Economic impact of international education in Canada – 2017 update

 

3. Assessing the economic impact of international students in Canada

The economic impact assessment of international education involved first collecting data and information on the number of international students by level of study, and on the type of student expenditures incurred. These values were adjusted when necessary to arrive at the amount of overall spending by international students on educational fees and living expenditure. These spending values were then applied to Statistics Canada’s expenditure model to generate estimates of the impact that international students’ total spending had on Canada’s gross output, GDP, employment and tax revenues. In this section, we present the resulting estimates and analysis.

3.1. Overall spending

In this sub-section, we combine estimated number of international students in Canada by level of study in each province and territory and estimates on educational and living costs to arrive at an estimation of total expenditure by international students while they study in Canada.  All student numbers and expenditure values capture the impact in 2015 and 2016.

Table 1 shows the total number of international students studying in Canada, with provincial and territorial distribution. The student numbers have also been broken down to show students that are considered “long-term” and those who are considered “short-term”.[10]  

Table 1: Total number of international students in Canada, by province and territory, 2015 and 2016
 2015
Long Term Students
2015
Short Term Students
2015
All Students
2016
Long Term Students
2016
Short Term Students
2016
All Students
Newfoundland and Labrador2,63802,6383,22703,227
Prince Edward Island1,4242911,7151,9693012,270
Nova Scotia10,3472,19112,53711,7992,26414,063
New Brunswick4,1736634,8374,4936865,178
Quebec49,68912,19161,88054,93412,60067,534
Ontario149,43546,275195,710185,39847,828233,226
Manitoba9,9181,35811,27612,8941,40414,298
Saskatchewan5,7361,0786,8146,9491,1148,063
Alberta18,4727,59126,06322,4967,84630,342
British Columbia93,92740,397134,324103,93841,753145,691
Yukon2502560060
Northwest Territories90919019
Nunavut000000
Canada[11]345,793112,036457,828408,176115,796523,971

Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Languages Canada, with adjustments by RKA

The number of international students studying in Canada continues to grow steadily. In fact, the increase between 2015 and 2016 was substantial, from approximately 457,800 to 524,000, an increase of 14.4%. This has been driven mainly by an 18.0% increase in the number of “long term” students.[12] Detailed data indicates that Ontario contributed most toward the growth of long-term students; it had almost 36,000 more students in 2016 than it did in 2015, a 24.1% increase. Detailed data also indicates that of the top source countries for long-term students, the biggest increase was from India.

As can be seen in Figure 1, which shows the distribution of the total number of international students in Canada by province and territory, Ontario has the largest share of the international student population (42.7% in 2015, which increased to 44.5% in 2016). The province with the second-largest share of international students is British Columbia, which accounted for 29.3% of the total in 2015, though its share decreased slightly to 27.8% in 2016. When compared with British Columbia’s population share in Canada, its share in the international student service market is much higher. Quebec has the third largest market share in international education services, accounting for 13.5% of the number of students in 2015 (and 12.9% in 2016). All other provinces and territories also hosted the increasing number of international students: Alberta had 5.7% of all international students in 2015 (5.8% in 2016); Nova Scotia had 2.7% of all students in both 2015 and 2016; Manitoba had 2.5% of students in 2015 (which increased to 2.7% in 2016); Saskatchewan had 1.5% of students both in 2015 and 2016; New Brunswick had 1.1% of all students; Newfoundland and Labrador had 0.6% of all students; and Prince Edward Island had 0.4% of all students. The three territories also took in a very small number of international students.

Figure 1: Distribution of the total number of international students in Canada, by province/territory, 2015 and 2016

View accessible version of figure 1

Source: Data from IRCC and Languages Canada with adjustments by RKA

Table 2 shows the annual spending incurred by these international students, including the additional tourism activities associated with visiting family and friends.[13] The data sources and adjustments to raw data to derive estimates of international student expenditures are detailed in Appendix 1.

