Disappointing Canada: over 15% of immigrants leave the country

OTTAWA – More than 15 per cent of immigrants who arrived in Canada from 1982 to 2017 ended up leaving the country within twenty years. That’s what emerges from a new study by Statistics Canada. According to the report, first and foremost, the likelihood of a new immigrant leaving reaches its highest probability in the first few years after admission, with those three to seven years earlier most likely to leave. This reaches a peak of around 1.4% in the fourth and fifth years, then begins to decline until after 15 years, when it fluctuates between 0.6 and 0.7%. 

Statistics Canada notes that there may be various reasons behind the departures and the times in which this occurs: according to Julien Berard-Chagnon, a demographer at the agency, “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” said the demographer, whose words are reported by Global News.

RBC economist Claire Fan also said in an interview that the number of immigrants leaving the country during this period is astonishing. “These are people that have obtained residency or citizenship in Canada that are presumably wanting to stay” she said, adding that trying to enter the workforce could also be an issue, which is why more needs to be done to filling gaps in the Canadian workforce. Newcomers “are more inclined to stay if they feel more satisfied with their living situation” Fan noted.

According to the data, the decision whether to emigrate varies depending on when they were admitted to Canada, with those who arrived between the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s more likely to leave. StatsCan found that just over 15% of this group left within 20 years, while those who arrived in Canada since 2000 showed less desire to emigrate, with almost 5% leaving it went within five years and 10% within a decade.

“In the 1990s – explains Berard-Chagnon – 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…”.

Daniel Bernhard, CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, said he sees the Statistics Canada study as “confirmation” of his own “Leaky Bucket” study, released in October 2023, which shows that the number of immigrants who have left the Canada increased in 2017 and 2019 — an increase 31% above the historical average. Bernhard added that those most likely to leave are the most skilled: data shows that investors and entrepreneurs are the two entering classes most likely to emigrate within twenty years, but self-employed workers and immigrants considered skilled workers are among the top five emigrants, with just over 20% leaving after 20 years. And this highlights the need for immigrants to have a positive first experience that helps them stay. “What immigrants are telling us is actually, maybe you’re not as hot as you think…”.

Fan acknowledged that there are issues related to housing and other aspects that immigration has been cited as impacting. “(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.

In recent years, it is probably precisely the difficulty in entering the country that discourages temporary residents: obtaining permanent residence (and all the connected rights) is increasingly difficult and complicated and, perhaps, many temporary workers decide to give up, after a short experience in Canada, choosing countries more willing to welcome working people. Because no one wants to live in a country where you only have duties and no rights.

Photo from Twitter Ircc / @CitImmCanada