The strength of Canada’s economy is measured in part by the number of people working (known as the labour force) and paying taxes to fund our public services, such as health care.
Thanks to immigration, Canada’s labour force continues to grow by a small amount every year. If it weren’t for immigrants, employers would have trouble finding enough qualified workers to fill available jobs. This is because Canadians are living longer and having fewer children. More people are retiring, and there are fewer students in schools. As a result, the pool of Canadian-born existing and potential workers is limited.
Immigrants contribute to our economy, not only by filling gaps in our labour force and paying taxes, but also by spending money on goods, housing and transportation.
Supporting the aging population
Canada’s worker-to-retiree ratio is 4 to 1. By 2035, when 5 million Canadians are set to retire, the ratio will be down to 2 to 1, meaning there will be only 2 workers for every retiree.
Immigration alone cannot solve this challenge, but it can help as we look to keep our economy growing and maintain our commitments to health care, public pensions and other social programs. More than 80% of the immigrants we’ve admitted in recent years are under 45 years old, meaning they will have plenty of working years in Canada.
Meeting our labour market needs
Some employers are already having trouble finding Canadian-born workers to fill jobs. More than 6 in 10 immigrants are selected for their positive impact on our economy. The top 5 occupations of people invited to immigrate under our Express Entry program are as follows:
- software engineers and designers
- information systems analysts
- computer programmers
- financial auditors and accountants
- advertising, marketing and public relations professionals
Many immigrants have excellent science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, and they make up about half of all STEM degree holders in Canada. These skills are important in our knowledge economy.
For immigrants to find work here, it’s important to make sure their education, training and experience meet Canadian job standards. We are working with employers, provinces and territories to make this happen as quickly as possible.
Immigrants can also fill labour market needs by taking on jobs that Canadians are not interested in doing.
Filling temporary labour needs
Temporary foreign workers are an important part of the Canadian workforce. They help employers meet labour needs when qualified Canadians or permanent residents aren’t available.
Temporary workers support the success and growth of many industries, such as agriculture and agri-food, health care and technology.
In 2019, about 400,000 people were issued temporary work permitsFootnote1. Workers are thoroughly screened to protect the health, safety, and security of Canadians
Sustaining Canada’s education system through international students
International students contribute more than $21 billion to the economy every year through student spending and tuition. Their spending amounts to more than Canada’s exports of auto parts, lumber or aircraftFootnote2.
International education is an essential pillar of Canada’s long-term competitiveness. Students from abroad who study in Canada expose Canadians to new cultures and ideas. This stimulates innovation and develops important cross-cultural competencies. If these students choose to immigrate to Canada, they contribute to Canada’s economic successFootnote3. In 2019, 827,586 international students held study permits in CanadaFootnote4, and more than 58,000 former international students immigrated permanently.
International students representFootnote5:
27% of all students enrolled in math, computer, and information sciences programs
19% of all students enrolled in architecture, engineering, and related programs
Many students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields will stay and build their careers in Canada. They will help us build a stronger economy for the future.