Table 2: Total annual expenditures of international students in Canada, by province and territory, 2015 and 2016 ($millions)[14]
2015
Long Term Students
2015
Short Term Students
2015
All Students
2016
Long Term Students
2016
Short Term Students
2016
All Students
Newfoundland and Labrador$58.4$0.0$58.4$72.6$0.0$72.6
Prince Edward Island$47.3$1.4$48.6$66.9$1.4$68.3
Nova Scotia$328.2$24.5$352.8$388.1$25.3$413.4
New Brunswick$119.3$4.7$124.0$131.5$4.9$136.4
Quebec$1,596.2$96.3$1,692.5$1,787.7$99.5$1,887.2
Ontario$5,748.1$413.2$6,161.4$7,379.7$427.1$7,806.8
Manitoba$275.0$12.8$287.8$361.6$13.2$374.8
Saskatchewan$168.2$12.8$181.0$209.4$13.2$222.6
Alberta$590.8$78.1$668.9$742.8$80.7$823.6
British Columbia$2,901.8$335.1$3,236.8$3,380.3$346.3$3,726.6
Yukon$0.6$0.0$0.6$1.4$0.0$1.4
Northwest Territories$0.2$0.0$0.2$0.4$0.0$0.4
Nunavut$0.0$0.0$0.0$0.0$0.0$0.0
Canada$11,834.1$979$12,812.9$14,522.3$1,012$15,533.9

Source: detailed data sources as reported in Appendix 1, with adjustments by RKA

In total, $15.5 billion was put into the Canadian economy in 2016 by international student expenditures across the country. The comparable number in 2015 was $12.8 billion. This represents a 21.2% increase in international student spending between 2015 and 2016.

Figure 2 illustrates the distribution of the total amount of international student expenditures in 2015 and 2016 by province and territory. In line with Figure 1, Ontario accounts for the largest share of total student expenditures of all provinces and territories in Canada, followed by British Columbia. The data in this figure also indicates that Ontario accounts for an even higher expenditure share than its student share (48.1% in 2015, which increased to 50.3% in 2016), which reflects the tuition fees of students studying in university programs.[15]

Figure 2: Distribution of total international student expenditures in Canada, by province and territory, 2015 and 2016

View accessible version of figure 2

Source: various data sources detailed in Appendix 1 with adjustments by RKA

Long-term students accounted for 93.5% of total annual spending, while short-term students accounted for the other 6.5%.

Table 3: Average per-student expenditures – Cost of education and cost of living for long-term international students
20152016
K-12$25,000$25,800
College / Trades$34,600$36,400
University$37,300$38,800
Other Post-Secondary$34,100$35,800
Other$26,600$27,500
All Levels of Study$33,800$35,100

Source: RKA based on various adjustments detailed in Appendix 1

Table 3 above shows our estimates of the per-student cost of education and living while they stay in Canada. For long-term students, the average per-student expenditure (including tuition fees, other fees, books, accommodations and meals, transportation, and discretionary spending, but excluding spending from visiting family and friends) per year was estimated to be $33,800 in 2015 and $35,100 in 2016.

Short-term students had an average of $900 in total expenditures per week.

3.2. Economic impact

As we pointed out in the methodology section, when a person spends money on a product (goods and/or services), that amount creates a direct requirement for the production of that product. The economic impact, however, does not end there. The increased production of the product leads to increased production of all the intermediate goods and services that are used to make that product, which in turn generates more demand for other goods and services that are used to produce these intermediate products. As demand rises, workers are able to earn a higher wage, and they sometimes decide to spend a portion of their extra earnings on more goods and services. As such, the initial demand for a product creates a chain effect down the production process. This is referred to as the combined direct and indirect impact. Three types of impacts are usually estimated and they are described briefly here.

  • Direct impact measures the increase in industrial output and the increase in an industry’s labour force resulting from the inflow of international students and their spending on a yearly basis.
  • Indirect impact measures the change in industrial output and employment demand in sectors that supply goods and services to sectors of the economy that are directly impacted.
  • Induced impact measures the changes in output and employment demand over all sectors of the economy as a result of an income increase in households impacted both directly and indirectly.

Although we present all three types of economic impact values associated with international students spending in this updated report, it should be noted that the report focuses on the combined direct and indirect impacts as representing a complete picture of economic impacts. It is generally acknowledged that direct impacts alone are incomplete and the total impact may sometimes overestimate the impacts of initial spending.

When we compare the value of total spending by international students with other sectors in the economy, GDP, employment and export values are the key variables of interest. Other variables that may be of interest to readers include output, labour income and tax revenues. The results are presented for the aggregate of all international students, as well as long-term and short‑term students separately.

