Canadians Don’t Want to Relocate for Jobs. Maybe They Should!

February 27, 2017


Here’s a career topic that doesn’t get a lot of attention, especially in Canada: relocating for job opportunities. When to do it, when it might be worth it, and why people are afraid to do it.

For whatever reason, moving for job opportunities isn’t as culturally ingrained in Canada as it is in the United States. Americans have been historically willing to change cities every 3-5 years for progressive career opportunities, especially in the early-mid part of their careers. But during the great recession, even America saw a drop off in mobility for job opportunities, and with the economic recovery in full swing, it looks like the decline in moving might be more permanent than analysts previously thought. Still, Americans seem willing to traverse their land every few years if a great job comes knocking – something to do with the frontier mentality, perhaps. But what’s our verdict, as recruiters who work across Canada, about the great white North’s propensity to move for job opportunity? Not so much.

Lots of people are willing to move into Canada – immigration rates are very high. And newcomers seem to be willing to move around. But once you’ve been here for a while, it seems like people park themselves in their favourite cities. It’s harder to pull people out of Montreal for a great Procurement opportunity in Toronto. It’s hard to pull them out of Toronto for a great Supply Chain opportunity in Montreal. And for certain smaller cities – like Windsor, Edmonton, Fredericton, getting candidates to relocate can be downright Sisyphean.

Listen, we get it: It’s hard to uproot your family, and it sometimes only makes sense to do it for big opportunities. There are lifestyle factors. There’s a reason people want to be in Canada’s biggest cities of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary. And let’s be honest: some parts of Canada are basically Siberia, weather-wise. We can’t blame anyone for wanting to build a home in one place. We only hope to challenge assumptions. One question is, does Canadians’ lack of willingness to relocate impact our economy?

A 2016 New York Times article sums up the lack of movement for workers in the U.S. in a way that got us wondering about Canada: “In recent years, economists have become increasingly worried that a slide in job turnover and relocation rates is undermining the economy’s dynamism, damping productivity and wages while making it more difficult for sidelined workers to find their way back into the labor force.”

If people aren’t willing to move around for new opportunities, it harms the overall economy because it’s possible that those people would be more productive elsewhere. Which isn’t to try to guilt anyone who doesn’t want to relocate, so much as to point out that a lack of relocation does affect the wider economy. It’s a trend. It also appears to be a countervailing force to the trend towards shorter-term employment we’ve written about on the Argentus blog.

If people aren’t willing to relocate, it poses a particular issue for the Supply Chain industry, which is already feeling a deficit of talent: Companies are located in certain places for certain, often Supply Chain strategy-based reasons. This makes it tough to hire, but it also creates big opportunities for career-defining roles in places like Windsor, Fredericton, and elsewhere all over the country. 

In a big-picture way, the dynamism of the economy benefits from people moving around. But in a micro sense, the dynamism of your career – and your life! – benefits from a willingness to uproot and try something new in a location you hadn’t considered before.

Some of the top companies will pay for relocation, making the process smoother. If you have a young family, it’s possible to “homestead” it: go to a new location for a few months and see if the opportunity is right before bringing your family along. Going to a great opportunity in a previously-unconsidered location for a few years can really boost your career, and then you can head back and enjoy better career-positioning in your original location going forward. Or, you might end up loving the new location! You never know. 


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