Poll shows more people than ever want to immigrate to Canada

Edana Robitaille
Published: January 27, 2023

For the first time, Canada has polled as the second most popular destination for potential newcomers after the United States in the most recent poll by Gallup, a global analytics and advice firm. This is the first time Gallup has released data on this topic since 2018.

The poll says that in 2021, 900 million people would move to another country permanently, given the opportunity. This is the highest percentage recorded since the firm began collecting data in 2011.

Overall, between 2011 and 2021, there was a jump in the number of people who would like to move to another country permanently from 12% to 16%. Only countries in the European Union and throughout East Asia showed a decrease in those who would like to leave their home country.

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The data suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic did not deter people’s desire to migrate. This is evident based on the speed at which migration has resumed since pandemic travel restrictions began to ease. For example, between 2021-2022, net international migration exceeded one million residents in the United States.

Canada gaining in popularity

Canada has become a more popular destination for immigrants over the past five years, with 8% of respondents in 2021 saying they would like to immigrate to Canada instead of the United States.

The trend started in 2017, not long after former president Donald Trump was elected. His anti-immigration stance caused many to abandon the United States as an immigration option and look elsewhere. As a result, 8% of potential immigrants said they would choose Canada over any other country, a spike from 5% in 2011. During the same period of time, the number of immigrants who would choose the United States dropped to 18% from 22%.

Even at 8%, Canada still sits in the second spot in terms of preferred destinations for immigrants. Germany, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan are all between 3-7%.

The highest percentage of people who would like to leave their country was in Sierra Leone, where 76% of respondents said they would consider leaving. Lebanon had the second highest percentage at 63%, outstripping Afghanistan’s 53%.

Still, the region with the highest overall increase in people who would move permanently to another country was Latin America and the Caribbean, which showed a 19% increase between 2011 and 2021. More than 45% of respondents in Honduras, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic would immigrate if they had the opportunity.

The poll notes that there is a difference between respondents who would like to leave their home country and those who do so. Many people who would like to immigrate are hampered by circumstances such as finances, family, and job opportunities and are never able to leave their country.

Canada seeking more immigrants

Canada’s well-publicized immigration targets are likely a factor in its popularity as a destination for newcomers.

Canada needs immigrants to combat a chronic labour shortage caused by an aging workforce and one of the lowest global birth rates. Without immigrants, Canada would not have a large enough tax base to maintain social services such as healthcare and education.

In response, each year, Canada releases an Immigration Levels Plan that sets targets for the number of new permanent residents the country plans to welcome from any of its immigration pathways in a given year.

In 2022, Canada welcomed over 437,000 permanent residents. This target is set higher for 2023 to 465,000 and rises as high as 500,000 per year by 2025. To meet these targets, Canada will need to invite more newcomers and process applications more quickly. This means Canada may be seen to have a less stringent immigration process than other countries.

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