From Resource Extraction to Tourism and Accommodation
Ucluelet Attracts More Young Adults and Children
by William Warren Munroe, May 7, 2014

Figure 1: Age Distribution, 1996 to 2011, Ucluelet1

The transition from a resource based economy to tourism and accommodation between 1996 to 2011 is reflected in the changes in the age sex distribution for Ucluelet on Canada's west coast.

However, Ucluelet differs from her northern neighbour, Tofino, as the number of young children under 5 years of age changes with the change in the number of females 20 to 39 years of age. For Tofino, as the number of Females 20 to 39 years of age rose, the number of children under five did not rise correspondingly. (See last month's article "Gone Surfing" Figure 4).

Figure 1 shows the changes in the age distribution occurring in Ucluelet since 1996. Notice the purple line (2011) has a high peak in the number of those 30 to 34 years of age. Also, the number of teens has declined while the population ages into retirement years.

Figure 2, 3 and 4: Ucluelet's Population Signatures

The Population Signature for Ucluelet between 1996 and 2001 (Figure 2) shows more out migration and death than in-migration for all the age groups - 0 to 4 year olds to those 100+. This reduction in population was reflected in many areas of Canada including the province of Quebec, as well as the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District as a whole.

Ucluelet's primary economic activity prior to 1996 was resource extraction with some primary processing, particularly fishing, and processing, along with forestry activity.

The stump from Clayoquot seen around the world (on a flat bed trailer touring Europe) in the early / mid nineteen nineties helped usher in increased tourism and accommodation fewer resource based jobs at least as may be reflected in the population change signatures, as well as a new demographic makeup for Ucluelet. What will the future look like if current trends continue?

In Figure 3, we see the population signature for 2001 to 2006, a time of economic recovery for most of the province of BC; however, for Ucluelet, more families (children under 19 and adults between 30 and 54 years of age) moved out than in resulting in a decline in the total population.

The only age group to experience an increase with more in-migration than out-migration (and mortality to a much lesser extent) was for the young adults 20 to 34 years of age - a feature not common to rural resource based economies. Usually, young adults leave small towns for education, employment and social (the more the better) opportunities in high density high population, core areas. Therefore, Ucluelet's population signature, with high numbers for young adults, resembles that of a large city.

Between 2006 and 2011, fewer families moved out while even more young adults arrived. A demographic transition reflecting the developing outdoor recreation economy was nearly complete.

Figure 5: Ucluelet's Under 5s and 20 to 39 year old Females

But what about the children? We saw that in Tofino, while more young adults arrived, the number of children did not increase correspondingly. Here, Figure 5 shows the number of children under 5 years of age fell and rose in relation (pretty close but not exactly) to the number of Females 20 to 39 years of age.

Perhaps, Ucluelet is more attractive to families than Tofino. Lewis Duffy, a local Socials Studies teacher, points out that some families move from Tofino to Ucluelet because Ucluelet has a high school and is relatively less expensive for accommodation.

Figure 6: Ucluelet's Population Projection Scenarios

Given the small total population, and the relatively large ups and downs, the population projections show a wide range of possible futures. The average cohort change ratios shown in the green line reflect the pop declines for two consecutive census periods 1996 to 2001 and 2001 to 2006. However, the strong up-turn seen between 2006 and 2011 point to the possibility of more than the average (green line) total population in the future.

What would be interesting to watch is whether Ucluelet shares more evenly in the total population increase projected for Tofino.

Statistics Canada's Census of Population is one of the best datasets in the world with which to examine current demographic trends. It can provide insight into fundamental changes to the age /sex distribution, including seeing that more young adults (20 to 24 years of age) move into Tofino (likely from the core areas) while adults 30 to 34 years of age move into Ucluelet with their children (with Tofino an important contributor).

Endnotes and Sources:

1 The figures for 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011 are adapted from Statistics Canada, 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011 Census of Population counts, by William Warren Munroe. The projections (2016 plus) are developed referring to the 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011 census counts using the cohort change ratios method.

Statistics Canada. 2012. Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, 2011 and 2006 censuses (table). Population and Dwelling Count Highlight Tables. 2011 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-310-XWE2011002. Released February 8, 2012. (accessed February 08, 2012). For further information, refer to:

Related Reading

The Sign On the Maternity Ward Door says "Gone Surfing" - Canada's West Coast Answer To Questions About Fertility

Population Projections for the Parksville Census Agglomeration

Why are Statistics Canada's projections so high compared to the United Nations and the Cohort Change Ratios projections?

Why so different?

Government population projections for BC reflect an "up and to the right" aspiration, while the cohort change ratios method shows BC's population growth slowing, and levelling out. Read a "A Comparison of Population Projections for BC"...

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