To produce these impact values, we used Statistics Canada’s economic impacts simulation model to estimate international students’ contribution to each province’s GDP and employment.[16] Also reported are the values of output and labour income.[17]

The following sections present the combined direct and indirect impacts, first for the aggregate of all students, followed by the analysis for long-term students, then short-term students. Direct economic impacts and total economic impacts (combining direct, indirect and induced impacts) are shown in Appendix 2.

3.2.1. Combined direct and indirect impacts

3.2.1.1. Aggregate for all students

Table 4 below presents the results of the combined direct and indirect economic impacts associated with all students in Canada, by province and territory, in 2015 and 2016.

Table 4: Direct and indirect economic impacts of all international students, by province and territory, 2015 and 2016 ($millions)
2015
Output
2015
GDP
2015
Labour Income
2015
Employment
2016
Output
2016 GDP2016
Labour Income
2016
Employment
Newfoundland and Labrador$83.5$51.2$26.7615$102.7$62.9$33.0762
Prince Edward Island$54.7$32.9$20.1488$74.1$44.9$27.4663
Nova Scotia$437.4$267.7$158.13,685$519.1$318.2$188.54,378
New Brunswick$196.1$106.7$61.01,458$225.6$122.1$70.21,670
Quebec$2,553.1$1,463.6$897.722,173$2,920.4$1,664.9$1,019.125,102
Ontario$8,017.9$5,037.8$3,041.462,737$10,081.9$6,349.4$3,833.679,034
Manitoba$400.0$238.8$143.33,321$510.8$306.3$183.54,250
Saskatchewan$289.9$160.4$84.81,915$356.0$197.1$104.12,350
Alberta$1,361.3$772.4$446.78,280$1,663.9$945.0$545.110,094
British Columbia$3,669.9$2,391.1$1,507.435,294$4,252.9$2,764.8$1,732.340,499
Yukon$2.5$1.4$0.820$3.5$2.0$1.227
Northwest Territories$6.4$3.4$1.117$8.0$4.2$1.421
Nunavut$1.5$0.9$0.47$1.8$1.1$0.58
Canada$17,074.5$10,528.3$6,389.6140,010$20,720.8$12,783.0$7,740.0168,861

Source: Customized Statistics Canada Expenditure Model, based on expenditure produced by RKA

In 2015, the total GDP contribution of all student expenditures amounted to over $10.5 billion in Canada, when both direct and indirect impacts were considered. Directly and indirectly, the international education sector supported over 140,010 jobs (or 118,640 full-time equivalent (FTE)).

In 2016, the combined direct and indirect GDP contribution of all student expenditures amounted to almost $12.8 billion in Canada, when we take into account not only the sectors directly impacted by international student spending, but also the many other industries in the supply chain of those directly impacted. In terms of employment, 168,860 jobs (the equivalent of 143,150 FTE) were supported. If we assume 10% lower total annual spending by international students, the resulting combined GDP impact would have been $11.4 billion, and $14.1 billion had we assumed 10% higher overall student spending.

3.2.1.2. Long-term students

Table 5 presents the corresponding direct and indirect impacts of international students who stay in Canada for at least six months on the province or territory’s output, GDP, employment and labour income.

Table 5: Direct and indirect economic impacts of international students studying for longer than six months, by province and territory, 2015 and 2016 ($millions)
2015
Output
2015
GDP
2015
Labour Income
2015
Employment
2016
Output
2016
GDP
2016
Labour Income
2016
Employment
Newfoundland and Labrador$81.2$49.7$26.1603$100.4$61.5$32.4750
Prince Edward Island$52.9$31.9$19.5472$72.2$43.8$26.8646
Nova Scotia$410.7$251.4$148.23,440$491.5$301.3$178.34,125
New Brunswick$186.7$101.9$58.01,386$215.9$117.1$67.21,596
Quebec$2,400.1$1,377.8$846.320,902$2,762.2$1,576.3$966.023,788
Ontario$7,494.3$4,721.1$2,849.658,624$9,540.7$6,022.0$3,635.474,784
Manitoba$378.8$226.7$135.83,144$488.8$293.8$175.74,068
Saskatchewan$269.9$149.4$78.81,777$335.3$185.8$98.02,207
Alberta$1,233.2$699.0$404.27,450$1,531.4$869.1$501.19,237
British Columbia$3,323.9$2,169.0$1,369.431,929$3,895.3$2,535.3$1,589.637,021
Yukon$2.3$1.3$0.818$3.2$1.9$1.125
Northwest Territories$5.9$3.1$1.015$7.4$3.9$1.319
Nunavut$1.3$0.8$0.46$1.7$1.0$0.58
Canada$15,841.2$9,783.2$5,938.1129,767$19,446.1$12,012.9$7,273.3158,274

