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Sky high rents and low pay makes Canada a dud for tech workers: report

The bright mural in the HootSuite new Mount Pleasant office was painted by local artist Chairman Ting, the same artist behind the mural at HootSuite’s old office in the Railtown district.
The offices of Hootsuite, in Vancouver's newly tony Mount Pleasant neighbourhood.
The offices of Hootsuite, in Vancouver’s newly tony Mount Pleasant neighbourhood.


A new report on North America’s tech hubs finds that Canadian cities have the highest quality tech labour coupled with among the lowest wages, making Canada an attractive destination for companies but less rosy for tech workers, who have to deal with sky-high rent and real estate prices in the tech meccas of Toronto and Vancouver.

Put out by Los Angeles-based real estate firm CBRE, the Scoring Tech Talent in North America 2017 report ranks the 50 largest markets according to their competitive advantages and appeal to both tech employers and employees.

This year’s ranking shows Toronto jumping up from 12th to sixth place, on the back of 22,500 new tech jobs added in 2016, making it the fastest growing tech talent market in North America. Toronto is now the fourth largest tech market on the continent, with more than 212,000 workers, representing eight per cent of North America’s tech pool.

“We’ve had 30 per cent growth in the tech sector over the last five years and we added more jobs than San Francisco and New York City combined last year,” said Werner Dietl, CBRE Canada’s executive vice-president and Greater Toronto Area (GTA) regional managing director.

“We have affordability and a tremendously high quality of labour, and we also have tremendous government and immigration policies in place that are creating a little bit of a snowball effect.”

Affordable for companies, maybe, but less so for their workers. The report puts the average tech wage in Toronto at $47,210 USD, enough for 49th place when it comes to tech salaries, while Vancouver gets the distinction of having the cheapest labour of all 50 tech hubs, with an average wage of $45,401.

The low wage, high rent combo could make it difficult for companies to hold onto high quality workers, however.

“As soon as you want to start a family here in Vancouver, it’s like okay, can you do that on $30,000 to $40,000 a year less,” says Vancouver-based game designer Nels Anderson, to CBC News. “When the cost of living here is basically the same as San Francisco, that’s not really an option.”

Vancouver’s environment is particularly troubling, says Kaitlin Last, contributing editor to Better Dwelling, a millennial-focused housing blog, who figures that with the average condo in Vancouver costing $600,700, it would take an average tech worker 27 years to save for a downpayment. “With a situation like that, I’m not sure how long we can actually keep talented tech workers in Vancouver,” says Last. “After all, they’re just a hop, skip, and a NAFTA visa away from San Francisco.”

The CBRE report ranked Vancouver as the 16th-best tech hub in 2016, saying that it benefits from a “vibrant and educated millennial population.” The report lists Vancouver’s largest tech offices as:

• Hootsuite with 42,000 square feet at 2015 Main St.
• Visier with 40,000 square feet at Pivotal Building
• Image Engine with 38,000 square feet at 929 Granville St.
• Scanline VFX with 36,000 square feet at 580 Granville St.
• Thunderbird Games with 35,000 square feet at 123 W. 7th St.

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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