Interest in immigrating to Canada remained strong throughout 2020 and 2021 despite COVID-19, with the country’s handling of the pandemic being a major appeal for respondents, according to a recent survey.
The survey, conducted by World Education Services (WES) in August 2020 and 2021, had more than 36,000 respondents from various countries, with the top three countries of citizenship being the Philippines, Nigeria and India. The top three countries of residence for respondents were India, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates. The majority of respondents were within the ages of 25 to 34, followed by 35 to 44.
According to the survey, 97 per cent of respondents in the Philippines reported that the pandemic either had no negative impact or made them more interested in immigrating to Canada in 2020, followed by 96 per cent in 2021. For Nigerians, that number was also 97 per cent in 2020, dipping to 94 per cent in 2021. India accounted for 93 per cent in 2020, slightly decreasing to 92 per cent in 2021.
Similar figures were found for Koreans, as 95 per cent of respondents from that country reported that the pandemic had no impact or made them more interested in immigrating to Canada in 2020. That number dropped to 84 per cent in 2021.
Data also shows that while only five per cent of respondents in Korea said the pandemic made them less interested in immigrating to Canada in 2020, the figure jumped to 16 per cent in 2021. Similarly, five per cent of respondents in Pakistan said that they were less interested in immigrating to Canada in 2020, with that number increasing to 13 per cent the following year.
“Further research is needed to better understand the reasons behind this reduced interest,” the study’s authors write.
Canada’s pandemic response
The 2021 survey found that 58 per cent of respondents were more interested in immigrating to Canada because of both the government and the country’s health care system’s ability to manage the pandemic and care for COVID-19 patients.
Forty-seven per cent of respondents said they were interested in immigrating to Canada because of the availability of vaccines and the country’s high vaccination rates. Even if there were high COVID-19 infection rates in Canada, 65 per cent of respondents said this would have no impact on their interest in immigrating.
The pandemic as a factor in delaying immigration plans to Canada also decreased between 2020 and 2021. Initially, 35 per cent of respondents in 2020 said that COVID-19 would delay their immigration to Canada, but that number dropped to only 21 per cent in 2021.
“These findings are unsurprising,” the authors write. “Over time, the impact of the pandemic has become clearer, and people have a better understanding of the implications and risks.”
In 2020, 45 per cent of respondents said they believed the pandemic would have a negative impact on the availability of jobs in their sector in Canada. That number dropped to 33 per cent the following year.
Conversely, in 2021, 35 per cent of respondents said they believed the pandemic would have a positive impact on the availability of jobs in their sector compared to 27 per cent the year prior.
Most respondents were in professional, scientific and technical services, health care and social assistance, and finance and insurance.
When posed with the question of whether a decrease of job availability in their occupation would influence their decision to immigrate to the country, 69 per cent of respondents in 2020 said this would have no impact or made them more interested in immigrating, followed by 74 per cent in 2021.
“These findings offer evidence that factors outside of job availability (for example, family ties, strength of health systems, and economic or labour market stability) continue to play an influential role in immigration plans,” the authors write.
Of the respondents who were already living in Canada at the time of the analysis, 77 per cent were on temporary work permits in 2020, decreasing to 71 per cent in 2021. In 2020, 96 per cent of these respondents said the pandemic had no impact or made them more interested in immigrating to Canada, slightly decreasing to 94 per cent the next year.
“These findings suggest that there continues to be a high level of interest in pursuing immigration and obtaining permanent residency on the part of individuals living in Canada with temporary resident status,” the authors explain.
Regarding whether the pandemic had a positive or negative impact on their immigration costs, 53 per cent in 2020 said that it would have no impact, decreasing to 50 per cent in 2021.
“These findings help to dispel the assumption that economic hardship would contribute to a decreased interest in immigrating to Canada,” the study reads. “Even in the face of a reduced ability to pay immigration costs, interest in immigrating to Canada remains high.”
Canada’s welcoming attitude
The study concluded with a telling finding: many respondents were divided in terms of what kind of impact the pandemic will have on how Canadian society welcomes immigrants.
“Given the documented rise in reports of xenophobia and racism, specifically anti-Asian racism, over the course of the pandemic, this survey sought to test the assumption that we would see an increase in the proportion of respondents who expected the pandemic to negatively affect the openness or welcoming attitude of Canadian society,” the authors explain.
In 2020, 36 per cent of respondents said the pandemic will negatively impact the openness of Canadian society to immigrants. That number dropped to 32 per cent in 2021.
Only 32 per cent of respondents in 2020 said the pandemic will have a positive impact on Canadian society’s openness. However, 38 per cent said the same in 2021.
Thirty-two per cent of respondents said the pandemic would have no impact in 2020, followed by 30 per cent in 2021.
Aaron Hemens is a freelance photographer and journalist currently based in Kelowna, B.C. Originally from Ottawa, Ont., he graduated from Carleton University’s journalism program in 2018. His career as a journalist has taken him as far north as Inuvik, N.W.T., and to rural farming towns such as Creston, B.C. His professional interests include community news, arts and culture, race and diversity, and solutions-based storytelling.