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As the UK announces measures to slash international migration, Canada is maintaining record-high immigration targets over the next three years.

The UK announced earlier this month that it would reduce immigration by an estimated 300,000 legal migrants.

Meanwhile, just at the start of November, Canada announced it would continue to aim for 500,000 new permanent residents per year by 2025.

The difference in attitudes on immigration between the two G7 nations speaks to what factors cause a nation to be pro or anti-immigration.

This article discusses how Canada and the UK view immigration and why they have different opinions on the matter.

UK public opinion on immigration

Views on immigration in the UK are overall divided, according to the Migration Observatory. A survey conducted in April 2023 suggested that 52 percent thought that immigration should be reduced, and 32 percent said immigration was “bad” or “very bad.”

Although attitudes toward immigrants have softened post-Brexit, the study suggests that opposition has increased since 2022. That being said, the Migration Observatory says that attitudes in the UK are among the more positive compared to European countries.

In the UK, highly skilled migrants are preferred to unskilled migrants, and many are in favour of facilitating immigration for healthcare workers. The younger generation, as well as people with university degrees, tend to look upon immigration more favourably, as do Labour voters compared to Conservative voters.

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Canadian public opinion on immigration

After record-high levels of support for immigration, it seems the bubble finally burst in 2023. The Environics Institute reported that there has been a notable shift in public opinion on immigration in Canada.

Although systemic racism persists in Canada, the change in sentiment toward immigration has less to do with xenophobia and more to do with economic insecurity. Even if immigrants did not cause the housing crisis, and are indeed often the most affected by it, Canadians are concerned about how newcomers may contribute to the existing housing shortage. At the same time, they are less concerned about immigrants putting pressure on public finances or job availability.

Canadians have become more negative about the direction the economy is going. They see inflation, cost of living, and housing affordability as top issues. Meanwhile, Canada experienced exceedingly fast population growth this year, growing to a record 40 million people. This growth was primarily fuelled by immigration.

With population growth coming hand-in-hand with financial stress for many, it follows that Canadians’ attitudes about immigration have shifted. That being said, Canadian opinions about immigrants themselves, their contributions, and their integration into communities remain largely positive. Canada is still welcoming of immigrants. This can be seen by the recent announcement to maintain high immigration levels of 485,000 in 2024, and 500,000 in 2025 and 2026.

Why public opinions in Canada and the UK differ on immigration

Although both countries are seeing declining support for immigration in public opinion polls the reasons for these trends are entirely different. Geographic and demographic factors often come into play in a nation’s sentiment for immigration.

Canada and the UK have an aging population and a low birth rate, a demographic challenge that Canadian immigration policymakers have often cited to promote immigration to Canada. Yet, they have vastly different attitudes on immigration.

Many factors can inform a nation’s general consensus on immigration. Some of these factors that come into play include:

Historical context of Canada vs UK

Canada has a long history of immigration and multiculturalism being at the core of its national identity. Policies like the Multiculturalism Act of 1971 have promoted diversity and inclusion, shaping a more welcoming attitude toward immigrants. The UK, while historically open to immigration, has seen shifts in policies and public sentiment, especially post-Brexit, which have raised concerns about immigration control and national sovereignty.

Political discourse in Canada vs UK

Canada’s political discourse often highlights the economic benefits of immigration, emphasizing the role of newcomers in contributing to the economy and addressing demographic challenges.

On the other hand, in the UK, debates over immigration have been more contentious, with concerns over job competition, pressure on public services, and issues related to national identity influencing political narratives.

Canada vs UK economy

Canada has, at times, faced labor shortages in certain regions and industries, which have led to proactive immigration policies to attract skilled workers and fill gaps in the labor market.

In contrast, the UK’s approach to immigration has been influenced by concerns about job displacement and strains on public services, leading to shifts in policies. Brexit, for example, was driven largely by negative attitudes toward immigration.

Demographics and geography of Canada vs UK

Canada has a much more expansive geography than the UK and a significantly lower population density. While in Canada there are about 4 people per square kilometer, the UK has about 280/km². Quite a difference! The perception of more people in a smaller area can cause a general sense of concern for space and competition in the labour market.

Keep in mind that public opinion on immigration can change over time. These generalizations about a country’s stance on immigration do not capture the full spectrum of opinions within the population nor account for ongoing policy and attitude changes.

To learn how to immigrate to Canada from the UK, check out our page: Moving From the UK.

If you’re interested in moving to Canada but not sure which program you may be eligible for, check your eligibility for more than 20 Canadian immigration programs by taking Moving2Canada’s free Canada Immigration Quiz.

FAQ

What are the main differences in immigration policies between Canada and the UK?

Canada maintains high immigration levels, aiming for 500,000 new permanent residents per year by 2025, while the UK has announced stricter visa rules to significantly reduce immigration. These differing approaches are influenced by each country’s economic needs, political discourse, and public opinion on immigration.

How do public opinions on immigration in Canada and the UK compare?

In Canada, public opinion has traditionally been more welcoming towards immigrants, although concerns about economic insecurity and housing shortages have recently caused a shift in attitudes. In the UK, opinions are more divided, with a recent increase in opposition to immigration, influenced by factors like job competition and national identity, especially post-Brexit.

Why does Canada continue to embrace high levels of immigration despite economic challenges?

Despite economic insecurities and a housing crisis, Canada continues to support high immigration levels due to its long-standing policies of multiculturalism and the recognition of the economic benefits immigrants bring. Canadian immigration policy also addresses demographic challenges, such as an aging population and labor shortages in specific sectors.

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