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The leaky bucket: A study of immigrant retention trends in Canada

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Key Takeaway
Canada has seen a significant rise in the number of immigrants choosing to leave the country, signaling a growing issue with long-term immigrant retention

 

This paper examines the patterns of immigrant retention in Canada, emphasizing the rising trend of “onward migration”—by which immigrants leave Canada for other countries.

Using data from the 2021 Longitudinal Immigration Database, this study identifies a significant increase in onward migration since the 1980s, with notable surges in 2017 and 2019. These findings suggest an emerging tendency among immigrants to relocate again—to another country—after residing in Canada. The data show that this occurs most frequently among immigrants who’ve been here for four to seven years. The article notes a 31% higher rate of onward migration in recent immigrant cohorts compared to historical averages and a decline in long-term retention over time.

To counter these trends, the report recommends continuous monitoring of migration rates, greater investment in settlement services, substantial infrastructure development to bolster community services, and improved support for employers to align immigrants’ skills with job opportunities.

The study highlights the critical role of retention in driving Canada’s population and economic growth. It underscores that, while it has long been successful at attracting immigrants, Canada must strategically adjust its immigration policy to decrease the observed onward migration.

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