The young adults are leaving and not coming back
David I.M. Clark / May 25, 2015
So ran the headline in a recent article in the Mitchell Advocate newspaper.
The rural counties of Huron Perth, located on the shores of Lake Huron in Ontario Canada, are losing their youth, and they are not returning. This is according to a new study undertaken by the ‘Social Research and Planning Council’, a division of the United Way Huron-Perth.
Using the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) as a model, the Council looked at eight key indicators which are critical to quality of life: community vitality, democratic engagement, education, environment, healthy populations, leisure and culture, living standards, and time use. In addition, the Huron Perth study looked at key demographic data from Statistics Canada.
Primarily rural (60%) in nature, the area has one large city (Stratford, population 30,886) and many smaller communities, for a combined population of 134,212, (including Stratford). The area has 4,700 working farms. The population is ageing and there are more seniors (65 years and older) than children under 15 years of age. The unemployment rate is lower than the provincial average, but there is a higher rate of low to moderate income families ($20,000 to $60,000) than average for the province.
A most troubling finding is that many residents are leaving the area and most are young adults. About 2,000 left between the 2006 and 2011 census year, and they are not returning. The net loss was 2,000 for ages 18 to 24, and 1,245 aged 25 to 44.
Of these losses, fully 62% were intra-provincial migrations and 38% were inter-provincial. The international migration showed a net gain of 38 people (not included in the percentages above). There was a loss of 529 people moving internationally.
As a result of these migrations, Huron Perth has educational attainment levels lower than the provincial average. Of those aged 15 years and older who have not completed high school, the rate is close to 25%, whereas the provincial level is 19%. The proportion of the population who have completed university degrees is also lower, at about 10% compared to the provincial average of 23%.
These findings certainly have an effect on the economy of the area, but the nature of the impact was not discussed nor quantified in the study. Looking at the average incomes, suggests that the impact could be high. Huron Perth’s average income for full-time employees ranged from $48,443 (Perth) to $47,487 (Huron), compared to the average for Ontario of $61,495. The only city in this area, Stratford, had an average income of $50,858.
This issue is not unique to the Huron Perth area but is happening across Ontario, indeed across Canada.
The current and past studies can be found at perthhuron.unitedway.ca
David I.M. Clark
MA, BES, BA(H), MAd(Diploma)
Owen Sound Ontario Canada