Canada has long been a top destination for many immigrants both permanent and temporary. The strong economy, open society, and quality of life make the ‘Great White North’ an attractive prospect. It is impressive that Canada can go toe to toe with the United States in attracting skilled immigrants given the massive economic disadvantage and higher tax rates.
Canada has a large variety of short and long term immigration programs that can enable you to arrive here in as little as 8 weeks and to settle here for life in as little as six months!
However, with Covid-19 and all of the virus’ consequences, many people are asking if Canada is still a worthwhile place to emigrate to. Concerns around jobs, housing, healthcare, and government spending are all getting attention in the media.
We’re going to break this down from the perspective of your average immigrant, wanting to move to Canada for a better life, hopefully for the long term. It might not surprise you but the definite answer for ‘is Canada still worth emigrating to?’ is a clear and concise – You Betcha Bud.
Most economies in the world took a beating in 2020, Canada was no exception. GDP decline by 5.4% and unemployment rose to a shocking 13% (now down to around 8%). While Canada has leveraged its amazing vaccine procurement to help the economic rebound there are underlying negatives that have not gone away.
The Canadian economy is being held up by a massive real estate bubble that has caused a large amount of trouble and anxiety for individual Canadians and the economy as a whole. It can’t go on forever, and when it does, there will be significant economic contraction. This is in addition to the lagging Oil and Gas sector which was long an engine of Canadian job growth (and source of subsidies for many poorer Canadians)
When you look at Canada without the distortion of housing and resources, it is a very mediocre economy that is not designed to lead the world in coming technologies. The exception to this may be in the clean energy sector with Nuclear, Solar, and Hydrogen being two things that Canada can excel at. Sadly, in most other areas the top talent and growth prospects end up in the United States.
This isn’t to say that Canada isn’t a wealthy country or great economy to immigrate to, we just need to take about 20% off the statistics that we’re using when considering settling down here. This country will always be one of the top 20 places to go to brighten your economic future, it’s just might be number 15 rather than in the Top 10!
General Economy (Non-Covid)
Canada’s economy is not in great shape. With unemployment sitting at 8% and a colossal budget deficit of $300 Billion the country is only being kept afloat by a the real estate bubble and money printing. However, there is some great news for economic growth toward the end of the year.
Economic growth is poised to accelerate as Canada will become one of the first countries to fully reopen after the Covid-19 pandemic. The projected growth of 5% is also likely to be greatly helped by the huge amount of savings that savvy Canadians have managed to accumulate over the past 18 months. If only half of this money is spend this year it will bring an extra $90 Billion into the economy.
This will create jobs everywhere from retail to software and natural resources. It is very likely to drive prices up and lead to significant inflation, with food price inflation especially worrisome for 2021-22. Despite this there will be a definitive positive momentum leading to more opportunities for all.
It is every immigrants dream to arrive at a time when their skills are badly needed and there is money there to pay them for their work. We might have a good shot at this once enough Canadians are vaccinated.
New Economy (Post-Covid)
Even though things look brighter for Canada this year than they did last year, they aren’t exactly ‘bright’ in the overall sense. The cost of Covid has saddled Canadian taxpayers (including you soon!) with a ridiculous amount of debt and also highlighted the lack of indigenous manufacturing capabilities and robust domestic companies. What does this actually mean in the new economy?
More debt is going to mean less government spending on social programs and infrastructure. Less Canadian firms is going to mean large international companies without rots to the country taking over local markets.
This will decrease working conditions, drive up prices, and decrease choice for consumers. It might also mean that your company has an ‘American Attitude’ to pay and benefits. In case you were wondering, the United State has terrible benefits for taxpayers (despite spending a huge amount, more than Canada).
The new economy will have less high tech jobs and managerial posts in Canada. This will lower the average salary available to most of us and make it that much more difficult to succeed in your immigration dream. However, you will still be able to achieve your goals, you just have to target the jobs market as it will be, not as it is!
Are there still jobs in the big cities?
The short answer? Absolutely. With the emergence of ‘Work from Home’ (WFH) as a permanent feature of Canadian work, many companies are finding it harder to attract talent to their physical office sites. While this offers a great level of flexibility for highly skilled workers it will also benefit immigrants too.
