non-economic factors influence an immigrant’s decision to move to Nova Scotia. More than 40 per cent base their choice on job opportunities for themselves and their spouse, and the cost of living.

The remaining 60 per cent base their decision on social factors. These include quality of life, safe communities, good places to raise children, and communities without discrimination.

When participants were asked to rank these factors in order of importance, employment opportunities, quality of life, and safe communities came out on top. Access to local community services and language training were ranked the least important.

How can policy makers improve the situation?

Based on the findings in the study, the report recommended that the province should focus on economic immigrants who come with their families. Economic-class immigrants had the smallest retention rate compared to family class and refugee class.

The report acknowledged the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program, which is intended to facilitate the foreign worker hiring process for employers in the four Atlantic provinces. Employer involvement is an “important step” for immigrant settlement integration through this pilot, the report says.

Finally, initiatives to encourage volunteering, as well as sports and recreation activities were also said to help in raising satisfaction with life in Nova Scotia.

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