A new report says more than 32,000 international tech workers moved to Canada between April 2022 and March 2023, thanks to the country’s immigration-friendly national policies and labour-cost advantages. 

“The data show that global net in-migration of tech talent/occupations to Canada is very strong,” according to an executive summary of the study called Tech Workforce Trends: Migration of Tech Workers and Jobs Since the Pandemic.

The report was released by the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA) and Canada’s Tech Network (CTN). It is based on labour-market research conducted by U.S. research firm eIMPACT.

The study is a useful resource for helping Canadian tech associations better understand the current state of the tech-workforce ecosystem, said Yvonne Pilon, Vice-Chairman, Board of Directors, TECNA, and President and CEO of Windsor-based WEtech Alliance.

“Given the radical shortfall in tech workers to fill available jobs in recent years, it’s imperative we understand migration movements to better serve our members, the innovation workforce, and the broader technology ecosystem,” Pilon said in a news release.

The Tech Workforce report found that the more than 32,000 foreign tech workers who came to Canada last year settled in communities across the country, with the majority finding jobs in Mississauga, Waterloo Region and Montreal.

The boom in attracting international tech talent is expected to increase with the June announcement of Canada’s first-ever Tech Talent Strategy. Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced the strategy at the Collision Conference in Toronto on June 27, 2023. The strategy includes plans to reduce the approval time for work permits to 14 days, improvements to the Start-up Visa Program and the creation of an open work permit stream for H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the U.S. to apply for a Canadian work permit.

In June, Canada’s population reached the 40 million mark. Much of the population growth has been attributed to immigration, with over 1.3 million people moving to Canada between 2016 and 2021. Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan for 2023-2025 targets an additional 460,000 new immigrants each year

Chris Albinson, President and CEO of CTN member Communitech, said the changes announced by the federal government in June will help H-1B visa holders bring their talents to Canadian tech companies.

“This groundbreaking program is set to bring 10,000 highly skilled professionals to our country, fortifying our position as a leading destination for tech talent,” Albinson said in a statement. “The Toronto-Waterloo corridor, one of North America's largest and fastest growing tech hubs, already attracts talented individuals on a daily basis, and this new initiative will propel our ecosystem to even greater heights.”

The Tech Workforce study said that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, “tech workers moved to jobs close to tech hubs where masses of tech workers were needed.” But since the start of the pandemic, “that dynamic has changed. Workers are moving away from large tech hubs as employers are now recruiting workers in a reverse fashion because of the way the tech workforce way of working has changed from an office setting to more remote.”

The study also concluded that “Canada is largely benefitting from investment of U.S.-based tech companies as they are choosing to expand and/or relocate to Canada.”

Canada’s proximity to the U.S. is cited as one reason for American investment in Canadian tech. But the report also noted that lower tech wages north of the border “is material and could be considered a Canadian business advantage contributing to expansion decisions as there is disparity of compensation among same occupations.”

“Although net-migration pull of tech talent to Canada from the U.S. was not supported in this study, the labor-cost advantage combined with immigration-friendly national policy relating to workforce, are likely primary factors resulting in substantial growth of Canada's tech industry and occupation ecosystem,” the report states.