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Foreign Arrivals Drive Canada's Rapid Population Growth

2023

Canada's population experienced the highest growth rate in a single year since 1957, surging by 2.9% in the 12-month period ending July 1. This rapid increase brought the total number of residents to 40.1 million, marking one of the world's fastest growth rates. The notable growth was predominantly driven by a substantial rise in temporary residents, encompassing foreign workers, students, and immigrants.

Data released by Canada's statistics agency revealed that the number of non-permanent residents, including those on work or study permits and refugees, now stands at 2.2 million, constituting more than 5% of the total population. The government's immigration strategy, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's administration, aims to address labor force gaps and facilitate expansion in universities and colleges. If the current growth rate persists, Statistics Canada estimates that the Canadian population could double in 25 years.

The government's immigration approach seeks to counteract economic decline amid declining birth rates and an aging workforce. Fertility rates hit a record low last year, with 1.33 children per woman compared to 1.44 in 2021. While the strategy has been effective in stimulating population growth, it has prompted calls to reevaluate permanent resident targets or impose limits on international student numbers due to housing supply pressures, leading to increased rents and home prices.

Over the 12-month period, Canada added approximately 700,000 non-permanent residents, reflecting a 46% surge from the previous year. These non-permanent residents now outnumber the 1.8 million Indigenous people counted during the 2021 census. This growth has been labeled as "extraordinary" by economists, with concerns raised about the sustainability of housing resources for this increased population.

The last time Canada witnessed a faster population growth was in 1957, coinciding with the postwar baby boom and the acceptance of Hungarian refugees fleeing Soviet repression. The recent data on non-permanent residents includes a revised methodology, addressing criticisms of undercounting by economists. The adjustments aim to better estimate the number of temporary residents with expired visas or those in the process of renewing them.

In summary, the surge in Canada's population is attributed to increased immigration and a rise in international students. While the growth is seen as beneficial for long-term economic prosperity, it presents challenges related to housing, public services strain, and potential economic overheating. Economists emphasize the need for careful consideration of the implications of near-record population growth on various aspects of Canadian society and the economy.

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