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2019-2021 Immigration Levels Plan: Why is Canada Welcoming More Newcomers?

Oct 31, 2018

The Conference Board of Canada’s Senior Research Associate Kareem El-Assal offers the following insights on the Government of Canada’s 2019-2021 multi-year immigration levels announcement made this afternoon.


The federal government is continuing to gradually increase immigration levels in response to the economic and fiscal pressures Canada is facing due to its rapidly aging population and low birth rate. The combination of some five million baby boomers reaching retirement age over the next decade, weakening labour force growth, and higher government expenditures in vital areas such as health care makes it incumbent on Canada to slowly up its newcomer intake to help maintain the country’s high living standards.
—Kareem El-Assal, Senior Research Associate, Immigration, The Conference Board of Canada.


  • Canada is targeting 330,800 immigrant arrivals next year, rising to 341,000 in 2020, and 350,000 in 2021.
  • These figures represent an immigration rate of about 0.90 per cent of Canada’s population per year, which is an increase from about 0.80 per cent between 1990-2018.
  • The federal government indicated in today’s announcement that the immigration rate is edging closer to 1 per cent of Canada’s population.
  • The combination of an aging population and low birth rate will place growing pressure on the Canadian economy.
  • This combination is expected to weaken labour force and economic growth at a time when government expenditures will rise to meet the health needs of aging Canadians.
  • The Conference Board of Canada’s research suggests that increasing the immigration rate to 1 per cent of the population by 2034 is necessary to maintain the country’s high living standards.
  • Immigration already accounts for all of Canada’s labour force growth and one of our forthcoming studies indicates this will remain the case through to 2040. By 2034, we expect Canada’s births to be cancelled out by its deaths. At this point, upping the immigration rate to about 1 per cent would enable Canada to replicate the same population growth rate (also 1 per cent) it has relied upon in recent decades to support labour force and economic growth.
  • Our research forecasts that Canada’s economy will grow by an annual rate of 1.9 per cent in real terms between now and 2040 with immigration alone accounting for one-third of economic growth over this period.
  • The benefits of steadily increasing immigration levels include supporting labour force and economic growth, providing Canada with a sufficient tax-base to support government spending priorities, and giving provinces and territories access to a greater talent pool to address their unique labour force needs.
  • Another important takeaway from today’s announcement is that the federal government will continue to target a newcomer composition of about 58 per cent under the economic class, 26 per cent under the family class, and 16 per cent as refugees. The Conference Board of Canada’s free report released in May 2018 provides additional insights on immigration levels, recent historical trends of Canada’s newcomer composition and the economic impact of immigration in Canada.

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