05 July 2008

The challenge of demographic change (1)

The population of Newfoundland and Labrador is changing.

The most recent analysis by Statistics Canada for the period 2003-2007 reveals some interesting trends.


The chart at right shows the population change in the St. John's census metropolitan area by contributing factors.

Natural increase - that is the net of deaths and births  - is the smallest factor.  That's the little yellow blocks.  While births outnumbered deaths in the years shown, the net increase has dropped from 249 in 2004 to 114 in 2007.

Net international migration - the people coming and going internationally  - is also a small contributor.  It's down from a peak in 2004 of 522, hitting the lowest point  (271) in 2006.

Interprovincial migration - the movement between provinces - showed the only net decline of the four factors.  Each year shows a net loss (more out than in) for this factor, with the peak in 2005 of 1088.
Think about this one.  Despite the booming economy, there are more people leaving St. John's to work in other provinces in each of the past five years than are coming here.  This tends to poke a big poke in the homing pigeon theory of how the labour shortfalls in the local economy will sort themselves out.

The biggest source of population change in St. John's in each year, though, has been net intraprovincial migration, that is movement from outside the overpass into the capital. It's coloured red on this chart just to really draw your eye to it.

Almost 1500 more people moved into St. John's from the rest of the province in 2004, 2006 and 2007 than moved from St. John's to points beyond Paradise.



WJM said...

But, Ed - according to that chart, inteprovincial outmigration from St. John's was higher in 2005, 06 and 07 than it was in 03, before Danny Williams came into office.

Considering that everything was terrible before He came along, and everything is wonderful now that He is here, how is that possible?

Oh, now I get it. Your figures MUST be wrong.

Either that, or it's Statistics CANADA shafting us again to get back at Us for the Accord. Maybe We should compile Our own statistics.

Edward G. Hollett said...

All jokes to one side, one of the things I have been consistently pointing to is a longer term trend in demographics that was identified quite some time ago.

The patterns of internal migration, both within Canada and within Newfoundland and Labrador have been going on for some time.

In other words, this isn't about a particular party or a particular premier. There are issues here which need to be tackled consistently over a long period of time.

Part of the underpinning of the SEP, which I have been serializing, is increased productivity.

Well in the early 1990s the changes in demographics may not have been fully realised but they certainly were by the time the SSP was approved by cabinet for release in 1995. I'll be serialising that too, since the document was never distributed.

The new Tobin administration went down another road and, in fact, ordered the destruction of the 1,000 copies of the real SSP. Some survived, thankfully.

One of the points made pretty forcefully in it was the need to adjust spending based on changing demographics while over in the economic area increased productivity would help cope with the dependency ratio problem.

What we've seen over the decade since the SSP was shelved has been a piecemeal approach through three administrations to the economic side of things. There's been a heavy emphasis on megaproject development driven by government.

The less sexy developments driven by entrepreneurship and competitiveness haven't really been supported fully (it's a mindset not a cash issue). To my mind, those sorts of initiatives are the ones that can help create alternatives to moving away.

Another part of the demographics issue is that these are not issues which government can actually prevent. They can only cope with the impacts and implications.

The bootie call ($1000 per live birth) is an example of government policy that completely misses the substantive issues in demographics. It looks good politically but it is superficial.

Aside from the fact it hasn't worked anywhere else, paying people to have babies doesn't produce jobs that will, in the end, keep those kiddies in the province earning money and paying taxes.

Think about it for a second. Why do people leave, as they have been leaving in droves for decades? It's because of jobs. Paying them a grand to spit out a baby won't change that. We were the most fecund crowd outside of the Third World in the 1950s and 1960s and those babies packed up and left in the 70s and 80s and into the 90s.