Source: Facebook

The cost of living is driving many Canadians to live abroad for better work, a new study finds.

Canada is also struggling to retain new citizens, as evidenced by onward migration – people who leave Canada after immigrating here – jumping up by 31% between 2017 and 2019, according to a new study. 

The study, released Monday by the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, revealed that the primary reason so many newly naturalized Canadians decide to leave the country after “four to seven years of arrival” is an inability to take part in economic opportunities.

“Canada’s inflexible and unrealistic pathways towards recognizing foreign degrees … prevent immigrants from finding jobs in their chosen fields and building their careers in their new country,” reads the report.

About half of those who left acquired their citizenship through their Canadian parents, while a third were born in the country. The remaining 15% of Canadians living abroad were born as foreigners and later became naturalized citizens.

Other reasons that Canadian-born citizens cite for living abroad include job and study opportunities, as well as travel. 

The report suggested engaging with expat Canadians abroad has been a low priority for the government.

“Today, two features define the relationship between the Canadian government and the diaspora. The first is a lack of direction,” reads the report. 

“The Canadian government does not have an official strategy towards the growing number of its citizens residing abroad or the types of services they may need. Likewise, the diaspora question receives virtually no attention from the Canadian House of Commons or Senate committees, except in ad hoc cases.” 

The majority of Canadians living abroad reside in the United States, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. 

The McGill study found that the amount of Canadians living abroad was five times higher than that of the U.S. and roughly equal to that of the U.K. 

A recurring theme in the study is how little media attention that the Canadian diaspora receives, and when it does, it’s often negative. 

“When they are mentioned, the discourse tends to lean towards two extremes. The diaspora is often portrayed negatively when in need of emergency consular services,” reads the report, referring to the crisis in Gaza, as well as the turmoil in Libya and Egypt in 2011.

“On the other side of the spectrum are famous Canadians, including entertainers, athletes, or business leaders, who are perceived as promoting Canada abroad. In these cases, individuals within the diaspora are considered to be indispensable assets in creating a positive image for the country,” it continues.

According to the report’s findings, Canada lags behind other nations in providing the necessary support for those living abroad, who currently cannot vote in provincial elections or access healthcare, despite paying taxes. 

“We still know very little about key things such as their motivations for moving abroad, their perceptions of Canada, and plans for returning home,” reads the report. 

“Better policies often start from better data, which is why more research is needed in this neglected, yet highly significant, area.”

A separate study from Statistics Canada estimates that roughly 4 million Canadian citizens were living abroad in 2016, which would amount to around 11% of the population or one Canadian citizen out of nine.  

The study found that the average age of Canadians living abroad is 46.2, which is a little higher than the national average. 

The largest cohort of those living abroad are between 45 and 54 years old.