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Would You Move to Make More Money?

14 October 2012

Would you move to make more money? Even if it meant moving across the country? It’s an interesting question. And when you consider how often we’re compared to the States, comparisons in this area show that we’re vastly different from our southerly neighbours once again.

The World Bank has found that 3% of American workers will move anywhere within the 50 states, if it means adding more to their personal balance sheets every year. Only 1% of Canadians on the other hand, can say the same thing. That number can be put into better perspective when you compare the number of Canadians who move from Canada’s poorest province – Quebec – to Canada’s richest area – out West.

Alberta in particular has been one of the most profitable provinces to live in throughout the past few years. This province has been enjoying the lowest unemployment rates in the country, no sales tax, and lots of jobs. Still, between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, fewer than 4,000 people moved from Quebec to Alberta. To put that in perspective, Nova Scotia had more than that – 4,233 – during the same amount of time move to Alberta. And let’s not forget that Nova Scotia is miniscule when compared with the size of Quebec.

Of course, you have to take things into consideration such as the cost of living, and whether you truly are going to be making more money after making the move. Alberta, while one of the most popular destinations to migrate to, has higher housing costs than other areas, such as much of Quebec. But income levels also far surpass those in the Eastern provinces. And besides, when looking at the differences between us and the U.S. when it comes to our willingness to move, you can’t use things such as income and housing levels anyway; as the U.S. also has markets that are higher than others, and places where incomes are lower.

So again, why are we so different?

One major difference is the mere geography of our country. While horizontal moves are much more practical,

“Our north-south is a little different,” says Craig Alexander, chief economist at TD Bank says.

And it’s true. While the temperature change is drastic to move from Florida to New York, it’s nothing what it would be like to move from southern Ontario or Vancouver to the northern Yukon. There are simply, many more inhabitable areas in Canada than in the U.S., and that’s going to account for fewer of us to moving to those cities that are open to be relocated to.

Mr. Alexander also says that it might not be a person’s job per se that keeps them in one location in Canada; but the industry they’re in. Real estate agents for example, have different licensing requirements in Ontario than they do in Alberta, as do a number of other professions. If you’ve worked hard to achieve a certain designation in a certain field, and you know you’re going to lose it if you leave the province, it certainly makes that move a much weightier decision.

“Some of the provinces are getting better at recognizing professional accreditation but it’s still not seamless across the country,” Mr. Alexanders said. “That’s one of the biggest barriers to moving.”

But, financial educator Talbot Stevens, says that the real answer to the difference simply lies in our priorities.

“Once you are away for school it becomes easier to take a job anywhere in the U.S.,” he says. “In Canada, for the most part, people go to school closer to where they live. I think we are more focused and grounded here on what is important and that’s family and friends. The American dream is to get rich and have all the money you need even though it might cost you two or three marriages. You can see that attitude right across the country.”

But maybe we shouldn’t even be comparing ourselves to the States at all when it comes to how many of us are willing to move to make more money. Mr. Alexander thinks so, saying that doing so is comparing ourselves to the nation where they move the most for their jobs.

“The U.S. is an exception because it has the highest labour mobility rate of any country in the world,” says Mr. Alexander. “Look at Europe. They have an economic union and you don’t get nearly as much labour mobility as the U.S.”

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