Working in Calgary
Over the last decade, Calgary has not only boasted the fastest-growing economy in Canada, it has also had the lowest average unemployment rate of all major Canadian cities (just 4.1 percent). This trend shows no signs of abating, as the Calgary Economic Development forum has announced it plans to create new jobs at a compound annual growth rate of three percent until 2017. According to this body, the top five occupations for overall creation of new jobs in this period are expected to be sales clerks, retail managers, registered nurses, IT analysts and accountants.
Further encouraging signs for expats working in Calgary (or planning to do so) are the low tax rates in the city (14 percent, with no payroll tax) – the lowest in the country, and implemented as an incentive for new business ventures; and the fact that 23 percent of the city's 1.3 million population are foreign-born. Calgary also lays claim to the highest average personal income in Canada.
The backbone of Calgary's economy is, of course, the energy sector – and this is where the greatest demand for skilled foreign expats and labourers is found. BP, EnCana, Imperial Oil, Suncor Energy, Shell, TransCanada and Nexen Inc. all have a major presence in Calgary, and as the oil boom continues, they are all actively (even aggressively) looking for expat foreign professionals to join their ranks. Engineers and geologists are most sought-after, but accountants, financial service providers and IT specialists are also in high demand.
Additionally, the oil industry's boom has also had far-reaching infrastructural effect on the city of Calgary, with a huge amount of suburban and inner-city development taking place. This means that architects, builders, contractors, urban planners, civil engineers, quantity surveyors and plumbers are also in very high demand in Calgary. Moreover, the economic prosperity of the region has, predictably, seen floods of migrant labourers taking up residence in the city – and this has created a dire need for more educators and healthcare professionals. Furthermore, as Calgary seeks to throw off its image as the most 'cultureless' of major Canadian cities, there is a lot of investment going into media and the arts.
Expats are, however, strongly encouraged to take heed of the fact that the cost of living in Calgary is very high, especially in relation to the average wage. The fact that a large proportion of the city's homeless people are actually in full time employment simply exemplifies the gross economic disparity between 'blue collar' and 'white collar' workers in Calary. Therefore, in order to live comfortably in Calgary, expats will need to ensure they have well-paid, non-menial employment. Furthermore, expats are advised to do some research into the cost of living in order to anticipate the kind of salary they will need to sustain a particular lifestyle.
In terms of working culture, expats, especially those from Western Europe and the US, will have no problem slotting into the Canadian workplace. A highly developed, efficient country, Canada is, by all accounts, a dream for committed professionals. As in most Western countries, business in Canada operates on a 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday basis.
Upon obtaining a job offer, expats will need to apply for a Canadian working visa. There are certain requirements that need to be fulfilled by both the visa applicant and their prospective employer before this visa will be granted – but never fear, there are numerous agencies that can help with this process.