New research needed to deal with provincial demographic challenges
From baby booms to aging boomers, a new report on the demographics in the province recently commissioned by the Harris Centre tells the story of the rapidly changing faces in Newfoundland and Labrador. The report, prepared by Dr. Lisa Kaida and Chris William Martin of Faculty of Arts (Sociology) at Memorial University, assesses the complex demographic and labour market challenges facing the province, the impact they pose to the province’s economic and social sustainability and growth, and also makes recommendations for future research and policy direction.
The report states that in 1996, the province’s largest age groups were in their 30s to mid-40s and in their teens to mid-20s. Fifteen years later in 2011, the baby boomers, now in their 50s and 60s, comprise the largest age group in Newfoundland and Labrador, while their children have not followed suit. The province’s population pyramid has become an inverted one.
“No doubt Newfoundland and Labrador is facing a dramatic shift in demographics,” said Dr. Kaida. “The young adult population has dramatically reduced in rural areas, the baby boomers are aging, and most of the provincial population growth is occurring in the urban centres. These demographic changes have significant implications for labour markets and economic development in the province.”
Through an examination of over 70 projects, events, and presentations that have been supported by the Harris Centre over its first ten years, Dr. Kaida and Mr. Martin point out that the demographics of the province are rapidly changing and this will cause continued challenges to social and economic growth and sustainability. As such, the authors describe a variety of policy measures and other initiatives that have been discussed by a number of experts over the past ten years that can help improve the declining populations and labour shortages. The report also highlights the unique role of Memorial University in helping to grapple with these challenges.
Dr. Kaida and Mr. Martin conclude that additional research will be needed to get ahead of these changes. They suggest research should focus on gaining a better understanding of the experiences of the growing number of international students attending Newfoundland and Labrador’s post-secondary institutions; examining the prevalence and nature of precarious nonstandard employment—e.g. low-paying, insecure temporary, seasonal, and/or contract work—in the province; examining the disproportionate amount of migration to the Northeast Avalon; as well as the need to place the consideration of Newfoundland and Labrador’s challenges in a broader global context to learn, and share lessons with other regions experiencing similar phenomena.
“Universities, and organizations like the Harris Centre, can play a unique role in the province’s regional development and sustainability,” said Dr. Kaida. “Over the next ten years, the province stands to benefit from light being shed by Harris Centre work on other underexplored topics like urban areas, international student populations, and putting the province’s regional demographic and labour market issues in broader national and global contexts.”
The report is the first of five thematic reports commissioned by the Harris Centre, in recognition of the its tenth anniversary, to assess what significant issues the province has faced over the past ten years and what issues can be anticipated in the coming ten years. The series of reports include topics such as Governance and Public Policy, Regional and Rural Development, Environment and Natural Resources, Social and Cultural Development, as well as Dr. Kaida and Mr. Martin’s report.
The five thematic reports will form the basis of discussion at NL Forum 2014, a two-day conference hosted by the Harris Centre on November 4-5, that will bring together thought leaders and decision-makers from the public, private, non-profit, and academic sectors to discuss these five important themes. Since its creation in 2004, the Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development, has funded, supported and fostered numerous research projects, public forums, workshops, and conferences contributing to the understanding of important issues facing the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“It is exciting to be reviewing these reports and preparing for NL Forum 2014,” said Dr. Rob Greenwood, executive director of the Harris Centre. “For ten years our focus at the Harris Centre has been to provide the stage for experts and the public to discuss important issues and to mobilize the knowledge and resources of the university to help make Newfoundland and Labrador an even better place to live. Now, after ten years, we are looking back at what we’ve done, at what we’ve all been talking about and debating for the last decade, as a means to look ahead at what is to come.”
The remaining reports will be released in the coming weeks leading to NL Forum 2014.
To read Dr. Kaida and Mr. Martin’s report, to find out more information on NL Forum 2014 and to register for the conference, visit mun.ca/harriscentre/nlforum.