Fort McMurray, situated in the heart of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in Canada's Alberta region has been rapidly expanding over the last couple of decades, mainly due to its location in the heart of one of Canada's most lucrative industries: The coal sands. Practically the entire population is involved, in some way or other, in the extraction, production and export of oil from this rich and extremely profitable industry. From the engineers actually involved in getting the bitumen out of the ground and separating it from the clay in which it is embedded, to construction workers whose job it is to erect the many hotels and serviced apartments in Fort McMurray that are needed to house the workers. Add to that the many people who are employed in order to cloth, feed and entertain the workers and it becomes clear that it is indeed a booming industry.
It's also a very intriguing place. Due to the often temporary and short term nature of many of the contracts on offer, although the population is constantly rising, it does seem to be a revolving door of workers wanting to relocate for a short period of time, drawn by the high wages involved in working in the oil industry. It's not surprising, seeing as the average worker can earn in excess of $100,000 per year. There are more people earning over $250k a year than there are people who are earning less than $20k. Which is why according to the Municipal Census of 2012, the number of people in project accommodation, such as apartments, hotels, and campsites specifically for housing workers has risen from just 5,903 in 2000 to 39,271 in 2012.
Of that number, a staggering 94% of workers stated that their primary place of residence was outside of the Municipality region. Although the region attracts people from all corners of the world, with people coming from as far as South East Asia and Africa, the majority of the workers in Fort McMurray are originally from places like Newfoundland, Labrador and Nova Scotia, and still like to call those places home. The average contract will only last for around 12 months, and although many do have the option to extend their contracts, it is often the case that they will take their money and return to wherever they call home. Studies suggest that despite the high wages and job opportunities, many workers begin to feel the strain of being isolated from their friends and families for long periods of time and working unsociable hours.
It is for this reason that it is relatively rare for workers to settle down in permanent accommodation, with the majority staying in temporary lodgings. It is also why there has been a push in recent years to make workers' stays as comfortable as possible, with many serviced apartments in Fort McMurray springing up and offering a range of amenities close by. It is certainly a step up from the camps that are often the main option for accommodation in Fort McMurray.
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The Municipal Census of 2012 states that in Fort McMurray, the number of people in project accommodation, such as apartments, hotels, and campsites specifically for housing workers has risen from just 5,903 in 2000 to 39,271 in 2012. More information on Fort McMurray's apartment rental market can be found here: www.riverparkglen.ca/
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