A case study on Canadian immigration and the rising challenges due to housing crises

Canada is one of the most diversely populated nations in the world. The diversity of Canada has always borne fruits to the nation until recently; when the peak in the housing crisis prompted discussions about the potential need to reconsider immigration limits.

Recently the news of Canada limiting the migrant influx is catching a wave of social media and media outlets. As per the statement of Canada’s Immigration minister, Marc Miller, Canada will delve into the possibility of limiting the influx of students/ international migrants entering into Canada.  This comes amid the rise in housing crises nationwide. The same suggestions were also put forward last year, but no decision was taken then.

In this article, we will look at the possibility of capping the migrant inflow in Canada.

Understanding the Scenario:

Some areas, like housing affordability and healthcare infrastructure, are experiencing significant strain due to rapid population growth. The housing crisis in Canada is severe, even more so than in the US. By the time we reach 2030, it is anticipated that more than 35 lakh residents will face housing shortages.

While Canada had promised to welcome one and a half million immigrants by 2025, but amid severe housing shortages, the numbers might have to be reconsidered. Researchers suggest that the rise in housing shortages in the nation is fuelled by a significant influx of migrants.

While no definitive changes are established yet, there are emerging discussions within the government about potential measures to cap migration influx. Today the housing crisis and inflation rates are skyrocketing.

 As the nation endeavors to sustain a debt-to-GDP ratio above 107, it is apparent that Canada is currently facing economic challenges.

The Population Outlook of Canada:

Canada houses more than 40 million people. In the coming years, the population is estimated to reach 57 million by 2068.

Among the total 40 million people, 62% are native Canadians, while around 38% are foreign-born population.

The key drivers of the Canadian Population are high immigration rates. Canada has consistently maintained one of the highest immigration rates among developed nations. More than 20% of the Canadian population is migrants with permanent residency.

Immigration in Canada in Numbers:

Canada is one of the most popular destinations among international migrants.

A land of many:

Top Source Countries:

Most popular destinations:

Ontario attracts nearly half of all immigrants, while British Colombia welcomes around 20% of the total immigrant population.

Why Canada Allowed High Immigration in the Past?

Canada requires immigration because the Canadian population is living longer. The number of older population is rising and younger people are not giving birth to children.

The Canadian population is aging:

This high migrant intake is justified by the aging population of Canada.

As per data published by the CIA, Canada has 39th rank among 227 nations for the oldest population in the world. The median age in Canada is 42.4 years. More than 5 million females and 5.1 million males fall between the population groups of 45-64 years. (Refer image below)

In the coming years, this population is estimated to rise even further, while the population in the range of 0-17 years is estimated to decline. The trend is evident from the graph below, where the percentage of the aged population is increasing steadily, while the young population is declining in numbers.

Declining birthrates:

One of the major contributors to the aging Canadian population is the falling birthrate; which is not a recent phenomenon; rather it has been a gradual trend for decades. The downward trend started in the 1960s. The total fertility rate (average number of children a woman has in her lifetime) has been steadily falling. In 1961, it was 3.88, but by 2021, it had dropped to 1.44.

Soaring debt to GDP ratio:

The debt to GDP ratio, which expresses the financial health of an economy, is significantly high- standing at 107% in 2022. If the debt level is significantly higher than the GDP, it may become challenging for the country to generate enough economic output to cover its debt obligations.

Skilled labor shortage:

Skilled labor in Canada is severely short.

With an aging population, declining birth rates, and a booming economy, there simply aren’t enough qualified workers to fill the growing number of job vacancies. If we look at the numbers, the gravity of the issue can be determined. As of October 2023, there were over 950,000 job vacancies in Canada, a record high. In just the healthcare sector alone, there are over 120,000 unfilled positions. This shortage is not only limiting economic growth but also putting a strain on essential services.

Can Canada Really Limit Immigration?

Concluding, our research suggests that Canada can’t limit the intake of immigrants. While addressing housing concerns and infrastructure limitations is crucial, completely stopping migration is unlikely and could have significant economic and social repercussions. To ease the affordability concerns of people, the government has decided to maintain current immigration levels (485,000 in 2024, 500,000 in 2025, and then holding steady) instead of further increasing them as previously planned.

Additionally, While Canada holds sovereign control over its borders and sets its immigration policies, international human rights agreements, and non-discrimination principles limit Canada’s ability to completely halt student and skilled labor immigration. Agreements like the Refugee Convention and UDHR guarantee basic rights like seeking asylum and non-discrimination. Canada can’t deny entry to qualified refugees or discriminate against migrants.

Canada’s reputation and relationships with other countries, such as China and India will also be impacted by putting forth harsh immigration practices. Flouting human rights principles or engaging in discriminatory practices can lead to international censure and damage Canada’s standing.

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