Source: Customized Statistics Canada Expenditure Model, based on expenditure produced by RKA

The values show that the total GDP contribution of students who stayed for at least six months during the year amounted to almost $9.8 billion in 2015 in Canada. In terms of employment, international education services supported almost 129,800 jobs (the equivalent of 110,000 FTE) in Canada.

The comparable values show that the combined direct and indirect GDP contribution of expenditures incurred by long-term students amounted to over $12 billion in 2016 in Canada. In terms of employment, international education services and the goods and services in its supply chain supported 158,300 jobs (the equivalent of 134,170 FTE) in Canada.

3.2.1.3. Languages Canada short-term students

When we take into account the spending of short-term language students who are studying in Languages Canada’s private member schools, these international students directly and indirectly contributed an additional $745.1 million to GDP and supported 10,240 jobs (the equivalent of 8,690 FTE) in 2015. The comparable values in 2016 were $770.1 million in GDP contributions and 10,590 jobs (or the equivalent of 8,980 FTE) supported. This is represented in Table 6.

Table 6: Direct and indirect economic impacts of short-term international language students, by province and territory, 2015 and 2016 ($millions)
 2015
Output
2015
GDP
2015
Labour Income
2015
2015 Employment
2016
Output
2016
GDP
2016
Labour Income
2016
Employment
Newfoundland and Labrador$2.2$1.4$0.612$2.3$1.5$0.612
Prince Edward Island$1.8$1.0$0.617$1.9$1.1$0.617
Nova Scotia$26.7$16.3$9.9245$27.6$16.8$10.2253
New Brunswick$9.4$4.8$3.072$9.7$5.0$3.174
Quebec$153.1$85.8$51.41,271$158.2$88.6$53.11,314
Ontario$523.6$316.8$191.84,113$541.2$327.4$198.24,251
Manitoba$21.3$12.1$7.5177$22.0$12.5$7.7183
Saskatchewan$20.0$10.9$6.0138$20.7$11.3$6.2143
Alberta$128.2$73.5$42.6829$132.5$75.9$44.0857
British Columbia$346.0$222.1$138.13,365$357.6$229.5$142.73,478
Yukon$0.2$0.1$0.12$0.3$0.1$0.12
Northwest Territories$0.6$0.3$0.12$0.6$0.3$0.12
Nunavut$0.1$0.1$0.01$0.2$0.1$0.01
Canada$1,233.3$745.1$451.510,243$1,274.7$770.1$466.710,586

Source: Customized Statistics Canada Expenditure Model, based on expenditure produced by RKA

It should be noted that, even though there were no annual student expenditures in Newfoundland and Labrador or the three territories, as there were no short-term students reported in 2015 or 2016, there were impact values in output, GDP, labour income and employment because of the effect of interprovincial trade.

3.2.1.4. Government tax revenue

In this subsection, we further demonstrate the importance of total spending by international students in terms of its contribution to government revenue. In general, government revenues come from personal income taxes, indirect taxes less subsidies, corporate income taxes and natural resource royalties. In this study, we were able to estimate personal income taxes and indirect taxes.

Indirect taxes incurred in the process of producing outputs and services include both indirect taxes on production (such as property taxes) and indirect taxes on products (such as federal and provincial sales taxes).[18

Government revenue can be derived by Statistics Canada’s expenditure model to calculate the amount of indirect taxes incurred in the process of producing an industry’s outputs and services. It should be noted that Statistics Canada’s model estimates tax revenue impacts for the combined direct and indirect impacts, and total (direct, indirect and induced impacts) scenarios only.

