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March 27, 2023

How immigration helped Canada set a new population growth record

Published on March 25th, 2023 at 08:00am EDT

According to recent data from Statistics Canada, the country’s total population is estimated to be over 39.5 million (as of January 1, 2023). This means that, for the first time ever, Canada’s population grew by over one million people in a single year.

This comes as Canada experienced a record-high population growth of 1,050,110 people between January 1, 2022, and January 1, 2023.

At +2.7%, 2022 saw Canada mark its highest population growth rate in 65 years (+3.3% in 1957). If Canada’s current population growth rate were to remain steady, Statistics Canada estimates suggest that the country’s population would double in approximately 26 years.

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Whereas Canada’s growth rate in 1957 was largely a result of the post-war baby boom and refugee immigration due to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, nearly all of Canada’s population growth last year was a product of international migration (95.9%).

Understanding Canada’s record-high population growth across 2022

Canada’s population growth in 2022 was led by temporary immigration, as this country “saw a net increase” of around 607,782 “non-permanent residents.”

Canada’s 600,000+ increase in temporary residents for 2022 marks yet another single-year record high for the country. According to the reported data, this increase in temporary residents was spread across the country, with all of Canada’s provinces and territories seeing growth in the number of work permits, study permits, and asylum claimants.

In 2022, Canada also set a new record for the number of immigrants welcomed in one year (over 437,000).

Both of these single-year records, for total immigration and non-permanent residents, are the product of a conscious effort from the Government of Canada to use immigration as a means of addressing nationwide labour shortages. As Canada seeks to handle high job vacancies and near record-low unemployment rates, the government is welcoming record-high levels of immigration to counteract the challenges created for the national labour market as a result of this country’s aging natural population and low birth rate.

In fact, Canada’s record-setting year for population growth comes as a near-direct result of higher-than-ever immigration targets and a record-breaking year with respect to the processing of immigration applications.

Note: Canada’s latest Immigration Levels Plan for 2023-2025 indicates that the government hopes to further increase immigration over the next three years, with total annual immigration targets as high as 500,000 in 2025.

Breaking down how immigration contributed to Canada’s 2022 population boom

Immigration factors into population growth across Canada by bringing three general groups of the international population into this country. These groups include permanent residents, international students and foreign skilled workers.

Permanent residents

In 2022, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data indicates that Canada welcomed over 437,000 new permanent residents (PRs) from over 190 countries. Exceeding the target set out in the Immigration Levels Plan for 2022-2024 (431,000+), this figure represents a nearly eight percent increase from 2021.

According to the data, more than half of all PRs (58%) came to Canada through economic immigration programs in 2022. Meanwhile, 22.2% of PRs that arrived in Canada last year were family-class immigrants and 17.2% of all Canadian permanent residents were admitted as refugees or protected persons.

The following table outlines the distribution of Canadian PRs across Canada in 2022 by province/territory.

Province/Territory 2022 PRs % of all PRs % change from 2021
Newfoundland and Labrador 3,490 0.7% +0.2%
Prince Edward Island 2,665 0.6%
Nova Scotia 12,650 2.8% +0.6%
New Brunswick 10,205 2.3% +1%
Quebec 68,685 15.7% +3.4%
Ontario 184,725 42.2% -6.7%
Manitoba 21,645 4.9% +0.8%
Saskatchewan 21,635 4.9% +2.2%
Alberta 49,460 11.3% +1.4%
British Columbia 61,215 14% -3.1%
Yukon 455 0.1%
Northwest Territories 235 0.0% -0.1%
Nunavut 45 0.0%
Province not stated 20 0.0% -0.1%
Canada total 437,120 100%

International students

551,405 new international students arrived in Canada last year from 184 countries.

The following 10 countries produced the highest number of new international students that came to Canada in 2022:

  1. India (226,450)
  2. People’s Republic of China (52,165)
  3. Philippines (23,380)
  4. France (16,725)
  5. Nigeria (16,195)
  6. Iran (13,525)
  7. Republic of Korea (11,535)
  8. Japan (10,955)
  9. Mexico (10,405)
  10. Brazil (10,405)

Ontario (411,000 students) led the way with respect to the chosen province of study among Canadian international students last year. British Columbia was second on this list (164,000) and the top three was rounded out by Quebec (93,000).

The remaining seven Canadian provinces are ranked as follows on this list.

4. Alberta (43,000)

5. Manitoba (22,000)

6. Nova Scotia (20,850)

7. Saskatchewan (13,135)

8. New Brunswick (11,140)

9. Newfoundland and Labrador (6,175)

10. Prince Edward Island (4,485)

Foreign skilled workers

A record-high 608,420 work permits took effect across Canada in 2022. This figure means that nearly 200,000 more work permits took effect last year than in 2021 (414,000).

Breaking down that figure, it is evident that most work permit holders (77%, 472,070 permit holders) that came to Canada in 2022 did so via the International Mobility Program (IMP). The remaining 136,350 permits were issued through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

Among all IMP work permits that came into effect last year, the highest percentage of permits (36%) were held by medical residents and fellows, and post-graduate employment applicants. Most TFWP work permits (51%), on the other hand, were held by agriculture workers in 2022.

Note: Click here to see a full breakdown of work permits by TFWP/IMP stream in 2022

Q4 2022 population growth in Canada

Statistics Canada also notes that Q4 2022 marked Canada’s highest population growth rate (+0.7%) of any fourth quarter since 1956 (also +0.7%).

The final three months of 2022 saw Canada add 83,152 immigrants to the national population, at a time when Canada also welcomed “the most estimated net new non-permanent residents (+196,262) of any fourth quarter for which [there exists] comparable data.”

In line with general trends in 2022, population growth in Q4 of last year was almost entirely (97.7%) attributable to international migration.

Note: Q4 is represented by the period between October 1 and December 31, 2022

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