Is Canada losing its appeal to expatriates?

  • Calgary airport, Canada
    Ronnie Chua /
Published on 2022-05-04 at 09:06 by Asaël Häzaq
Canada is with no doubt a top expat destination. However, it is a direct competitor to other destinations such as Switzerland, which ranks first in the latest edition of the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey. Australia and New Zealand come in second and third, while Canada ranks 13th. Besides, according to a recent study by the Institute of Canadian Citizenship, 30% of newcomers to Canada plan to leave within two years. Does this mean that Canada no longer retains expats? 

Career prospects and cost of living

Canada is also experiencing inflation, up to 6.7%. In March, consumer prices kept on rising. Food costs 8.7% more and gasoline 11.8% more, according to figures from Statistics Canada), and this has a significant impact on the purchasing power of individuals. Currently, the rising cost of living is a major factor for 75% of young immigrants (between 18 and 35 years old) who intend to leave the country. This view is shared by 46% of Canadians of the same age. In a globalized era and digital economy, mobility is especially common among young foreign talents.

Still, there is a big gap between the views shared by Canadians and expatriates in this regard. Daniel Bernhard, Director General of the ICC, believes that the recognition of immigrants' skills is a significant factor. Canada is chronically short of international talent. Paradoxically, it does not always seem to recognize the qualifications and skills of young expatriates. But Daniel Bernhard believes these young foreign talents are twice as likely to have high diplomas compared to the average Canadian. In short, their actual qualifications would therefore not be considered and credited. As a result, job offers do not reflect their abilities. The same is also true for salaries. This is a great disappointment for expatriates, and a societal problem for Canada, faced with its own contradictions.

Immigration and societal issues

New immigrants in Canada seem to be faced with a lot of misunderstandings. According to rumours, applications from Francophones seem to be having longer processing times compared to Anglophones. This is especially the case for candidates to "Francophone express entry" who made an appeal to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) through an online petition. According to them, the processing time for applications is around 6 months for English speakers but much longer for French speakers. In fact, many applications from 2020 are still pending. Although in March 2022, the IRCC announced a 6-month processing time for all "express entry" visa applications, this period has been extended to 22 months.

Differences in treatment between immigrants, recognition of diplomas, and yet, an ever-increasing lack of international talent are a never-ending dilemma for Canada. Yet, Canada is considered a land of immigrants thanks to experiences of multiculturalism and equal opportunity. While discrimination does exist, its perception varies according to different population groups. It's worth noting that 45% of Canadians believe that foreigners have the same professional opportunities as them. However, just 33% of foreigners share the same thoughts. Although Canada provides good living conditions, 75% of them consider a possible departure. Daniel Bernhard believes that this is a societal issue. What does this mean for the future of Canada? Let's not forget that the country heavily relies on foreign talent to sustain its economy.

What's next?

Should we talk of a virtuous circle or a vicious circle? Whatever it is, Canada has to act quickly so that it doesn't lose ground. According to economists, Canada is a country that draws a significant amount of its wealth from the skills of immigrants. Denying access and opportunities to these talents would only make them turn to other countries. And this is not an option for Canada, which is now faced with a new Covid wave. This new wave also pointed out the weaknesses of the Canadian health system. To fill the chronic labor shortage in the health sector, Quebec, for example, is hiring foreign professionals. But what about those who are available locally? An appeal has been made to Canadian companies for greater recognition of global talent.

Over the past decades, Canada succeeded in making itself known as a land of immigrants, visitors, and well-being. As regards career development prospects, experts believe that communication is the key. Giving immigrants the same opportunities, recognition and support will help in retaining them, especially Canada wants to preserve its image as one of the world's top expat destinations.