Measuring the Urban Exodus: Statistics Canada Data Trends in Rural Ontario

Nov 24, 2023

​As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a visible migration of urban populations into rural communities. A new research initiative is examining the migration trends taking place in Ontario and their impact on rural communities, economies, and environments.

As a part of the Urban Exodus: Understanding the Impacts of Migration to Rural Ontario as a Result of the COVID-19 Pandemic initiative, a set of research insights have been developed by graduate research assistant Heather Graham (MSc Rural Planning and Development student), Ryan Gibson and Sara Epp to outline key findings on COVID-19 pandemic migration based on data published by Statistics Canada following the 2021 Census and special COVID-19 surveys. Some key findings include:

  • Urban businesses and organizations were nearly four times more likely than rural businesses and organizations to anticipate shrinking their office locations as a result of a transition to workforce teleworking.
  • The top three industries anticipating shrinking of their office locations as a result of teleworking were: information and cultural industries (44.8%), administrative and support, waste management, and remediation services (28.8%), and accommodation and food services (26.9%).
  • In all industries, workforces did not anticipate continuing to primarily telework once the COVID-19 pandemic was over.
  • Only 10.8% of all urban businesses and organizations and 8.9% of all rural businesses and organizations anticipated that between 90 and 100% of their workforces would continue teleworking post pandemic.
  • The census divisions with the largest population decreases between 2016 and 2021 were Rainy River (3.3%), Timiskaming (2.6%), Cochrane (2.2%), and Algoma (0.3%).
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