In addition to indirect taxes, another type of tax revenue generated is income taxes associated with labour income.[19] Statistics Canada’s expenditure model did not automatically estimate personal income taxes. Instead, we derived the values by applying the average personal income tax rates in each province and territory to labour income, which is generated in Statistics Canada’s expenditure model.

The following three tables show our estimates of the tax revenue impacts, first for all international student spending in a year, and then for annual spending by long-term students and short-term students, respectively.

Table 7: Tax revenue impact (direct and indirect) from spending by all international students, by province and territory, 2015 and 2016 ($millions)
2015
Indirect Taxes
2015
Personal Income Taxes
2015
Total Tax Revenue
2016
Indirect Taxes
2016
Personal Income Taxes
2016
Total Tax Revenue
Newfoundland and Labrador$6.1$4.6$10.6$7.5$5.6$13.1
Prince Edward Island$3.9$3.3$7.2$5.3$4.5$9.9
Nova Scotia$32.7$28.4$61.1$38.0$33.9$71.9
New Brunswick$13.8$10.0$23.8$15.2$11.5$26.8
Quebec$204.4$173.4$377.8$229.9$196.8$426.7
Ontario$616.3$538.5$1,154.7$772.6$678.8$1,451.3
Manitoba$29.6$24.3$53.9$38.2$31.1$69.3
Saskatchewan$15.8$13.7$29.4$19.3$16.8$36.1
Alberta$49.1$78.7$127.8$60.2$96.0$156.2
British Columbia$246.4$238.8$485.3$284.4$274.5$558.9
Yukon$0.1$0.1$0.2$0.1$0.1$0.3
Northwest Territories$0.1$0.2$0.3$0.2$0.2$0.4
Nunavut$0.0$0.1$0.1$0.0$0.1$0.1
Canada$1,218.3$1,114.1$2,332.3$1,471.0$1,350.0$2,821.0

Source: Customized Statistics Canada Expenditure Model, based on expenditure produced by RKA

Table 8: Tax revenue impact (direct and indirect) from spending by international students studying longer than six months, by province and territory, 2015 and 2016 ($millions)
 2015
Indirect Taxes
2015
Personal Income Taxes
2015
Total Tax Revenue
2016
Indirect Taxes
2016
Personal Income Taxes
2016
Total Tax Revenue
Newfoundland and Labrador$6.0$4.5$10.5$7.4$5.5$13.0
Prince Edward Island$3.7$3.2$6.9$5.2$4.4$9.6
Nova Scotia$29.9$26.6$56.5$35.1$32.0$67.1
New Brunswick$13.2$9.5$22.7$14.6$11.0$25.6
Quebec$190.4$163.5$353.8$215.4$186.6$402.0
Ontario$563.5$504.5$1,068.1$718.1$643.7$1,361.8
Manitoba$27.9$23.0$51.0$36.5$29.8$66.3
Saskatchewan$14.3$12.7$27.0$17.8$15.8$33.6
Alberta$42.0$71.2$113.2$52.8$88.3$141.1
British Columbia$211.8$217.0$428.8$248.7$251.9$500.5
Yukon$0.1$0.1$0.2$0.1$0.1$0.2
Northwest Territories$0.1$0.2$0.3$0.2$0.2$0.4
Nunavut$0.0$0.1$0.1$0.0$0.1$0.1
Canada$1,103.0$1,036.1$2,139.0$1,351.8$1,269.4$2,621.2

Source: Customized Statistics Canada Expenditure Model, based on expenditure produced by RKA

Table 9: Tax revenue impact (direct and indirect) from spending by short-term international language students, by province and territory, 2015 and 2016 ($millions)
 2015
Indirect Taxes
2015
Personal Income Taxes
2015
Total Tax Revenue
2016
Indirect Taxes
2016
Personal Income Taxes
2016
Total Tax Revenue
Newfoundland and Labrador$0.0$0.1$0.1$0.0$0.1$0.2
Prince Edward Island$0.2$0.1$0.3$0.2$0.1$0.3
Nova Scotia$2.9$1.8$4.6$2.9$1.8$4.8
New Brunswick$0.6$0.5$1.1$0.7$0.5$1.2
Quebec$14.1$9.9$24.0$14.5$10.3$24.8
Ontario$52.7$34.0$86.7$54.5$35.1$89.6
Manitoba$1.6$1.3$2.9$1.7$1.3$3.0
Saskatchewan$1.4$1.0$2.4$1.5$1.0$2.5
Alberta$7.1$7.5$14.6$7.4$7.7$15.1
British Columbia$34.6$21.9$56.5$35.8$22.6$58.4
Yukon$0.0$0.0$0.0$0.0$0.0$0.0
Northwest Territories$0.0$0.0$0.0$0.0$0.0$0.0
Nunavut$0.0$0.0$0.0$0.0$0.0$0.0
Canada$115.3$78.0$193.3$119.2$80.6$199.8

