number of international students

The number of international students increased to 621,600 in 2021

The number of study permit holders in Canada -with a valid permit- has grown considerably in the last few years.

Canada’s international student population has increased since the mid-2000s. Moreover, in 2019, it set an all-time record with nearly 639,000 students. Of course, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada saw its first annual decline in its international student population in 20 years. In 2020, there were just 528,200 international students. However, the number of international students increased again to 621,600 in 2021, says Statistics Canada.

study permit holders in Canada

Currently, Canada is also leading other major Western countries in its growth of international students. According to Statistic Canada, this is “likely related to both the changing reception environment in other major receiving countries” and “the concrete measures adopted by the Canadian government and educational sector to attract international students”.

It is important to mention that since 2014, Canada has allowed students to work up to 20 hours per week while in classes. Moreover, they were allowed to work full-time while on breaks, without needing an additional work permit.

More international students working

Another big change in the role that international students are playing in the workforce today is the sheer increase in their presence across all sectors. Between 2000-2018, the percentage of international students with paid work nearly tripled from 17.6% to 46.6%. In addition, the percentage of workers in graduate studies have remained about the same, with around half of the students obtaining paid employment. However, the numbers for college and undergraduate students skyrocketed.

In 2000, only about 7.1% of international college students were working. By 2018, this number rose to 56.9%. Undergraduate students had more modest growth, though nearly doubled from 19.8% to 36.3%. The countries with the highest rates of working international students were:

  • Nigeria (68%)
  • India (61%)
  • Iran (54%)
  • Brazil (52%)

Furthermore, the countries with the lowest rates of working international students (in the same year) were Japan (26%), China (27%), and South Korea (34%). Another study suggests that these group differences could be due to their need to financially support themselves during their studies. Also, due to their potential desires for permanent residency.

Students are making more money

According to Statistics Canada, International students are also experiencing higher wages than before. In figures adjusted for 2018 dollars, the median wage for international students rose from $5,500 to $9,500.

Students in college had the highest median wage in 2018 ($10,900), followed by graduate students ($8,800), then undergraduate students ($7,000).

It also held true that older students had higher median wages than younger students. Between 2000-2018, both the number of students working without an additional work permit and their wages increased substantially. Median wages for these students nearly doubled from $3,700 to $6,200.

It should be noted that students with an additional work permit made more across all years, though their growth was smaller (from $11,800 to $14,700).

Most common sectors

The sector with the most international students is accommodations and food services, with 25.9% of all international students working there in 2018. This makes up a significant portion of the whole sector, making up 4.6% of all workers and 2.5% of all earnings. The next most popular sectors were business, building and other support services (3.9% of all workers and 1.09% of all earnings), and educational services (2.4% of all workers and 0.39% of all earnings).

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    Andrea Neira