Meaning to Stay: Young People in Nova Scotia


    Our project can be reduced to a single question: how can Nova Scotia become a more attractive place for young people? We created a survey to address this concern and 349 young people from across the province responded.

  They were largely female, (60%) urban, (74%) and educated — with 95% achieving some form of post secondary education. Two thirds were born in Nova Scotia and the remaining third was split between other provinces (28%) and countries (5%).


What did they say?


    We found that young people possess a sense of optimism toward and connection with life and work in this province. This was strongly represented across a range of measures. 

    70% were satisfied with their work while 81% found personal meaning in it. Over half indicated a good, above average, or excellent level of confidence that they can be successful here. 70% stated that they were satisfied with their life and 70% also see it improving. 

    In contrast with these positive results, we found some more sobering ones: 68% would leave Nova Scotia in pursuit of a better lifestyle, while 73% would leave to pursue career opportunities. 

68% would leave Nova scotia for lifestyle.

73% would leave for a job.

    On the surface these results seem contradictory. Young people are satisfied with their work and life in this province, and yet they would leave. Is this indicative of a general trend toward mobility in young people or is the willingness to uproot unique to Nova Scotians? And, if it is a problem unique to this province, how can we curb it?

    In order to address these questions we need to delve into our data and learn more about the younger perspective. We could look at any number of relationships here, but let's start by taking one: personal meaning in work and willingness to leave to for a better job.

    The results are not surprising. Individuals who reported no personal meaning at work were six times more likely to consider leaving than staying. Those with personal meaning were also more likely to consider leaving than staying, but this ratio was reduced to roughly two-to-one. 

    Clearly, we need to do a better job at building personal meaning in to the work young people do in this province. How we might do that isn't obvious, but the correlation is clear. People with personal meaning at their job are also more likely to indicate a desire to stay in the province.

    Personal meaning at work is certainly not the only reason why a young person would stay here. To be sure, these reasons are as varied as they are manifold. In the months to come, we will unpack each of them to establish a holistic image of the younger perspective in this province and, ultimately, provide a set of actionable solutions to attract and retain young people.