Each rural community in Newfoundland and Labrador offers something unique to residents and visitors alike. Boasting beautiful and differing landscapes – mountain ranges, rugged shorelines, dense boreal forests and arctic tundra – Newfoundland and Labrador is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise.
The youngest province in Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador’s 29,000 km of coastline is home to thousands of fishermen who supply some of the best fish and seafood in the world, and is one of the best places to whale watch. With a rich geological landscape, Newfoundland and Labrador also has some of the oldest rocks in the world, dating back 3.9 billion years. Three national parks and 18 wilderness and ecological reserves adorn the province.
Land Area, km2
Trades, Health care and Social Assistance, Construction
Yet, despite all that rural Newfoundland and Labrador has to offer, rural communities are declining:
Over 2001-2011, Newfoundland and Labrador’s urban population grew by 12.2%, while the province’s rural population declined by 8.4%.
The share of the population living in rural areas also declined from 56.4% in 2001 to 51.4% in 2011.
Population projections indicate that Newfoundland and Labrador’s rural population will decline by a further 19% – from 269,719 in 2011 to 217,544 in 2025 – painting a bleak future for the province’s rural communities.
Why is rural Newfoundland and Labrador on the decline?
Newfoundland and Labrador’s rural population is aging: Low birth rates and an increase in seniors has caused the average age of Newfoundland and Labradoreans to rise. The number of seniors in rural Newfoundland and Labrador aged 65 and over increased by 26.4% from 2001 to 2011.
Younger working age adults in rural areas are leaving and many are not returning. The prime working age population in rural NL (those aged 20-44) declined by 27.0% between 2001 and 2011.
Immigrants are not coming to rural areas. According to Census data, the province did not see a large increase in immigrants: about 1.4 million immigrants came to Canada during 2001-2011, when the immigrant population increased by only 1,150. Of these, only 214 (18.6%) live in rural areas.
What does this mean for rural Newfoundland and Labrador?
It is critical that the issues these communities are facing are made a top priority. Increasing and tailoring education and training opportunities to work specific to rural areas may help retain youth and increase human capital – particularly in industries experiencing skills shortages. This would also help increase the capacity of local populations to support local businesses, adding to each community’s economy. It is vital for rural communities across the province to work together and build on their existing resources to create a stronger, more prosperous rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
Rural Newfoundland and Labrador is facing skills challenges:
The more ‘rural’ an area is, the more the average labour force participation rate declines. The unemployment rate in remote rural regions in 2011 is about 17.0% higher than the rate in urban centres.
The percentage of individuals without a high school diploma in remote rural regions is about twice greater than that in urban regions.
The level of schooling declines as the distance between rural areas and population centres increases. For example, 17.50% of urban residents have a university degree compared to only 1.83% in remote rural areas.
Strengthening Rural Canada is working to determine if local skills development strategies can lead to economic growth and community resiliency by building a community’s human and social capital.
Read about the Francophone history of Newfoundland and Labrador here.