Updated: Feb 15, 2023
Canada's popularity with would-be international migrants has increased by more than half in the past ten years, according to a survey published by Gallup. The analytics firm released the results of its new survey on January 24, covering not only respondents' desire to migrate but also their preferred destinations and other factors.
According to the survey, 8% of respondents expressed a desire to move to Canada in 2021, up from 5% in 2011. This change represents a significant shift on a list of preferred destinations that has remained relatively stable since Gallup began surveying would-be migrants in 2007. The new numbers make Canada the second most popular destination in a changing list of preferred countries.
Topping the list of preferred destinations for immigrants is the United States, which has been the highest-ranked country since the survey began. However, despite staying in the top spot, the US has seen a decline in the number of respondents who chose it as their destination since 2011. A decade ago, 22% of people who completed the survey expressed a desire to move to the US; the most recent figure is only 18%. However, this does represent a slight increase following a very poor showing in the previous survey.
Canada's increase sees it pulling past traditionally high-scoring destinations like France and the United Kingdom. The UK was previously ahead of Canada, but has fallen from second to fourth place, tied with Spain, France, and Australia. France, which previously had similar numbers to Canada's, also saw a slight decline during this period. Another country which rose in the rankings was Germany, which increased its percentage only slightly less than Canada did.
Reasons for changing preferences are complex, and it's hard to say exactly what led to Canada's rise relative to other countries. In general, Canada is seen as a desirable place to live, scoring high on international indices of quality of life, political freedom, and safety.
Not only does the nation have qualities that attract potential new residents, but the Canadian government has also been vocal about its desire to increase Canada's number of immigrants. New immigration targets set a goal of welcoming more than 1.3 million new arrivals in the period between 2022 and 2024. With over 430,000 new arrivals in 2022, Canada appears to be on target to reach this ambitious goal.
In addition to qualities that appeal to all would-be migrants, Canada may also have a special appeal to those from French-speaking countries. Francophone immigration is an important part of maintaining Canada's bilingual culture, and maintaining a level of French fluency, even outside the Francophone province of Quebec. Quebec's high level of autonomy in immigration policy is partly because of the province's desire to maintain its French-speaking status, but the federal government also sets targets for Francophone immigration in the rest of the country. In January, the government announced that it had reached its 2022 target of having 4.4% of all new immigrants to Canada (excluding Quebec) be French speakers.
Canada's rising popularity as a destination for new immigrants will come as welcome news to the architects of the country's immigration policy. The last several Canadian governments have been committed to increasing the country's level of immigration, and steady increases in target numbers have been the norm for years. Even the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in a significant drop to the number of new arrivals, seems to have waned.
This focus on high levels of immigration is intended to address a number of Canadian demographic challenges. With its ageing population, Canada relies on immigration to provide new workers for the nation's businesses. Immigration policy often focuses on attracting workers in key industries, ranging from health care to agriculture, by making it easier for them to apply or prioritising them in Express Entry draws. New workers will also support society by shoring up the nation's tax base. Of course, money isn't the only reason for new immigration: other recent initiatives in Canada's immigration policy focus on providing safety for those fleeing persecution in their home countries. Still, the government has been clear in its messaging that it wants to encourage immigration, especially from skilled workers, and the messages may be having an effect.
Although the figures from the Gallup survey suggest a high level of desire to move to Canada, they don't necessarily predict numbers of actual migrants. While Gallup estimates that almost 900 million people worldwide desire to move to another country, the number of people who will actually move in any particular year is much lower. This is because not everyone has the ability to move to another country should the desire exist. Still, the information released by Gallup suggests that attitudes toward international migration are developing in a way that is favourable to Canada's immigration policy goals.
The Canadian electronic travel authorisation (eTA) has been a requirement, yet an enabler to promoting immigration since 2016. It has enabled millions of travellers to experience life in Canada without the need to apply for a visa. Travellers from dozens of eligible countries can apply online and obtain approval to enter the country for short tourism or business stays. Typical approvals are granted within hours of applying. If you are considering migrating to Canada, consider applying for an eTA if you are eligible and experience first-hand why more travellers are ranking Canada higher on their list.