Saskatchewan’s rural communities are richly immersed in culture, history and traditions, all of which contribute greatly to the diversity of the province. The region’s diverse landscapes offer a variety of activities - from hiking through the lush boreal forest to fishing, canoeing and kayaking on over 100,000 lakes and rivers in the area. Saskatchewan’s newest and longest hiking trail, the Boreal Trail, stretches over 130 kms through the beautiful Meadow Lake Provincial Park.
Saskatchewan contains two natural regions – in the north, the Canadian Shield, and in the south, the Interior Plains. Saskatchewan gives both residents and visitors alike the opportunity to enjoy a more relaxed and tranquil lifestyle. However, the fast-faced growth of urban and surrounding communities has become an attractive lifestyle and has also provided opportunities to see a rural to urban shift.
Land Area, km2
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting, Health Care and Social Assistance
Yet, despite all that the province’s rural communities have to offer, rural Saskatchewan is declining:
Over the past eighty years the rural-urban composition of Saskatchewan has completely flipped, from 68% of residents living in rural areas in 1931 to 33% in 2011.
While Saskatchewan’s urban population is expected to grow from 606,300 in 2011 to 674,072 in 2025, the rural and small town population is expected to decline from 412,030 in 2011 to 395,711 in 2025.
Why is rural Saskatchewan on the decline?
Saskatchewan’s population is aging: While the share of individuals below the age of 20 has declined from 32.2% in 1986 to 26.1% in 2011, the share of seniors aged 65 years and over rose from 12.7% to 14.9%.
Immigrants are settling in urban areas: Despite the increase in Saskatchewan’s immigrant population (44.4%) over 2001-2011, approximately 85.9% reside in urban areas.
What does this mean for rural Saskatchewan?
These major issues facing rural and small towns in Saskatchewan need to be addressed immediately, otherwise, skill gaps will continue to widen and businesses will be hindered from reaching their full potential. Strategies need to be developed to retain youth and immigrants in rural Saskatchewan. If nothing is done, populations in rural and small towns in Saskatchewan will continue to decline – and fast.
Rural Saskatchewan is facing skills challenges:
Labour force participation rate is highest in urban areas and declines as the degree of rurality rises.
The unemployment rate in remote rural regions in 2011 was about 12.6% higher than the prevailing rate in urban centres. The high rural unemployment rate may be caused by a mismatch between the existing skills and those in high demand.
About a third of individuals aged 15 to 64 in remote rural areas do not have a high school diploma compared to 20% in urban 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.