It has long been a custom of the Canadian job market to either half your experience/skills or ignore them unless they come from the United States. This effectively means that you will be at least one ‘step down’ on the career ladder for your first year or so in Canada.
If you have 10 years experience in Logistics for example, you are likely to get interviews for jobs in the 3-5 year area. Similarly if you want something like an Admin or Retail job, you’re unlikely to get supervisor roles straight away.
Normally this is a challenge, but if you land in Toronto and are willing to stay there you will have an advantage over other people job hunting for remote work. Although it’s cheaper to hire remote workers, most firms still prefer a physical presence. Use this to your advantage.
With the economic recovery from Covid-19 about to start, we are looking at a surge of employment across Canada. Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal are going to be drivers of this. By the time your visa is processed and immigration resume properly, these job markets will be hopping.
Note: Considering the ‘lower level’ job you will have to take as an immigrant, make sure the salary will be enough to live in the big cities. You need $60,000 a year to live a basic life in these cities.
Are there jobs in smaller Canadian cities?
One of the best (and sometimes worst) things about Canada is that the employment opportunities scale with the size of the city. Unless you work in primary industry like oil or forestry, your city of choice is likely to have the same relative number of jobs as Toronto or Vancouver.
As an immigrant, people often overlook smaller cities because they think that there are ‘no jobs’ when in reality it is heavily dependent on industry and location. Take for example Victoria, BC. A tiny city of 375,000 people it is roughly 1/20th the size of the GTA.
If you look in Victoria and Torontos big industries you will see however similar rates of job postings. Yes this does mean that Victoria might have 4 IT Admin jobs one week while Toronto have 80, but to be honest your percentage chance of success is probably the same.
If you are emigrating for a specific industry then there are many smaller towns and cities where you can find a job. If you are emigrating for general work, then stick to the big boys.
What industries immigrants to Canada should consider
There are five main industries to target in Canada for 2021-22:
Primary Industry – The price of raw materials has surged in the past year with copper alone trading at 180% what it was a year ago, with timber trading up. Although lumber prices has fallen from their absurd peak in May 2021, they are also ridiculously high. Immigrants with experience in resource extraction, engineering, and office admin are likely to find a higher than average rate of job growth.
Primary Care – Primary Care is a huge industry in Canada, this was made especially clear during the Covid-19 pandemic when many PC workers were on the frontline against the virus, risking their lives daily to protect ill and older Canadians. A huge amount of these people were immigrants and ‘Health Care Aide’ is a very common initial career for many newcomers to Canada. The demand for PC workers will only increase and a bonus is that there are clear career development pathways in this industry.
Logistics – Logistics is growing all over the world. Warehousing, last mile (parcel delivery) and supply chain jobs are going to increase at a steady pace for the next 10-20 years. This industry is relatively easy to get into at the ground level and although it is a tough manual job there are many opportunities to work your way into well paying jobs. Logistics as a subject and skill can be learned relatively quickly if you are starting from scratch. It is also a job that will exist near most urban centers, allowing geographic flexibility.
Green Tech – With the move to environmentalism gathering strength each year, the Canadian Oil & Gas Industry is primed to be gradually replaced by green technology such as wind, solar, hydrogen, and hydroelectricity. Places like Alberta contain enough wind and solar resources to fully divest from fossil fuels electricity. They won’t, but there will still be tremendous growth in green tech. If you aren’t afraid of heights a windmill technician makes over $100,000 a year fairly quickly into their career.
Want more info? Check out our jobs of the future article here.
What industries to avoid in Canada
There is 1 main industry to avoid in Canada for 2021-2022:
Oil & Gas – Thanks to automation, low oil prices, and bitter anti-oil sentiment in the USA and Eastern Canada, the once might Oil & Gas sector has fallen back in recent years. This used to be a route to make $100,000 a year with no education but sadly the jobs have mostly dried up. A global rebound in oil prices will lead to a small growth in employment numbers but we are most definitely seeing the start of the decline. Avoid this industry*
*There will still be oil jobs for the new 50 years, but there will not be easily attained high paying oil jobs.
