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Canada: international student spending hit $11.4bn in 2014

Spending by international students and their visiting friends and family amounted to a net CAN$11.4bn in 2014, up from $8bn four years earlier, according to the federal government’s new economic impact study. Canada’s international education services now account for 11% of the country’s service exports.

International students in Toronto, CanadaInternational students in Toronto, Ontario. Photo: Flickr/Eurocentres Toronto/Byron H. Chan.

“Canada is known for its exports from resource sectors. Few realise that the contribution of international student spending is also substantial”

International students also contributed $9.3bn to Canada’s GDP in 2014 – almost double the $4.9bn it was four years earlier.

International students contributed $9.3bn to Canada’s GDP in 2014 – almost double four years earlier

This spending amounts to 122,700 jobs supported in the Canadian economy.

Economic Impact of International Education in Canada – 2016 Update, commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (now Global Affairs Canada) is the first study of its kind since 2012.

The study unveils the scale of the economic contribution international students across all education sectors make to the Canadian economy.

It notes that international students’ annual $11.4bn in spending surpasses the value of Canadian exports in wheat and lumbar and is not far behind the export value of motor parts ($11.9bn).

“Canada is known for its exports from resource sectors like oil, natural gas, logging and forestry,” the report notes.

“Few realise that the contribution of international student spending is also substantial.”

It also highlights the importance of the sector as an export in specific markets. International education services exports represent 13% of total service exports to Canada’s top 10 student source countries.

The $9.3bn contribution to GDP calculated in the report includes $6.7bn in direct value-added, coming from spending on tuition, food, and accommodation, with an added $2.6bn in indirect value-added associated with firms supplying goods and services to the education services and other sectors.

The figures reveal that as well as attracting the largest number of international students of any Canadian province, Ontario also saw the largest share of contribution to GDP in 2014 – $4.4bn, close to half the total.

British Columbia brings in the second largest contribution, with 23.4% of the total, while Quebec follows with 14.1%.

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority (92%) of spending was by long-term students, who supported 113,100 jobs in the labour market.

Breaking the figures down into levels of study, the report identifies that university students and those completing an internship spent the most on average, at nearly $34,000 a year.

K-12 students spent around two-thirds of this, at close to $23,000 annually.

For short-term students, average total expenditure per student week was $832.

“There is not one single, comprehensive source of data with regard to international students”

Based on the findings, the report identifies a “great need” for further data on the sector.

“There is not one single, comprehensive source of data with regard to international students,” it notes. The study drew on data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and sector body Languages Canada to estimate the total number of long- and short-term international students in Canada.

“On student spending amount and pattern, we need a better handle on tuition for specialised studies, part-time versus full-time students, public versus private school students, as well as expenditure associated with incremental tourism activities from families and friends,” it adds.

It also identifies a “great need” for data on scholarships and bursaries provided by governments and universities in Canada to promote international student mobility.

The report was carried out by Roslyn Kunin & Associates, Inc., and used a number of sources to estimate students’ expenditure, including Statistics Canada’s annual Tuition and Living Accommodation Costs survey.

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