Characteristics of postsecondary international students who did not enrol in publicly funded postsecondary education pro…

The fast-growing number of international students has generated strong public interest and concerns about their impacts on Canada’s educational institutions, labour market and affordable housing. Fully understanding such impacts requires better knowledge of the school enrolment and labour force participation of international students. Earlier Statistics Canada studies found that the number of international students enrolled in publicly funded postsecondary education institutions was about 20% to 30% smaller than the number of postsecondary study permit holders (SPHs) (Choi & Hou, 2023; Frenette, Lu & Chan, 2019). However, little information exists about these SPHs who did not enrol in publicly funded postsecondary programs. It is unclear whether they stayed in Canada and, if so, what their main activities were. This article attempts to explore this less known area.

This article first improves the estimate of how many postsecondary SPHs were not enrolled in publicly funded postsecondary education institutions. There are some limitations in previous estimates that were based on the comparison at the aggregate level of the number of international students in the Postsecondary Student Information System (PSIS) and the number of SPHs in the Longitudinal Immigration Database (IMDB). The PSIS covers the population who received postsecondary education by enrolling in a publicly funded postsecondary educational institution. The IMDB contains information on the total number of SPHs in a given calendar year. Meanwhile, the number of international students in the PSIS includes SPHs, individuals with another visa status and those with no visa status, and thus it may overestimate the number of SPHs. Also, some SPHs may not have enrolled in one calendar year but enrolled in the previous or subsequent years. Therefore, the number of international students who appeared in one particular year of the PSIS may be an underestimate of the number of SPHs who ever enrolled in publicly funded postsecondary education institutions. This article overcomes these limitations by directly counting SPHs in the PSIS based on the linkage between the IMDB and PSIS.

This article further uses temporary resident permit data from the IMDB and tax data from the Longitudinal Worker File to explore whether SPHs not in the PSIS (hereafter “non-enrolled SPHs”) can be found in other administrative data, potentially indicating their presence in Canada, and compares their sociodemographic characteristics and labour force engagement with those of SPHs in the PSIS (hereafter “enrolled SPHs”). The focus is on SPHs who held study permits for postsecondary education in calendar year 2019, which is the latest year before the COVID-19 pandemic.Note  Calendar year 2019 spanned academic years 2018/2019 (January to August) and 2019/2020 (September to December) in the PSIS. Postsecondary SPHs were analyzed separately by level of intended study in four groups: non-university postsecondary (CEGEP or college certificate, diploma and applied degree programs), bachelor’s degree, master’s or doctoral degree, and others.Note 

About one-quarter of postsecondary study permit holders in 2019 had not enrolled in publicly funded postsecondary programs, with over half of them likely engaging in other study or work activities

In this study, if an individual is not in the PSIS, it indicates that they had not enrolled in publicly funded postsecondary institutions since at least 2009.Note Note Note  A possible reason for the absence is enrolment in private postsecondary institutions, which are beyond the scope of the PSIS. Some SPHs may not stay in Canada, and some may stay in Canada without enrolling in school and do other activities.

Chart 1 : Number and percentage of study permit holders in 2019 by enrolment in publicly funded postsecondary 
institutions

Data table for Chart 1















Data table for chart 1

Table summary

This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1 Enrolled and Not enrolled, calculated using number and percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Enrolled Not enrolled
number percent number percent
Total 543,910 75.8 173,390 24.2
Non-university postsecondary 222,600 70.3 94,000 29.7
University,

bachelor’s degree
176,880 88.0 24,040 12.0
University, master’s or doctoral degree 88,740 87.7 12,460 12.3
Other 55,690 56.5 42,900 43.5



In 2019, about 717,300 people held postsecondary study permits (Chart 1). Among the postsecondary SPHs, 24% were not in the PSIS and 76% were. Among non-university postsecondary SPHs, 30% were not in the PSIS. The share not in the PSIS was lower at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels (12% in all cases).

Among postsecondary SPHs not in the PSIS, 54% were found in other administrative data in 2019, indicating that they likely engaged in other study or work activities in the year (Table 1). For example, among non-university postsecondary SPHs, 48% held a work permit in addition to a study permit, 35% had earnings from paid jobs and received T4 slips from employers, and 33% filed a personal income tax return (T1 form). Some of these activities were overlapping. The percentage of non-enrolled SPHs who had some other information in the administrative data was higher at the non-university postsecondary (62%) and graduate (63%) levels than at the bachelor’s degree level or other (42%).


































































Table 1

Characteristics of postsecondary study permit holders by enrolment in publicly funded postsecondary institutions and level of intended study on study permit, 2019

