Backgrounder: Growing Canada’s Economic Future


Immigration has had an immeasurable effect on Canada. In 2017, Canada stands as a country of 36.5 million people and a world leader on various scales (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, G7, Canadian Index of Wellbeing).

Generations of immigrants have brought their talents to, and are inextricably woven into a prosperous, stable Canada. In fact, one in five Canadians is foreign-born, the highest among the G7. Canada has benefited tremendously from immigration, as it contributes to economic prosperity, diversity, and our nation’s strong cultural fabric.

In the current global environment, Canada has an opportunity to leverage its strong, well-managed immigration system. It can do so by continuing to attract high-skilled workers to support an innovative economy, while continuing to reunite families and cement Canada’s reputation as a global leader in refugee protection.

With this in mind, the government has established a new multi-year immigration levels plan. This aims to build upon the current plan for 300,000 permanent residents in 2017 by increasing the number of new permanent residents welcomed to Canada over a three-year period, beginning with an increase to 310,000 immigrants in 2018, 330,000 in 2019 and 340,000 in 2020.

Each immigration class will see a steady increase over the three-year period. The majority of the increase will be in economic programs.

The adoption of a growth-oriented multi-year levels plan will help us to:

  • plan for the future and address the impact of our aging population,
  • support economic growth and innovation and address labour market needs, and
  • reinforce our global leadership on immigration and uphold our humanitarian commitments by offering protection to those in need.

Our demographics

The aging of our population and a declining fertility rate will continue to have a significant impact on our economy. In 1971, there were 6.6 people of working age for each senior. By 2012, the worker-to-retiree ratio had dropped to 4.2 to 1, and projections put the ratio at 2 to 1 by 2036, at which time five million Canadians are set to retire.

Immigration alone cannot solve this demographic challenge, but it can help, as we look to keep our economy growing and maintain our commitments for health care, public pensions and other social programs. In recent years, more than 80 per cent of the immigrants we admit have been under 45 years of age.

Our economic and labour market needs

Immigration also helps to spur innovation domestically. In the economic class, immigrants are selected for their positive impact on our economy. Some already have a job in Canada. Others are chosen because they have skills and education we need in our economy.

For example, while immigrants account for approximately 20 percent of Canada’s population, they are a major source of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, representing around 50 percent of all STEM degree-holders in Canada at the bachelor’s level and above. These skills are important in a knowledge economy.

Immigrants also have a higher rate of entrepreneurship than their Canadian-born counterparts. Beyond job creation, these activities can also attract investment and trade ties to Canada, and help generate innovation domestically.

Provinces and territories are important partners in immigration, and they have their own programs to select economic immigrants. The Provincial Nominee Program has grown considerably in recent years, and will grow further under the current plan as we work with provinces and territories to address regional labour market needs.

Immigration reflects our values

Immigration has made Canada the nation it is today, one that’s diverse, prosperous and welcoming to those in need. In any given year, we bring in immigrants from upwards of 190 different countries. While this creates important linkages in a global economy, it also adds enormously to the richness of our society. Canadians take pride in the fact that our country is diverse and open to all, which in turn helps us to attract the best and the brightest.

Canada has a strong history of reaching out to those truly in need. Canadians can be proud of the fact that of all the refugees resettled globally every year, Canada takes in one in ten. More and more people are fleeing persecution globally. This levels plan ensures that we will continue to play a leading role in maintaining that humanitarian tradition.

We also recognize the importance of reuniting families, and the levels plan ensures we can address backlogs and bring in family members more quickly in a number of categories.


Immigration only works for Canada if we can help ensure that immigrants integrate and contribute to our economy and our communities.

Canada is unique among immigrant-receiving countries in placing great emphasis on providing assistance to recently arrived immigrants to weather their migration transition period. Settlement services, such as language training, employment services and newcomer orientation are linked to immigrant success.

In 2016-17, more than 412,000 permanent residents accessed at least one settlement service in Canada. When surveyed, 91 percent of Settlement Program clients reported being able to make informed decisions on a wide variety of subjects, including education, health care and housing. And 87 percent of clients who were in Canada for one year or more reported being able to use an official language to function and participate in Canadian society.

An increasing number of the people we select for immigration are already here, as a temporary foreign worker, or having studied at one of our universities or other post-secondary institutions. These individuals know our country, speak one or both of our official languages, and generally have work experience here. They are excellent candidates because we can be relatively assured they will integrate well.

Growing Canada’s Future

The Government of Canada is committed to an immigration system that strengthens the Canadian middle class through economic growth, supports diversity and helps build dynamic and inclusive communities, while maintaining border security, and to preserving the health, safety and security of Canadians.

Our immigration system has made Canada the nation it is today – one that is diverse, prosperous and welcoming to those in need. Demographics and diverse labour market needs drive Canada’s demand for immigration, but it is our commitment to integration and to helping those in need that sets us apart.

Immigration will continue to play a crucial role in keeping our country at the forefront of the global economy. Thanks to immigration, Canada is in a better position than other countries, like our G7 counterparts, to face future labour force challenges arising from our aging population.

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