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A curated resource of recent research on trends shaping Canada's labor market.

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

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.

October, 2023 | Griffiths, J., Lane, J.
Key Takeaway: Poor communication between the main players in Canada’s labour market is causing mismatches between the skills that businesses need and the skills that workers have. A competency-based system could be the solution.
November, 2023 | Li, V., Hamza, M., Kwok, T
Key Takeaway: The rise of remote work has boosted demand for the basic digital skills that are needed for many jobs in the modern workforce. AI and the increasing use of big data will increase employers’ demands for digital know-how.
November, 2023 | Mahboubi, P., Zhang, T.
Key Takeaway: Canadian businesses have sought short-term solutions to labour shortages—but several tactics are required.
October, 2023 | Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
Key Takeaway: IRCC’s new whole-of-government strategy to reshape Canada’s immigration system creates a more welcoming experience, aligns with labour market needs, and includes developing a growth plan.
October, 2023 | Dennler, K.
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
November, 2023 | Picot, G., Crossman, E., Hou, F.
Key Takeaway: Immigrants who arrive through Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) are less likely to remain in Canada—but those who do stay are more likely to remain in the province they originally settled in.
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