In 2019, the population of Canada grew by 580,000 people. A staggering 80% of that growth can be directly attributed to immigration to Canada. High levels of immigration fuel both Canada’s population and economic growth. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, Canada’s strategy of immigration-fueled growth is at risk, says a recent report from RBC Economics.
The travel-related fears and economic downturn created by the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic is expected to drop overall immigration levels to Canada significantly. How significant this drop in immigration levels is over the long term, and how fast the recovery will be in 2021, depends on how quickly Canada, and the world, are able to remove COVID-19 restrictions and rebound from the associated economic fallout.
Canada continues to be a top destination for immigrants seeking a new country to call home. IRCC is still accepting applications for permanent residence and temporary visas during the pandemic. While the Canadian government has reiterated its commitment to keeping immigration levels high, they cannot control COVID-19 related factors outside the Canadian border that might hinder immigrant mobility.
When we compare March 2019 data with March 2020, the numbers are striking:
- 45% fewer students entering on study visas
- 30% fewer permanent residents landings
- 35% fewer temporary foreign workers, on average, across all employment sectors
- 45% fewer TFWs in the agricultural sector
According to the RBC Economics report, Canada could see as many as 170,000 fewer permanent residents in 2020 than originally projected if COVID-19 restrictions continue throughout the summer. As a reference, Canada’s immigration target for 2020 was approximately 340,000.
Why Canada Needs Immigrants
Canadian cities depend on newcomers to keep their populations growing and to support their housing markets. Canadian schools and associated communities depend on the tuition paid by foreign students. The Canadian food supply chain depends on labour from foreign workers. There are very few industries that will not be affected by fewer permanent and temporary newcomers to Canada.
Canada also has an aging population, and without a robust system of immigration, Canada would be on a similar trajectory to that of Japan in the 1990s. But unlike Japan, Canada has embraced immigration and has allowed us to maintain a large proportion of the population in prime working age, between 25 and 54. This would not be possible without mass immigration to Canada.
Canada is still accepting applications for temporary visas and permanent residence. Many students are now welcome to study remotely from their home country if their program allows this. Canada has also fared better than other countries when dealing with COVID-19 so it’s possible these predictions will be less severe but only time will tell. One thing that is certain however, there is little chance Canada will meet its planned 2020 immigration target.