A summary of IRCC’s 2022 International Experience Canada research study

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: December 11, 2022

In March 2022, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) released a public opinion research report surrounding the International Experience Canada (IEC) program.

This report compiled the opinions of over 2,500 Canadian youth and over 1,000 Canadian parents (acquired through a quantitative survey), plus an additional 108 youth and 39 parents questioned via bulletin board to measure the following.

  • Past international travel/work experience
  • IEC program awareness, desire and participation
  • International work/travel motivations, benefits, and barriers
  • Desire to travel amid COVID-19
  • Differentiation in opinions held by different groups of youth (details below)

Here is a recap of that study’s key findings.

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1. COVID-19

Although this research was conducted in early 2022, there remained a notable degree of concern among participants about COVID-19 risks. Similarly, there was concern about the mental health and academic consequences that the pandemic has had on Canadian youth.

Conversely, an appreciation for certain pandemic-related benefits — such as a slower pace of life and the rise in virtual schooling and work options — has helped many respondents cope with pandemic-driven “disappointment and isolation”.

2. Travel

Regarding present-day travel, the IRCC’s research revealed that the main reason for not travelling was financial barriers and although the pandemic increased the desire to travel for some, many remained cautious about travelling abroad due to factors like the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Conversely, with respect to future travel, coronavirus safety was a top factor among both youth and parents when considering future travel plans. Domestic and international vaccine mandates were the most prominent factor regarding the safety of international travel. Additionally, the most common barriers to future international travel included work responsibilities, finances, cost of travelling, and travel companionship as a means of making travel safer for children.

IRCC’s research also highlighted the following with respect to experiences that Canadian youth have had with international travel and their perception of its benefits.

  • 86% of Canadian youth travel for leisure or business, reporting at least one international trip for this reason in their lifetime
  • Roughly 40% of youth respondents have travelled to work, study, or volunteer abroad
  • International travel benefits cited by respondents included the opportunity to learn about new cultures, have an adventure, and experience personal growth
  • 64% of surveyed youth were eager to display international experience to employers but only 53% believed international experience eventually improved their Canadian job prospects

This research consciously sought the opinions of youth with mobility or hearing impairments, LGBTQ2+ youth, youth women in STEM, and Indigenous youth. Among and between these four groups:

  • Youth with impairments were generally more concerned about COVID-19 and the maintenance of public health measures
  • Many surveyed Indigenous youth revealed that COVID-19 had strengthened their level of caution about travel and possibly bringing COVID-19 into their communities
  • Indigenous youth in remote/northern locations cited distance and family/community connections as strong barriers to international travel

IEC program-specific findings

IRCC has learned a lot from both Canadian youth and parents about past IEC program participation, program awareness and future participation desire.

Youth

Less than one in ten youth indicated past IEC participation.

1. Awareness

Despite satisfaction among past IEC program participants, program awareness was low among both survey and bulletin board respondents.

2. Desire to learn more

Roughly one-third (30%) of youth research participants indicated a desire to learn more about the IEC program and expressed an interest in doing so through the internet, school, or by word of mouth.

3. Future desire to travel/participate in the IEC program

Close to three-quarters (74%) of youth respondents qualified themselves as “very or somewhat likely” to travel, particularly for leisure or business, once the pandemic was over. However, 39% noted that because of the pandemic, there are certain countries where they would no longer consider living in.

Conversely, Canadian youth (34%) are generally less concerned than before (53% in 2021) with needing another country’s COVID-19 rates to be approaching zero for them to feel comfortable travelling there.

The likelihood of future participation in an IEC-like program among youth came in at 30%.

Finally, 56% of surveyed youth indicated a lack of understanding regarding getting started with working, volunteering, or studying outside of Canada. Just under half of these youth (49%) also said they feel that they would have difficulty finding work abroad.

Parents

1. Awareness

Parents expressed a low level of awareness regarding IEC, but say that they most often learn about the program by word of mouth.

2. Desire to learn more

Nearly half (44%) of parents say they want to learn more about IEC, preferably through the internet, school resources, or IEC information sessions.

3. Concerns

Almost two-thirds (63%) of parents said there are places in the world they would not want their children to live in case there is another pandemic. However, 58% of parents say they are likely to recommend volunteer or work-related international travel to their children when it becomes safe to do so.

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