12 Feb Provincial population growth continues, fuelled by international immigration
The population of Saskatchewan continues to grow with each passing year according to new figures released by the provincial government. Over the past year, 16,047 people moved to the province, representing a growth rate of 1.4 per cent.
While inter-provincial immigration to Saskatchewan is actually in the negative, international immigration is filling the void and helping to increase the province’s population.
Over the past year, 16,047 people moved to the province, representing a growth rate of 1.4 per cent. Very little of this growth comes from births in the province, according to Ken Rasmussen, a Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy professor at the University of Regina.
“Our birth rates aren’t up particularly high,” Rasmussen said. “It is not natural population growth or replacement. It is immigration growth. It is the same across Canada.”
Since 2007, Saskatchewan’s population has grown by 164,000 people, reaching 1,161,365 in the first quarter of 2017, thanks in large part to the economic climate of the province.
“(Saskatchewan) is a more affordable location, with cheaper housing prices and our economy is more diversified than other economies,” said Rasmussen. “Some of it is people coming back to Saskatchewan, where opportunities are more robust than in a place like Alberta.”
Saskatchewan’s population growth is currently the third-highest in the country, behind only Ontario and Manitoba.
“People will move to where there are other opportunities across the country, particularly with immigrants who don’t have deep roots here,” Rasmussen said. “There is no guarantee this will stay as an ongoing feature for Saskatchewan.”
According to Doug Elliott, statistician and publisher of Sask Trends Monitor, immigration from other provinces in the first quarter of 2017 was 1,395 in the negative, while international immigration brought 3,560 people into the province.
“That is why we are growing,” said Elliott. “We are still immigrating and bringing people from other countries.”
The growth rate may look good but Jason Childs, associate professor of economics at the University of Regina, says it needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
“You have to be careful with growth rates because we have a lower base,” Childs said. “Comparing growth rates is sketchy at times. A town of 100 people grows by 10 per cent, that is 10 people moving in. We always have to be cautious about growth rates.”
While the growth trend continues, the current figure is lower than was seen in previous years. Growth from 2007 to 2008 passed 18,000 in a year, while 22,154 people moved to the province between 2011 and 2012. From 2013 to 2014, growth was just over 19,000 people.
“We are going to slow down as the economy slows down,” Childs said. “As the economy picks up again, we could return to higher numbers.”
“Fundamentally, our population is driven by the economy,” Elliott said. “If the economy improves, the figures will continue to improve. If we are not creating more jobs, this will start to slow … my expectation is that it will slow a bit.”
A slowing of growth, according to Childs, is not a bad thing.
“The way Saskatoon and Regina have been growing over the past few years, a pause for breath is not bad,” he said. “We have to make sure we are ahead on infrastructure and we have to make sure we have water treatment and water for all these people.”