Recruiting Talent to Prince Edward Island (2018)

Recruiting Talent to Prince Edward Island Survey:
Build a Career. Create a Life.

In 2018, in a bid to create evidence-based policy-making around the theme of repatriation, the Prince Edward Island Department of Workforce and Advanced Learning contracted the Institute of Island Studies to undertake a research project to determine the opportunities for and barriers to Islanders returning home. This report is the result of that research.

Download report (PDF)

Article about the project and report ( by IIS Coordinator Dr. Laurie Brinklow

Individuals who have lived on or visited Prince Edward Island (PEI) previously but now live elsewhere represent an important component of a comprehensive population strategy. In order to develop effective, evidence-based policy that supports the repatriation of these individuals to PEI, it is important to better understand why these individuals moved away and what they see as the opportunities and possible barriers to returning to PEI. The results of the survey described in this Report, entitled Recruiting Talent to PEI Survey: Build a Career. Create a Life, provide some of this evidence. Released in May 2018, the Report and the survey of these Islanders were completed under the auspices of the Institute of Island Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island.

The survey was designed and administered in partnership with the Department of Workforce and Advanced Learning. It consisted of 26 questions and was sent electronically to alumni from the University of Prince Edward Island, Holland College, and the College de l’Île. The link to the survey was also posted to the WorkPEI Facebook page and the Institute of Island Studies digital newsletter. For the purposes of this survey, an Islander was defined as “someone who has lived or visited the Island but currently does not live on PEI.” By the March 15th, 2018, cutoff date, 683 responses had been received.

Detailed responses and interpretations of the results are contained within the body of the Report. The following provides some highlights of those results:

  • Despite living away now, the lives of participants often intersected in multiple ways with Prince Edward Island, including growing up here, going to school and working here (Q1).
  • The most significant reason for leaving PEI, selected by almost 70% of participants, was to search for work (Q3).
  • More than 80% of respondents expressed an interested in moving back to PEI, with one-quarter saying they were “extremely interested” in moving back. This suggests a strong motivation for returning if the conditions were right (Q4).
  • Lifestyle (79.3%) and finding a better work-life balance (48.5%) were the main reasons for a potential move back to PEI. Family reunification was also important at 60.5% (Q5).
  • For those who expressed an interest in moving back, 20% said they anticipated this move within the next year, while almost half of the respondents said it would be more than five years from now.
  • A total of 83% of respondents said that employment-related reasons were impeding their return to the Island. The significance of this response is strengthened by the fact that respondents could have chosen multiple answers to this question, but none of the other options were selected by more than 20% of the participants (Q7).
  • When those who had expressed an interest in moving back to PEI were asked more specifically about how they could be assisted in making this move, economic reasons were still important (e.g., a job offer at 80.3% and salary considerations at 70.7%), but housing was also selected by more than 40% of the respondents (Q9).
  • A total of 16.5% of all respondents had either applied for or been contacted about a job on PEI within the past year (Q10).
  • Almost everyone (97%) who participated in this survey still feels connected in some way to PEI with almost 70% saying that they feel either fairly or extremely connected to the Island (Q12). They stay connected primarily by visiting during the summer (72.1%) or communicating with family on the Island (78.9%) (Q13).
  • The majority of respondents had been away for more than 10 years (55%), are female (59.2%) and are at least 45 years of age (33.7%). Interestingly, the second largest group of respondents (20%) fell in the 25 to 29 year age cohort (Q15, Q16).
  • Most of the respondents were highly educated, with 38% having obtained a Master’s or PhD degree and another 46% indicating that they had obtained a Bachelor’s degree (Q18).
  • Most participants (69.7%) were currently employed full-time and only 7.4% were retired (Q19). Of those employed, the main occupations were white-collar (e.g., education, law, social, community or government services, health, and business/administration) (Q20). Household income levels were relatively high in comparison to the average in Canada and PEI (Q21).
  • Most of the respondents were from Ontario, with 34.2% being from Toronto or the rest of southern Ontario. Alberta was the second largest group of respondents at 15.3%, with Nova Scotia being the third largest group at 15% (Q22).

Two open-ended questions allowed respondents the opportunity to more fully express their opinions about why they might want to move back to PEI (Q23) and what might be preventing them from making this move (Q24).

As suggested in some of the closed-ended questions, the predominant reasons for a possible move back to the Island revolved around family and lifestyle. Many raised the sentiment that PEI was a good place to raise a family and had a pace that allowed for a better quality of life, a better work/life balance and lower stress levels. The lower cost of living or affordability was also an important theme. One of the most poignant responses was as follows, “The air. The love. My family. His family. Our son’s family. Quiet. Fewer chains/more mom and pop shops. Red earth. Gentle breezes. Home. Always and forever.”

When asked to provide more details about what might be preventing them from moving back to PEI it should not be surprising to find that respondents most often cited a lack of suitable, well-paying jobs and how it is difficult to complete with Islanders already on PEI for the jobs that are available. Some respondents cited a concern about adequate health care and others felt that an attitude of parochialism and lack of tolerance to diversity were impeding their decision to return. The duality regarding a possible return is expressed well by this respondent: “The things that make PEI so appealing are also obstacles to moving back. I love that PEI is small and rural, but that also means fewer job opportunities in my field.” The difficult choice facing Islanders living away is perhaps best expressed by this participant:

I left PEI because I had to, not because I wanted to. Living in rural PEI as a woman the only choice you have is to move or become someone’s wife. There are no other options. I wanted a future and an education, so I had to leave the Island. Even if I worked and lived in Charlottetown, I feel like my employment opportunities were very low compared to other provinces. I want to move back though as that is where my roots are and my family still is. I wish things could be different and I could live there again.

Download report (PDF)


© 2021 Institute of Island Studies, University of Prince Edward Island. All rights reserved.