Life­style, jobs key to im­mi­grant re­ten­tion says re­searcher

N.S. has a re­ten­tion rate of 75 per cent, high­est in the Mar­itimes but lag­ging be­hind other parts of Canada

StarMetro Halifax - - NEWS - Si­las Brown FOR STARMETRO HAL­I­FAX

A pro­fes­sor at Saint Mary’s Univer­sity says the key to re­tain­ing im­mi­grants in Nova Scotia is be­ing able to of­fer mean­ing­ful em­ploy­ment, and sell them on “the smell of the sea.”

Ather Ak­bari, chair of the At­lantic Re­search Group on Eco­nom­ics of Im­mi­gra­tion, Ag­ing and Di­ver­sity, said Nova Scotia’s 75 per cent re­ten­tion rate can be im­proved by pro­vid­ing greater eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity.

“The re­ten­tion of im­mi­grants de­pend on many fac­tors, in­clud­ing what re­cep­tion they get in the com­mu­nity, life­style, pres­ence of sim­i­lar com­mu­ni­ties, im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties and also avail­abil­ity of jobs,” Ak­bari said in an in­ter­view.

“So what­ever fo­cus groups I have done, I found that all these are im­por­tant is­sues, but if peo­ple were given a choice to live ei­ther in Nova Scotia to go to an­other province, if they have a job of­fer, then they would pre­fer

to stay in Nova Scotia.”

Ak­bari will be pre­sent­ing some of his find­ings Thurs­day as part of the In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence in In­ter­cul­tural Stud­ies tak­ing place at Saint Mary’s un­til Satur­day. His talk, ti­tled “In-mi­gra­tion and Out­mi­gra­tion: At­lantic Canada at a Cross­road,” will an­a­lyze 2016 cen­sus data to pro­vide in­sights on im­mi­grant mo­bil­ity in Canada.

While Nova Scotia’s im­mi­grant re­ten­tion rate is the high­est in At­lantic Canada, it’s lower than the rest of the coun­try. Alberta leads the coun­try with a 97 per cent re­ten­tion rate fol­lowed by Bri­tish Columbia with 90 per cent and On­tario with 86 per cent.

Prince Ed­ward Is­land has the coun­try’s worst re­ten­tion rate, an abysmal 39 per cent, fol­lowed by New Brunswick with 60 per cent and New­found­land and Labrador with 71 per cent.

Ak­bari said the rea­son Nova Scotia is lag­ging be­hind the rest of the coun­try is the same rea­son it is the best rate in the At­lantic re­gion: jobs. Eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity and the abil­ity to be close to a sim­i­lar cul­tural com­mu­nity are the largest fac­tors in in­ter-province mi­gra­tion.

Nova Scotia’s re­ten­tion rate has al­most dou­bled since the early 2000s when it hov­ered around 40 per cent, some­thing Ak­bari at­tributes to the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment re­al­iz­ing it needed an in­flux of im­mi­grants to keep the pop­u­la­tion steady in the face of fall­ing birth rates.

“To at­tain eco­nomic growth we need peo­ple,” he said.

“Peo­ple who are buy­ers of goods and ser­vices, who are work­ers, who also pro­vide new ideas for sci­en­tists, ge­niuses, philoso­phers, all this is im­por­tant for in­no­va­tion. So in or­der to ad­dress this mat­ter we need to ei­ther en­gage the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion for higher fer­til­ity rates or we re­sort to im­mi­gra­tion.” Ak­bari says the province needs to sell im­mi­grants on the type of life­style they can lead in Nova Scotia. More at thes­tar.com

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Sim­boo, 3, runs into the arms of her mother, Jelele Etefa, as they pose for a group photo fol­low­ing a Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­mony in Hal­i­fax in Fe­bru­ary 2017. A Hal­i­fax re­searcher will speak about the ways Nova Scotia can in­crease its im­mi­gra­tion re­ten­tion at SMU on Thurs­day.

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