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Canada: returning students boost population size

The return of international students has resulted in Canada’s population growing at its fastest rate since the pandemic began, a new report by RBC Economics has found. 

The return of international students has resulted in Canada's population growing at its fastest rate since the pandemic began. Photo: Pexels

"New study permits issued increased 21,000 (44%) year-over-year"

The population rebound took place in the first quarter of 2021 and was also linked to the recovery of pre-pandemic immigration levels. 

“Stronger-than-expected international migration lifted Canada’s population by 82,000 in the first quarter”

Canada’s population increased by 82,000 during this time. New study permits issued increased 21,000 (44%) year-over-year, and new post-graduate work visas increased by 24,000 (160%) in the first quarter of 2021. 

By contrast Canada’s international post-secondary student population fell by 60,000 in 2020.

“Stronger-than-expected international migration lifted Canada’s population by 82,000 in the first quarter, the fastest quarterly increase since the pandemic began,” said the report’s author, Andrew Agopsowicz who is a senior economist at RBC Economics. 

“The federal government’s strong push for new permanent residents resulted in immigration returning to pre-pandemic levels, with most of the increase accounted for by people already temporarily living in the country. 

“There was also a significant increase in temporary residents that kept pace with the outflow of those transitioning to a more permanent status.”

Agopsowicz said that even with strong growth in the early months of 2021, the pandemic amounts to a lost year in terms of Canadian population growth.

Year-over-year growth was 0.4%. The natural increase in the population (births minus deaths) was just 6,400 – the lowest level in recorded history – as a result of both population  and Covid-19 related loss of life. 

“Even as Covid-19 subsides, the natural increase is likely to continue to decline into the future leaving immigration to make up the shortfall. This puts even more of a spotlight on the federal government’s execution of its immigration plan,” Agopsowicz added.

The Canadian government recently reiterated its support for international students coming to Canada and the role they can play in helping Canada meet its immigration targets during a PIE webinar.

Mary Ng, minister for international trade, said during the session that the new pathway to permanent residency for international students already in Canada was “a key pillar in our government’s commitment to welcoming more than 400,000 new permanent residents each year going forward, the highest commitment to increasing immigration in Canada’s history”.

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