More than 15 per cent of immigrants who came to Canada from 1982 to 2017 ended up leaving the country within 20 years of their admission, according to a new study from Statistics Canada.
The numbers come as the federal Liberals continue to face pressure to lower immigration input, and less than a month after a national cap was put in place on the intake of international students.
How likely a new immigrant was to leave reached its highest probability within the first few years after admittance, with those between three to seven years prior more likely to leave. This reaches a peak of about 1.4 per cent in the fourth and fifth year, then begins to drop until after 15 years when it ranges between a 0.6 to 0.7 per cent likelihood.
Statistics Canada notes there could be various reasons behind the departures and the timing of when it happens. Julien Berard-Chagnon, a demographer with the agency, said there are various hypotheses around why this is one of which may be integration.
“This three to seven years give a decent period to adapt to Canadian society, to find a job, to find a place to live, adapt to the climate, for example, the cold and harsh Canadian winters,” he said.
RBC economist Claire Fan said in an interview the number of immigrants leaving the country over this period was surprising.
“These are people that have obtained residency or citizenship in Canada that are presumably wanting to stay,” she said.
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She said one issue could also be trying to get into the labour force, and is why more must be done to close gaps in Canada’s labour force.
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“For us, we have a more productive labour force and for the newcomers themselves they’re more inclined to stay if they feel more satisfied with their living situation,” Fan noted.
According to the data, the decision about whether to emigrate fluctuates depending on when they were admitted into Canada, with those who came in the late 1980s and first half of the 1990s more likely to leave. StatsCan found slightly more than 15 per cent of this group left within 20 years.
Those who came to Canada since 2000 have shown less likelihood to emigrate, however, with nearly five per cent leaving within five years and 10 per cent leaving within a decade.
“In the 90s, people were talking about brain drain,” Berard-Chagnon said. “So, some Canadians left to the U.S. to get higher wages, especially specialized workers. So this could be one of the reasons why we see more emigration during these periods.”
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The Institute for Canadian Citizenship CEO Daniel Bernhard said he saw the study from Statistics Canada as a “confirmation” of its own “Leaky Bucket” study, which it released in October 2023, showing the number of immigrants who left Canada surged in 2017 and 2019 — a 31 pre cent increase above the historical average.
Bernhard added those most likely to leave are the most skilled.
The data shows investors and entrepreneurs are the two most likely admission classes to emigrate within 20 years, but those self-employed and immigrants considered skilled workers are in the top five emigrants, with slightly more than 20 per cent leaving after 20 years.
He points to the need for immigrants to have a positive early experience to help get them to stay.
“If we don’t shift our minds, we will never solve these problems,” he said. “What immigrants are telling us is actually, maybe you’re not as hot as you think.”
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Fan acknowledged there are issues around housing and other aspects that immigration has been pointed to as an impacting factor.
“(It) just proves the importance and the necessity to not only make sure that we get them into the country, but also making sure we’re doing the right steps after to make sure they’re well integrated into the labour force,” she said. “They like where they’re living, they’re OK with their living arrangements situation, that they’re here to stay.”
— with files from The Canadian Press
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