Population decline is a major preoccupation for many regions in Quebec. For example, in 2009, Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean once again experienced a net interregional out-migration, and it can be seen that young people are leaving in the highest numbers.
Martin Simard, research professor of Social Sciences at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, conducted research into the link between spatial representations and migratory intentions among Saguenay youth.
Montreal is associated with the negative aspects found in any large city, while Quebec City is perceived as an attractive city on a more human scale.
Using a social ecology model combined with surveys and interviews, Simard observed that many young people claim to have little or no attachment to their place of residence.
This explains why so many of them consider moving to larger cities, which they perceive to be the ideal place for realizing their potential. However, in the eyes of Saguenay youth, the urban factor can also carry negative associations, and the degree of attractiveness varies a great deal from one city to another.
For example, Montreal is associated with the negative aspects found in any large city — heavy vehicular traffic, feelings of insecurity, stress… —, while Quebec City is perceived as an attractive city on a more human scale — a safe environment, close to nature, with the possibility of finding work, taking part in leisure activities, studying, etc.
Statistics reflect these perceptions: in 2009, 32.3% of persons leaving Saguenay chose to settle in Quebec, while 14.6% opted for Montreal.
These results contribute to a better understanding of youth migration, which has a major impact on territorial planning and on the development and socio-cultural vitality of a region.