Canada’s population growth slows to a standstill following reduced immigration in 2020

Mohanad Moetaz
Published: January 3, 2021

Canada’s population growth rate stood still in the third quarter of 2020, between July 1 and September 30, 2020. The country only saw a net population increase of 2,767 people. 

This is the slowest ever recorded growth, since national quarterly data became available in 1946. This information is according to the quarterly demographic estimates released by Statistics Canada.

The slow growth comes mainly from negative net international migration. This means that more people left Canada than those who moved to Canada.

In the first quarter of 2020, Canada’s population increased by about 70,000 from net international migration, and increased by around 10,000 naturally (the difference between births and deaths). This is because Canada’s travel restrictions did not go into effect until March 2020. These travel restrictions played a massive role in slowing Canada’s population growth. As such, in the second quarter, Canada’s population increased by just under 10,000 from net international migration, and increased by around 15,000 naturally.

Canada’s growth from international migration continued to slow, and in the third quarter of 2020, the net population increase from international migration was –27,143. This is the biggest hit to Canada’s population growth since 1946, when such data became available.

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Despite this, Canada welcomed a total of 40,069 new immigrants in the third quarter of 2020, more than in the second quarter when that number was 34,271. The largest impact on Canada’s population growth, was the sharp drop in the net number of non-permanent resident migration. Every third quarter, a large number of non-permanent residents are expected, as this is when international students are expected to begin their academic year. However, due to border restrictions and many programs having moved online, many students were either unable or unwilling to travel to Canada.

This slow growth means that Canada will depend on immigration, now more than ever, for its post-pandemic economic recovery.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is continuing to process permanent residence applications. This highlights Canada’s need for attracting and retaining eligible highly skilled candidates, as they will be crucial for Canada’s economic recovery.

Prior to the pandemic, Canada still depended greatly on immigrants for economic growth, and the country aimed to welcome an increasing number of permanent residents and immigrants every year. This is because Canada has an aging population, which creates labour shortages across the country. The COVID-19 pandemic and slow population growth merely magnified the need for increased immigration.

The population of eight provinces and territories dropped: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

The population increased in five provinces and territories: Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and Yukon.

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