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Migration Will Help Meet Labour Needs, Slow Population Aging and Increase Diversity

Date: April 29, 2021

HALIFAX – Atlantic Canada needs in-migration to meet its labour force needs and sustain growth. The fifth report in the Looking Ahead series published by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) explains how immigration will help slow but not stop population aging and will increase the diversity of our population.

Population Aging and Migration

In general, migrants are younger than the existing population.  In 2019, for example, 65% of immigrants to this region were between the age of 15 and 44, compared to just 35% of the Atlantic population.

“With no immigration to the region, we project the share of seniors in our population will increase from 22% today to 31% by 2040,” says APEC Economist, Kevin MacLean. “In our baseline projection, seniors will account for 28% of our population.”  So migration helps to slow, but does not prevent our population from aging.

Population Diversity and Migration

China, India and the Philippines are among the leading source countries for Atlantic Canada’s newcomers. As a result, visible minorities now account for more than 3 in 4 recent immigrants.

“We project that by 2040, visible minorities will account for between 13% and 17% of the Atlantic population due to immigration, up from 4% in 2016,” says MacLean. “While this is a significant increase, it is still below the current 22% share of visible minorities nationally, and rates of 50% in Toronto and Vancouver.”

COVID-19 and Migration

Despite anecdotal reports of more people moving to Atlantic Canada from elsewhere in the country during the pandemic, preliminary data from Statistics Canada do not support this account. In fact, fewer people moved into each Atlantic province in 2020 than in 2019. In Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador fewer people also moved out, leading to improved rates of net migration. So while some people may be moving to the Atlantic region because of the pandemic, COVID-19 has actually slowed overall rates of migration across the country.

People moving to Atlantic Canada to work remote jobs raise incomes, tax revenues and spending in the region.  It will also push up home prices due to higher demand.  These high-income migrants boost spending on local services, increasing labour demand in local community-based sectors.  This will add to the region’s need for labour and immigration.  By contrast, workers coming to fill jobs in this region would reduce the need for immigration.

APEC’s Looking Ahead series is designed to assess Atlantic Canada’s demographic and economic future, and to stimulate informed discussion on how stakeholders can best respond. Past and current bulletins are available on APEC’s website at

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To schedule an interview with APEC Economist, Kevin MacLean, please contact: 

Erica Parrill 
Communications Manager 
Mobile: 902-877-2159

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