The Vancouver tech industry relies heavily on immigrant workers. According to the 2016 BC Tech TechTalentBC report, nearly one in three job vacancies at BC’s tech companies is filled by an immigrant worker. Immigrant tech workers are a fundamental asset of Vancouver’s BC tech industry of today, and a key element for the tech industry of tomorrow, especially considering that the city is projected to have 30,000 vacant tech jobs in 2021.
The problem is that over the last five years, the number of immigrants arriving to BC has trended down. The reasons behind the reduced attractiveness of the Vancouver creative industry are:
- Cost of living: Vancouver is one of the most expensive Canadian cities to live in. At the same time, Vancouver tech industry wages are comparatively lower than those of other major, and sometimes very near, US tech hubs. According to a CBRE survey, the salary of a tech worker in Metro Vancouver is $79,402. That’s $34,000 to $44,000 less per year than similar jobs in Seattle and San Francisco. Therefore, starting a company in Vancouver is relatively convenient because labor is cheap (so cheap to offset the high costs of commercial real estate). However, the combination of low wages and high costs of living reduces the overall attractiveness of Vancouver creative industry, especially when it comes senior and experienced immigrant workers.
- Unclear immigration procedures: According to the BC Tech report, another factor limiting Vancouver’s attractiveness is the lengthy wait times for onboarding international workers. This is due to unclear and inconsistent Provincial application procedures and confusing requirements.
After having read the findings of the BC Tech Report, I wanted to see if my Meetup data could tell me more about the flows of migration of Vancouver’s tech and creative workers. The result is the dashboard below showing the number of participants who attended a meetup event in Vancouver over the past 3 months and who, in their bios, declare of living outside of Canada. In this manner I was able to visualize the movement of tech workers towards (immigration), and away from (emigration) the Vancouver creative industry. Unfortunately, the data available did not allow me to split immigration from emigration. Moreover, the analysis does not include all those immigrants who changed their City of residence in their Meetup bio in the exact moment in which they physically relocated to Vancouver (or, conversely, have kept Vancouver as their city of residence after having moved abroad). For all these reasons, the data below should not be considered as statistically relevant. Nonetheless, they provide some insights about the tech workers’ flows to and from Vancouver.