Manitoba

Pandemic cut immigration to Manitoba in half in 2020

Immigration to Manitoba dropped in half last year, when the pandemic restricted international travel and extended the time it took for Ottawa to process immigration applications.

Travel restrictions, federal processing delays cut immigration by 54 per cent

Winnipeg is expected to be hit hardest by a pandemic-induced drop in immigration and a resulting slowdown in population growth. (Michael Fazio/CBC)

Immigration to Manitoba dropped in half last year, when the pandemic restricted international travel and extended the time it took for Ottawa to process immigration applications.

Manitoba gained 8,628 immigrants in 2020, according to the provincial budget published Wednesday. That's a 54-per-cent drop from 2019, when the province gained 18,921 immigrants.

"COVID-19 related restrictions have resulted in fewer landed immigrants for Manitoba, causing a considerable decline in net international migration," the budget stated.

The drop is a direct result of "travel restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19," as well as pandemic-related health and safety measures that "impacted processing times for immigration applications and temporary resident permits," the budget stated.

In recent decades, immigration has served as one of the main drivers of population growth in Manitoba. The drastic drop during the pandemic had a noticeable effect.

Manitoba's population grew by only 3,931 people in 2020, to 1,380,935 people, the budget states.

University of Winnipeg economics professor Phil Cyrenne said the drop is likely to affect Winnipeg's labour force the most, as immigrants tend to gravitate toward large urban centres.

"It's really the businesses in Winnipeg that are going to be the ones that will be looking for people to expand their operation. And generally skilled immigrants are really the ones that sort of help raise per capita income," Cyrenne said.

The drop in immigration may not be a significant drag on the city's economy, he said, as businesses may not be looking to hire in large numbers just yet.

"Once the economy starts to rebound completely, then that's going to be the issue going forward," he said.

The province declined to predict how the pandemic will affect immigration or population growth this year.

"The precise impact that COVID-19 will have on Manitoba's future growth is impossible to measure given the current level of uncertainty," the budget states.

"However, it is likely that Manitoba's population growth in the short-term will remain lower than recent historical averages."

Manitoba Finance did not respond to a request for comment.

WATCH | Pandemic hurting Winnipeg businesses trying to expand:

Pandemic hurting Winnipeg businesses trying to expand

2 years ago
Duration 1:45
Marson Ocampo is the main cook at the Filipino eatery he and his wife have been running in Winnipeg for two years. He's been trying to bring another cook over from the Philippines, but due to immigration delays he'll be opening up another location without the extra help.

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