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REF NO.: 19

SUBJECT: New research needed to deal with provincial demographic challenges, says Harris Centre report

DATE: Sept. 18

From baby booms to aging boomers, a new report commissioned by Memorial University’s Harris Centre about the demographics in this province tells the story of the rapidly changing faces of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The report, prepared by Dr. Lisa Kaida and Chris William Martin, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts, assesses the complex demographic and labour market challenges facing the province and the impact they are having on the province’s economic and social sustainability and growth. It 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. 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 more than 70 projects, events and presentations that have been supported by the Harris Centre during its first 10 years, Dr. Kaida and Mr. Martin describe a variety of policy measures and other initiatives that have been discussed by a number of experts during the past decade that can help improve the declining populations and labour shortages. The report also highlights Memorial University’s unique role in helping to grapple with these challenges.

The authors conclude that additional research will be needed to get ahead of these changes. They suggest that 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 non-standard 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 Peninsula; and the need to place the consideration of Newfoundland and Labrador’s challenges in a broader global context to learn from and share lessons with other regions experiencing similar phenomena.

The report is the first of five thematic reports commissioned by the Harris Centre in recognition of its 10th anniversary and to assess what significant issues the province has faced over the past decade and what issues can be anticipated in the next.

The series focuses on the topics of governance and public policy, regional and rural development, environment and natural resources, social and cultural development and provincial demographics.

The reports will form the basis of discussion at NL Forum 2014, a two-day conference hosted by the Harris Centre from Nov. 4-5. The forum will bring together thought-leaders and decision-makers from the public, private, non-profit and academic sectors to discuss the 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, Harris Centre. “For 10 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, 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 up 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.

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For more information, please contact Diane Keough, communications co-ordinator, Harris Centre, Memorial University, at (709) 864.3739, diane.keough@mun.ca.

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