New data from Statistics Canada sheds highlights the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on Canada’s demographic trends.
The national statistical agency released its population estimates for the first quarter, which reflect the early impact of the pandemic and the travel restrictions that were imposed in mid-March.
The first recorded death in Canada due to the pandemic was on March 9, and there were 96 total deaths attributed to Covid-19 during Q1, according to StatsCan.
In total, almost 80,000 deaths were recorded in Q1, which is a quarterly record, StatsCan noted.
Conversely, population growth had its weakest quarter since 2015 in Q1 2020, rising by 0.2% to slightly less than 38 million.
From an economic point of view, the biggest concern about the demographic impact of Covid-19 is its effect on immigration.
In a recent report, economists at Toronto-Dominion Bank said, “Population growth is likely to have gone to near zero in recent months as borders have been closed.
“This captures a key risk — Canada’s reliance on immigration to fuel economic growth.”
TD estimates that dropping Canada’s current immigration rate in half would shave around 30 basis points from the economy’s long-term growth potential, leaving it to grow at just 1.3%–1.4%.
As it stands, immigration continued to account for the bulk of Canada’s population growth (82.3%) in the first quarter.
StatsCan reported that the number of permanent immigrants that came to Canada in Q1 was up from the same quarter last year, with most arriving before travel restrictions were imposed.
The bigger effect of those restrictions came among so-called “temporary immigrants.” While the absolute number continued to increase, the net increase was down 80% from the same period last year.
This decrease was mostly due to the effect of travel curbs on international students during Q1.
This trend may have a significant impact on Canadian universities and colleges, which have become increasingly reliant on international students.
According to recent data from StatsCan, international students currently account for almost 25% of new university enrolments and 16.3% of new college enrolments.
Certain programs are even more reliant on international students.
For example, almost one-third of enrolments in math and computer sciences programs are coming form overseas at both the university and college level.
“International students pay substantially higher tuition fees than their Canadian-born counterparts, and these fees have helped reduce some of the gap between rising operating expenses and stagnant provincial grants over the past decade,” StatsCan noted.
Looking ahead, StatsCan is bracing for a more significant impact on demographic indicators in the Q2.
“By the end of the first quarter, Covid-19 was beginning to have an impact on Canada’s population growth, but it is likely that a larger impact will be felt in the second quarter of 2020,” StatsCan said.
With that in mind, it’s making adjustments to some of the traditional methods for compiling population estimates due to the distorting effects of Covid-19 on typical birth, death and immigration trends.
“In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting crisis may have invalidated some of the assumptions of the models used in the production of population estimates,” it said.
As a result, StatsCan is making adjustments to the usual data collection methods, which will show up in future data releases.