Seven Years of Immigration and its Impact on the Economy, Job Market, Culture, and Demographics
Canada’s doors are opening to an increasing number of immigrants.
In 2023 thus far, the country welcomed 415,00 temporary work permit holders and 465,000 permanent residents. As society embraces the new faces of foreign immigrants with vital skills to contribute to a retiring workforce, and as foreign cultures incorporate into the Canadian mosaic, this article will explore the seven years of Canadian immigration since 2017. It will highlight how policy and Canada’s approach to immigration has shifted between 2017, when 286,000 new immigrants bolstered the economy and kept hospitals and businesses open, to 2023, when climate change and political unrest have placed humanitarian goals at the forefront of strategy.
The number of Temporary Residence visas within a seven-year range signals the popularity of Canadian visitor and immigration programs. 1,617,22 Temporary Resident Visas (TRV) and 4,109,918 Electronic Travel Authorizations (eTA) were issued in 2017, and five years later, 654,027 TRV and 816,306 eTAs were issued, for a total of 1,470,333 travellers who arrived in Canada in 2021. Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence programs reflect the need for a larger population with incentives designed to keep temporary residence in Canada. Many of these temporary visitors are encouraged to stay and make Canada home. In 2016, the economy received $31.8 billion from international students and Canadian visitors. Further expansion of immigration programs continues. The 2018 report to the Parliament on Immigration foreshadowed Canada's aim to create a multicultural and diverse “strong and vibrant country we all can enjoy.”
One of the primary challenges addressed in the 2018 immigration policy was a declining natural population. Canadians are electing to bring fewer children into the world as elders are looking forward to leaving the workforce to retire. The majority age of a Canadian last year in 2022 was beyond retirement age. 63.8% of Canadians are older than sixty-five. A nice angle on old age is that Canadians tend to live longer. In fact, 4.4% were alive beyond one hundred.
As well as focusing on alleviating job shortages and service closures caused by continued population strain, the 2018 report positioned Canada to lead the world in managed migration and addressed backlogs. Canada's 2018 goal of reducing immigrant application processing to 12 months for the reunification of family and spouses, 12 months for citizenship processing time, and 12 months to process caregiver applications began to come to fruition three years later, in 2021, when Canada focused on improving efficiency for those applying to become permanent residents with the adoption of technology, improved security, advanced data analytics, and a Permanent Resident Digital Intake Portal.
On the humanitarian front, Canada engaged with international immigration organizations to develop global strategies and welcomed 406,000 permanent residents in the economic, family reunification, and refugee/humanitarian streams. Canada also led a social media campaign with Ecuador - the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) called It Takes a Community (ITAC) to promote balanced migration narratives.
The steady progress continues today. Canada’s 2022 strategy appears to focus on bringing in the volume of immigrants required, along with providing more space for humanitarian streams. Immigration is providing Canada with vital human capital to fill job vacancies, sustain systems such as the healthcare system, and inject money into the economy.
Canada’s economy benefited from additional trained workers and the introduction of the caregiver pilot. Immigrant surgeons, pharmacists, nurses, and doctors ensured hospitals and clinics could remain open. As the Canadian population ages, the need for skilled workers is two-fold. Canada faces greater demand from an ageing population on the verge of retirement on the one hand while skilled worker shortages reflect a shrinking natural population.
During the last five years, Canada saw the introduction of the Sponsor Global Talent Stream strategy to make attracting qualified international talent easier with a $113 million investment in skills and training. The program saw immediate success, bringing Permanent residents and Canadians into the job force with the creation of more than 48,000 jobs. Information systems, analysts, consultants, software engineers, computer programmers, interactive media developers, financial auditors, accountants, and administrative assistants were the most frequently introduced careers in 2017.
90% of Canada’s labour force growth is attributed to immigration. The country’s population grew also, adding 5.2% to the population in the five years between 2016 and 2021. In 2021, Asia: South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia made up more than 50% of newcomers. Canada is a popular country and a permanent destination for the world. 86% of the 6.5 million eligible immigrants in 2016 elected to acquire Canadian citizenship. As of November 2023, Canada is home to a 38.93 million population.
This number places a strain on the housing sector, which struggles to construct enough houses to satisfy additional demand. Additional building projects are planned in the coming years to meet the needs of Canada’s growing population.
Culturally, inclusion is ingrained in the Canadian landscape as is openness and humanitarian purpose. Canada stands with our most vulnerable and is known internationally for non-discrimination, multiculturalism, and diversity. 1 in 5 people in Canada are immigrants. LGBTQ2 populations are supported in the 2023 immigration goals to achieve an equitable work culture, increased representation at intermediate and senior levels for a diverse reflection of Canadians, equitable policy and operational practices, and accountability to equitable leadership.
Humanitarian streams seek to sustain foreign immigrants facing conflict and crises caused by natural disasters. For example, 40,000 Afghan refugees are anticipated to arrive and take part in extensive resettlement projects by 2024: 44,000 refugees, protected persons, and humanitarian, compassionate, and public policy streams were admitted in 2017. Five years later, the top countries for humanitarian admission are Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Somalia.
Canada remains a culture made of immigrants who engage in the community and give back. 61% of the total 35% of the Canadian population also speak one of Canada’s official languages. That is not to say that Canada has the singular goal of bringing in refugees. Despite highlighting humanitarian streams, only a small portion of all acceptances arrive from these areas, with 11,377 admissions in 2021, while the economic class brought 22.2 times more immigrants, 252,971 during the same period. 2023 so far has 39,800 protected persons and dependents of protected persons.
Overall, across the last seven years, Canada has seen its leadership apply enthusiasm and wisdom toward immigration in response to regional and international needs, addressing labor shortages and situations of conflict and crisis. The outcome for Canadian immigrants is stronger thanks to well-placed inclusion strategies. While immigrants typically earn less than their fellow Canadians, they and their children are prepared to step into the roles left vacant when elder generations retire. There also remains a strong focus on economic and skilled worker pathways which tend to bring in bachelor’s degree holders and successful people who enjoy social engagement and are welcome to make their home in Canada.
2018 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration - Canada.ca
2022 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration - Canada.ca
Infographic: Immigration and Economic Growth - Canada.ca
Canada’s growing population driven by immigration - Statistics Canada (statcan.gc.ca)