Source: Customized Statistics Canada Expenditure Model, based on expenditure produced by RKA

The total tax revenue generated by indirect taxes and personal income taxes associated with international student spending in 2015 was estimated to be $2.3 billion, when direct and indirect impacts were combined. 

The total tax revenue contributed to all levels of government as a result of international student expenditures was more than $2.8 billion in Canada in 2016, when direct and indirect impacts were combined. If we assume 10% higher overall spending by international students, the tax revenue impact would have been $3.1 billion, and $2.5 billion if we assume 10% lower student spending.


[10] Detailed data pertaining to international students by level of study in each province and territory can be found in Appendices 5 and 6.

[11] It should be noted that the total number of “long-term students” reported here does not correspond with the figure reported on IRCC’s website on the number of international students with a valid permit on December 31, 2015 or 2016, as we have made a number of adjustments to arrive at these values. The number of “short-term” students in 2015 has been derived based on data received from Languages Canada. The number of students in 2016 has been estimated.

[12] IRCC data showed that the number of study permit holders as of December 31 increased 17.9% between 2015 and 2016. It should be noted that the number of students in this table has been adjusted. For details, please refer to Appendix 1.

[13] Detailed data calculated for different types of student expenditures, for students in various levels of study, can be found in Appendices 5 and 6.

[14] It should be noted that there are no short-term international students reported in private Languages Canada membership schools in Newfoundland and Labrador, or the three territories.

[15] For a comparison of tuition fees for university undergraduate and graduate programs in different provinces across Canada, see Tables 47 and 48 in Appendix 5.

[16] It should be noted that Statistics Canada’s impact estimation model has two types of job impact and multipliers: one for the total number of jobs and another that transforms the former into a full-time-equivalent (FTE) number of jobs. The estimate of the total number of jobs covers two main categories: employee jobs and self-employed jobs (including persons working in a family business without pay). The total number of jobs includes full-time, part-time and temporary jobs. It does not take into account the number of hours worked per employee. FTE jobs include both the employee and self-employed jobs, but the FTE transformation only applies to employee jobs. The transformation is based on the overall average full-time hours worked in the business and government sectors.

The impact of labour income includes three components: wages and salaries, supplementary labour income, and labour income of the unincorporated sector. This variable captures the return to labour in the make-up of GDP.

[17] Total industrial output refers to the value of outputs produced, whether the products are used as an intermediate product (think of a log cut down from a tree for the purpose of building a house, for example) or used as a final product (think of a beam in a completed house). If we calculate gross domestic product the same way we calculate the value of outputs, the cost of the log will be counted many times, as it moves from raw product to its eventual use as a beam, and it is wrong. The value of total industrial output therefore includes both the value of intermediate inputs and primary inputs, the latter being the labour and the capital needed in production. It is the sum of the latter, which is also referred to as the value added, that equals gross domestic product at the national or provincial level.

[18] The types of taxes can be the following: federal trading profits on lottery and race tracks, federal gasoline tax, federal excise tax, federal excise duties, federal environment tax, federal air transportation tax, federal sales tax (GST/HST), provincial wine and liquor gallonage tax, provincial trading profits on liquor and lottery, provincial gasoline tax, provincial amusement tax, provincial environment tax, provincial sales tax, provincial harmonized sales tax (HST), local amusement tax, or local retail sales tax.

[19] Personal income tax values have been derived by applying the average personal income tax rates in each province and territory to labour income. Average personal tax rates have been derived based on data available from Statistics Canada’s CANSIM table 384-0040 - Current accounts - Households, provincial and territorial, annual.