Halifax: we have a problem

By evan on Aug 27, 2017

I was curious about something the other day. Little did I know how far the rabbit hole would go. I was mostly wondering about Halifax vs “Other places I’d consider living” so left out Calgary, Vancouver, and a few others. They still came in above Halifax.

To be clear, I’m not looking at leaving immediately. That being said, I have no doubt that the next time I’m looking for a job, it won’t be here.

Using data from Numbeo and Glassdoor I compared “Senior Software Developer” salaries vs cost of living for a bunch of major cities in Canada. We’re number two from the bottom.

It turns out one of the best places to live as a software dev is Sydney. It may seem surprising, but they have a ridiculously cheap cost of living (you can literally buy a house for under 50k; see here, here, and here.) Though their salaries are amongst the lowest… proportionally it’s on par with Kitchener-Waterloo. Also they have FTTH. If you’re working from home you’re one of the most well situated devs in the country.

The best overall by a wide margin is Ottawa. I haven’t dug into why that’s the case yet. I assume Government jobs, but I know they do have their share of tech businesses (shopify, etc.)

The equivalent salary column is most damning. You’d have to make slightly more in Toronto and St Johns to come out even. It’s an instant raise to move to any other city.

Sure Toronto’s rent’s higher. But when we’re paying more in taxes, in utilities, on food, and everything else.. it’s a 5% difference overall. It’s actually cheaper to live in our nations capital.  Even taking into account the cost of flying the family home every few months.. it’s a massive difference in disposable income (on average) to move. I have to assume this is causing massive damage to the local tech sector.

To be fair, tech salaries have come up in Halifax over the past few years. I know one person who specifically cited that as a reason for staying. I’m sure there are a lot of reasons for the overall increase, I tend to attribute a lot of it to an implied cap on tech startup salaries that was dealt with a couple years ago.

Had I run these numbers 10 years ago, I’d have moved to Ontario in a heartbeat. Had I run them 5 years ago, I’d have stayed there. How many people already did? We hear about people moving “out west” to the oil fields. The new buzzphrase is “Data is the new oil” and I have a feeling nothing’s changed.

I used to joke that our largest export is young people. It’s not a joke anymore. I hear about the “tech labour shortage” all the time. No one can find people. Recruitment is impossible. Well, I think the issue is clear. There’s two ways to solve it: Drastically cut taxes and utility costs (ha!), or increase salaries by 10 to 20%. The latter happens to be a solution to at least 1/4 of the issues raised by the Ivany Report.

Ran the same numbers for the “average permanent hourly wages” from statscan for the same list of cities. That’s a reasonable proxy for “an average full time job” Halifax is actually at the very bottom. The rest of the list doesn’t change that much, other than Sydney going to the top. That’s the cheap housing again.

Let me know if you have comments or better sources for the data I used. I’m just presenting it as is, if there’s better data I’d love to use it.

2 responses to “Halifax: we have a problem”

  1. Graham Rose says:

    How did you calculate each item in your table? From where did you obtain the statistics used in your calculations? Did you factor married/common law vs single and family size?

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