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Is regional work better or not?

Prosperity is often promised to urbanites wanting to move for regional work, but the reality is not always rose coloured. What is the salary and cost of living?

Geneviève Readman left Montérégie three years ago to become a psychoeducator in Bic. After reflecting on it, she asked herself “Why not?”

“I saw a position on the Ordre des psychoéducateurs du Québec,” she recounts, “And since there weren’t many positions offered, I told myself that I would apply and see!”

Her current salary is as much as she received in Montérégie because, as a civil servant, her pay is handled by the government. “The salary doesn’t attract candidates, but offering them a permanent position does.”  For the young graduate, staying near Montréal would have been impossible. “My priority was to secure a job, I didn’t want to stay on-call for years while living in my parents’ basement.”

Regional work: the numbers

In 2012, the median full-time hourly salary for all of Quebec was $21. Montréal is situated slightly beneath the provincial average with an hourly salary $20.50. While in Bas-Saint-Laurent—the region where Readman works—the hourly median rate is $19.82. The Centre-du-Québec region finishes last with $18 while Outaouais leads with an hourly median salary of $25. In fact, salary mainly depends on the type of profession; there can be large salary disparities for a specialized or in-demand profession.

Regarding rent, in 2006, according to the Société d’habitation du Québec, the median [monthly] cost of private dwellings was $566 for all of Québec, $615 for  Montréal, $630 in Laval (the most expensive region), $458 in Bas-Saint-Laurent, and $301 for the Nord-du-Québec region (the least expensive).

Sophie Bouchard is a transfer agent for the organization Place aux jeunes à Chicoutimi. According to her, “Those who come to the region to move in or resettle want the same wage conditions in the city. The salary is better in the city,” she says. “But everything else is less expensive. So, in the end it’s the same.”

For Readman, the regional living cost is similar to what she was used to in Montérégie. “I had preconceived notions, that it would be cheaper in the region,” she says, “In any case,” she adds, “the houses are just as expensive on the corner of Rimouski as in the Montréal region.”

The Abitibi-Témisamingue and Côte-Nord regions posted in 2011 that the best disposable income per capita was respectively $26, 907 and $26, 789. The cause is due to increased salaries in the mining and public sectors. Montréal ($26, 567) and Montérégie ($26, 598) comes in 4th and 5th place while Bas-Saint-Laurent ($22, 345) and Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine ($21, 857) finish last out of the 17 administrative regions.

An attractive incentive

“I can’t compare my life from before with my life here,” continues Readman, “I walk through my village, truly a vacation destination, and I don’t regret my decision.” However, she confides that leaving her family and friends was the hardest part. Furthermore, for Bouchard, the biggest difference between the urban centres and regions is building and reactivating a social network.

Readman benefitted from a financial incentive offered by the Gouvernement du Québec, a tax credit for new graduates working in distant resource-rich regions. Up to a maximum sum of $8, 000 over a period of 3 years.

“Many people use this tax credit to come back and settle in, but that isn’t the only reason,” believes Bouchard, “Establishing yourself somewhere is a life project.” Readman took the jump over there with the purpose building her life. “Otherwise,” she says, “you invest yourself less.”

“Here, everyone needs to be created,” she adds, “We continually search for new businesses, new talents. Like in everything, there is a positive and negative.” But, according to her, the experience is often much more positive for those who give it a shot.

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