Immigrants make up the largest share of the population in over 150 years


Canada has a long history of immigration. Millions of people from all over the world have chosen, and continue to choose, Canada as their new home. In 2021, more than 8.3 million people, or almost one-quarter (23.0%) of the population, were, or had ever been, a landed immigrant or permanent resident in Canada. This was the largest proportion since Confederation, topping the previous 1921 record of 22.3%, and the highest among the G7.

Given that the population of Canada continues to age and fertility is below the population replacement level, today immigration is the main driver of population growth. If these trends continue, based on Statistics Canada’s recent population projections, immigrants could represent from 29.1% to 34.0% of the population of Canada by 2041.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the contribution that immigrants make to Canada’s labour market. With job vacancies in late 2021 hitting 80% higher than pre-pandemic levels, and the working population aging, immigration is even more critical to the labour market than ever before. Recent immigrants, whose age structure is younger than the general population, constitute a pool of workers who can help mitigate the impacts of labour shortages in a number of sectors and regions across the country. From 2016 to 2021, immigrants accounted for four-fifths of labour force growth. More and more immigrants have pre-admission experience in Canada, and a large share of recent immigrants were selected for their ability to contribute to Canada’s economy.

Immigrants come from many different countries, bringing with them their cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious heritage. In the past, the majority of immigrants in Canada came from Europe. However, over the past 50 years, the share of new immigrants from Europe has declined, with the share of new immigrants who were born in Asia (including the Middle East) increasing. Over time, Asia has become the top source region of new immigrants, and this trend continued in 2021. The share of new immigrants from Africa also increased. Together, immigrants, Indigenous people—who have walked this land for thousands of years, before Europeans settled here—and their descendants have helped shape Canada as it is known today.

Today, Statistics Canada is releasing the sixth set of results from the 2021 Census, which provide an updated statistical portrait of the immigrant population. The census is one of the most comprehensive sources of data on immigrants living in Canada, allowing for comparability over time and at various levels of geography.

Governments at all levels—from federal to provincial, territorial and municipal—as well as many other non-governmental and community organizations will use this information to develop and evaluate immigration policies and programs, and to plan and implement education, health care, housing and other services.

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