As Alberta sank deeper into recession over the past year, almost 3,000 more people left for other provinces than arrived from them — and women accounted for almost all of the losses, the latest figures from Statistics Canada suggest.
The province had a total out-migration of 2,877 people from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, according to the preliminary interprovincial data from Statistics Canada.
Women accounted for 97 per cent of that, at 2,797.
Caroline McDonald-Harker, a sociologist at Mount Royal University, says she isn't surprised.
"Alberta's not necessarily one of those places … that can say they offer equitable opportunities for men and women because that certainly is not the case," she said.
"Women in Alberta earn 63 per cent what their male counterparts are earning and that is a huge gender gap. In fact, it's the largest in Canada," she said.
She added that in a downturn, women are more likely to be laid off.
This interactive graph shows Alberta's net interprovincial migration by sex over the past decade:
Before the recession hit, many women were moving into the construction industry as men filled the plentiful jobs in the oil and gas sector, said Pallavi Banerjee, a sociologist at the University of Calgary.
"Now, with the economy tanking, men who have been laid off from oil and gas are re-entering construction. Jobs are anyway scarce in construction, so women are probably being driven out of the industry," Banerjee said.
Many immigrant women who came to Alberta and Calgary during the boom for jobs in the service industry are also now probably returning to Ontario, B.C. and Quebec, she added.
Despite the net drop in migration to other provinces, Alberta's overall population still increased by 1.8 per cent in the past year, according to Statistics Canada, reaching 4.253 million people as of July 1.
That increase came from natural population growth (more births than deaths) and net-positive international migration.
Alberta already has the highest proportion of men to women among the provinces — 50.7 per cent of the population is male.
By comparison, in Ontario, the figure is 49.1 per cent, and in B.C., it's 49.6 per cent.
The province's gender imbalance could have serious consequences, Banerjee says.
This interactive graph shows Alberta's net interprovincial migration, by sex and age, in 2015/16:
"Research has shown that in societies where there are more men populating the labour force, economic growth tends to stagnate because the specific skills that women bring to the workplace are absent," she said.
"I strongly believe we, as a province and city, need to be more worried about this trend and try to stop this skewed emigration of women from the province by creating incentives for them to stay."