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International students add to Canada’s increasing population

ACanada Population Increase Due to International Students, Q1 2021

International students add to Canada’s increasing population

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Canada has closed its borders for incoming non-Canadian residents, including international students. However, in July 2021, the Canadian government eased border restrictions for travelers in anticipation of the fall semester.

Key Points at a Glance

  • Immigration has raised the population in Canada by 82,000 in the first quarter of 2021.
  • Canadian HEIs are seeing a greater number of international students this year compared to last.
  • The Immigration Levels Plan aims to welcome over 400,000 immigrants to Canada each year until 2023.
  • Only 17 percent of international students are certain about staying in Canada.

The move is timely, considering that a month before it was put into action, a report by RBC Economics published data that shows Canada enjoying a healthy population rebound during the first quarter of 2021, thanks to the influx of international students encouraged by government initiatives.

Canada's Population Boost In Q1, 2021

The report stated that immigration has raised the population in Canada by 82,000 in the first quarter. The federal government’s initiative started with encouraging temporary residents in Canada to apply for permanent residence.

Meanwhile, international students and those who were already eligible holders of Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWPs) also contributed largely to the population boost. While the international student population fell by 60,000 in 2020, this year presents better numbers. In fact, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issued an additional 21,000 new study permits (44 percent increase), and 24,000 PGWPs (160 percent increase).

HEI's Report Increase In International Student Enrollment

Several Canadian higher education institutions have reported an increase in international student applications as well.

The University of Saskatchewan reported a 40 percent increase as compared to early July 2020. The university is now expecting “exceeding pre-pandemic levels of both new and returning international students by the end of the academic year,” said Alison Pickrell, assistant vice provost, strategic enrollment management.

York University labels the increase of international student enrollment as “modest,” from 5,224 to 6,831. The Université du Québec à Montréal expects a four percent increase in international students. 

“Certainly, we’re seeing greater numbers of international students this year compared to last year, and the positive signs of a strong rebound,” said Malcolm Butler, vice president, academic and research at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.

The overall numbers are supporting a possibility of a strong rebound as well. Data from IRCC reveals that the department received nearly 100,000 applications for study permits during the first quarter of 2021. In 2019 and 2020, there were 96,000 applications and 66,000 applications during the same quarter, respectively.

Natural Increase In Decline

Going back to the RBC Report, it shows that the natural increase in population (births minus deaths) was at 6,400. This was the lowest recorded growth in history, attributed to aging and COVID-19 related deaths.

While the world continues to deal with the pandemic, Canada expects the natural increase in population to continue to decline. This highlights the role of the Canadian government and its execution of immigration plans, which includes tapping into the international education sector.

The federal department of IRCC introduced its new Immigration Levels Plan set until 2023, as the country aims to welcome approximately over 400,000 new immigrants each year to help usher in a new age of social and economic success.

In the context of how Canada is doing in achieving its target numbers amid a pandemic, however, it shows that a lot of work still needs to be done.

Canada accepted 91,695 new permanent residents as of April. For it to achieve its immigration target numbers, it has to admit approximately 38,675 new permanent residents per month until year-end. 

International Student Migration Decisions

During these days when travel restrictions are easing, and higher education institutions in Canada are welcoming back new and old students from all across the globe, the question whether they stay or not remains to be seen. According to a May 2021 study, approximately only 17 percent of international students saw international study in Canada as a direct means to migration.

Currently, the federal government has a plan and higher education institutions are doing their part. However, there is a long time between now and when a student completes his program.

The future remains uncertain. But for a sector that delivers significant economic impact—international students in Canada spent $22.3 billion on tuition, accommodation, and discretionary spending in 2018—the future is worth the wait.

Data Sources:

Thevenot, S. (2021, July 26) International students still need quarantine plan at Canada border. CIC News. Retrieved from https://www.cicnews.com/2021/07/international-students-still-need-quarantine-plan-at-canada-border-0718721.html#gs.bxxzoo

Canada’s population grew strongly in Q1 as international students returned (2021, June 17) RBC Economics. Retrieved from http://www.rbc.com/economics/daily-economic-update/CA_Population_JUN2021.pdf

Munroe, Ian. (2021, August 4) Number of international students studying in Canada looks set to rebound. University Affairs. Retrieved from https://www.universityaffairs.ca/news/news-article/number-of-international-students-studying-in-canada-looks-set-to-rebound/

Canada Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023. CanadaVisa. Retrieved from https://www.canadavisa.com/canada-immigration-levels-plans.html?_ga=2.73357139.1792233244.1632293538-1627225367.1628751585

Thevenot, S. (2021, July 23) Immigrants and international students grew Canada’s population in Q1 2021. CIC News. Retrieved from https://www.cicnews.com/2021/07/immigrants-and-international-students-grew-canadas-population-in-q1-2021-0718522.html#gs.bxy9ex

How international students make decisions about staying in Canada (2021, May 19). University of Waterloo. Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/814366

Economic impact of international education in Canada – 2020 update. Government of Canada. Retrieved from https://www.international.gc.ca/education/report-rapport/impact-2018/index.aspx?lang=eng


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