Cost of Living
Trying to live in Toronto and Vancouver as an immigrant
This is going to be a tough one. Toronto and Vancouver are the two biggest draws in all of Canada. These two cities combined represent a whopping 25% of the entire population of Canada. As a result of this they also have the lions share of cultural and economic activities. For the new immigrant they are most definitely the best places to go to find a job quickly.
This does come at a price though. Living expenses in these two areas are nothing short of ridiculous. You will pay at least $2,000 a month for a decent single apartment and as such you are likely to need roommates when you first arrive in country.
If you don’t have either a support system or a $60,000 a year job already waiting for you it’s going to be very difficult in 2021. In fact, these cities are not worth your time unless you have the money, connections, or job to get to a $100,000 job within your first year.
The flip side of this is that if you are looking to dive straight in to Canadian culture and test the waters for a longer term effort to live here, Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal are the perfect choices (the last one only if you are snooty and speak French).
The cost of food
Do you like paying $8 for a block of cheese? If so, consider the wonderful land of Canada as your next home. Seriously, the price of food in this country is ridiculous. Between farm subsidies and excuses (cost to ship food etc) you will likely be paying an extra 50-200% for your groceries depending on where you are coming from.
There also doesn’t appear to be any logic to it. You might pay slightly less for some steak and then have to shell out 3 times the price for some candy. The general excuse is that Canada is ‘too big’ with ‘too small a population’ but in reality it’s just culturally established price gouging.
If you want to come to Canada and cook wholesome nutritious meals or you are a big foodie, you will have to consider this seriously. The one benefit of this is that meals out at restaurants seem to be very reasonable, sometimes cheaper than cooking at home. Eating a steak in a restaurant is sometimes the same price as it is from the grocery store.
The cost of travel
Canada is BIG, like, ridiculously big. The distance between Vancouver and Toronto is more than the distance between London UK and Moscow! This leads to very high flights prices across the board, and with little competition you can easily have to shell out $600 for a flight from Edmonton to Vancouver Island, a trip time of about and hour. To put that in perspective, a flight from Italy to Toronto can cost the same amount.
If you come from the European Union or Asia you are going to have to say goodbye to your cheap flights. As an immigrant in Canada your vacation options are generally: Home, The USA, and Mexico/Caribbean. Expect to pay $1,500 are least per person for your one week summer vacation.
Politics & Culture
Is there still anti-immigrant sentiment in Canada?
Canada is a very odd country. There are many immigrants and people who love to welcome newcomers with open arms. There are also many people who want an end to immigration levels that they believe are completely unsustainable (there is some truth to this). Then there is a small amount of people who want zero immigration. These people usually mean they want zero ‘non-white’ immigration.
There are a lot of factors that come into play when these opinions are formed. Sadly you cannot avoid these factors anywhere you go and you are definitely likely to face anti-immigrant sentiment in every part of Canada. If you are a ‘visible minority’ which is Canada speak for ‘you don’t look white’ you will definitely experience racism.
I am not a visible minority and I have not experienced any anti-immigrant sentiment. Society wide discrimination and racism is however a noticeable part of Canada for everyone. It might be bigger or smaller than you currently experience in your home country but it is definitely everywhere.
I will give one positive note though, the people that do welcome immigrants to Canada do so with such a level of kindness and intentionality that you will be blown away.
Is Canadian culture and politics changing?
There is currently a large discussion ongoing in Canada about identity, racism, treatment of indigenous Canadians and society in general.
The country is trying to reconcile with terrible aspect of its past including the genocide of indigenous Canadians. It is also trying to fight the ‘Trump Style’ politics and social discourse that has been so common in recent years. Position have gotten more extreme and politicians have become even more ridiculous.
The Canadian people are increasingly unhappy with their quality of life and there is a broad agreement that some things need to change. The goal of the average Canadian however is to make a country that is better to live in so immigrants don’t have to worry about that.
The goal of the current government of Justin Trudeau however, seems to be to increase prices and make Canada unaffordable for most.
All of this is worth keeping an eye one so you can really understand you Canadian dream. Don’t be afraid though, it will still be a dream worth living for many years to come!
Do you have any experiences with living in Canada? What is your Canadian dream? How far along are you? Let us know in the comments below.