Table summary

This table displays the results of Characteristics of postsecondary study permit holders by enrolment in publicly funded postsecondary institutions and level of intended study on study permit Not enrolled, Enrolled, Total, Non-university postsecondary, University, bachelor’s degree, University, master’s or doctoral degree and Other, calculated using number, percent and dollars units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Not enrolled Enrolled
Total Non-university postsecondary University, bachelor’s degree University, master’s or doctoral degree Other Total Non-university postsecondary University, bachelor’s degree University, master’s or doctoral degree Other
number
Number of study permit holders 173,390 94,000 24,040 12,460 42,900 543,910 222,600 176,880 88,740 55,690
percent
Percentage found in other administrative data in 2019, a+b+c 54.5 62.4 41.9 62.5 41.9 74.1 85.3 58.8 82.9 63.8
Had other temporary resident permits, a 37.3 47.9 17.1 22.9 29.7 35.0 49.9 21.3 29.4 28.2
Had a work permit 37.1 47.8 16.6 22.7 29.4 34.9 49.8 21.1 29.2 28.1
Had paid jobs, b 32.8 35.4 29.1 45.2 25.6 56.7 69.5 39.6 64.0 48.4
Filed personal income tax return (T1 form), c 32.5 32.6 28.3 51.4 29.1 60.6 70.3 44.4 72.6 54.3
Percentage enrolled in postsecondary institutions in 2019, d+e 22.0 23.1 18.5 36.9 17.0 93.9 94.1 93.9 97.0 88.2
Enrolled in publicly funded postsecondary institutions in 2018/2019 or 2019/2020, d 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 92.6 92.4 93.2 96.4 85.9
Reported school enrolment in T1 tax return, e 22.0 23.1 18.5 36.9 17.0 48.9 55.3 37.3 59.8 42.6
Sociodemographic characteristics
Age group (years)
24 or younger 69.0 72.3 89.7 32.3 60.7 73.2 71.4 92.9 39.1 72.5
25 to 34 24.3 22.8 8.9 54.1 27.4 22.6 23.7 6.6 51.9 22.4
35 or older 6.7 4.8 1.4 13.7 11.9 4.2 4.9 0.5 9.0 5.2
Gender
Male 52.3 51.2 59.2 53.8 50.4 55.0 56.8 51.9 57.4 53.6
Female 47.7 48.8 40.9 46.2 49.6 45.1 43.3 48.1 42.6 46.4
Province of destination on study permit
Newfoundland and Labrador 0.2 0.1 0.5 0.5 0.1 0.9 0.2 1.2 2.2 0.5
Prince Edward Island 0.6 0.1 1.1 0.2 1.5 0.5 0.3 1.0 0.3 0.4
Nova Scotia 1.3 0.2 4.2 1.7 2.1 3.2 0.7 5.5 3.6 5.6
New Brunswick 0.9 0.5 2.5 1.3 0.9 1.1 0.7 1.6 1.2 0.4
Quebec 16.8 14.6 14.7 19.3 22.0 13.4 5.9 15.8 30.8 8.6
Ontario 38.6 47.5 29.6 18.4 29.9 52.1 67.6 42.1 35.3 49.1
Manitoba 3.6 2.7 7.1 0.9 4.5 3.0 1.6 5.2 2.1 2.8
Saskatchewan 1.0 0.5 3.0 1.1 1.0 1.8 0.8 2.4 3.0 1.8
Alberta 4.2 3.9 4.5 5.9 4.3 5.1 4.2 5.6 7.2 3.9
British Columbia 30.6 27.2 32.1 50.3 31.5 17.9 16.5 19.0 13.9 26.3
Source country (top 5)
India 47.9 66.3 28.5 36.1 22.1 34.9 58.6 9.9 22.4 40.0
China 9.7 4.4 20.5 12.0 14.6 22.4 8.8 40.3 19.8 23.7
France 2.5 Note : not applicable 3.1 2.5 Note : not applicable 5.0 Note : not applicable 6.9 9.1 Note : not applicable
South Korea 5.3 3.5 Note : not applicable Note : not applicable 11.6 2.6 3.4 Note : not applicable Note : not applicable 3.7
Vietnam 1.8 1.2 Note : not applicable Note : not applicable 3.6 3.0 3.5 Note : not applicable Note : not applicable 8.2
United States Note : not applicable Note : not applicable 5.1 4.0 Note : not applicable Note : not applicable Note : not applicable 4.5 4.7 Note : not applicable
Brazil Note : not applicable 3.4 Note : not applicable Note : not applicable Note : not applicable Note : not applicable 3.2 Note : not applicable Note : not applicable Note : not applicable
Iran Note : not applicable Note : not applicable Note : not applicable 9.9 Note : not applicable Note : not applicable Note : not applicable Note : not applicable 8.8 Note : not applicable
Nigeria Note : not applicable Note : not applicable 1.7 Note : not applicable Note : not applicable Note : not applicable Note : not applicable 3.9 Note : not applicable Note : not applicable
Japan Note : not applicable Note : not applicable Note : not applicable Note : not applicable 9.0 Note : not applicable Note : not applicable Note : not applicable Note : not applicable 2.7
Total of top 5 countries 67.3 78.8 58.8 64.5 60.8 67.9 77.3 65.6 64.9 78.2
Other countries 32.8 21.2 41.2 35.5 39.2 32.1 22.7 34.4 35.2 21.8
Issue year of the first temporary resident permit
2019 41.6 41.9 35.7 42.6 43.7 24.4 27.7 15.6 25.4 37.5
2018 30.0 29.6 23.2 29.6 34.6 24.0 27.5 17.9 23.5 29.6
2017 16.2 18.4 12.3 15.7 13.5 20.3 24.1 16.6 19.4 18.1
2016 or earlier 12.3 10.0 28.7 12.1 8.3 31.3 20.7 49.8 31.7 14.7
Work characteristics,

only those who had paid jobs in 2019

Industry of employment (main job) at taxation
Construction 2.2 2.5 1.7 1.5 2.0 1.5 1.9 1.2 0.7 1.9
Manufacturing 4.1 4.0 4.0 3.3 4.8 4.1 4.3 3.8 3.9 3.9
Wholesale and retail trade 22.0 20.1 21.8 30.9 23.3 19.7 21.0 20.3 13.6 23.4
Transportation and warehousing 3.4 3.8 2.6 2.2 3.6 2.6 3.6 1.9 1.0 2.5
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing 1.9 1.6 2.4 2.9 1.9 3.1 2.2 5.0 3.6 2.3
Professional, scientific and technical services 3.6 3.2 3.9 4.8 4.2 5.2 3.6 7.2 7.9 4.3
Business, building and other support services 17.1 18.7 20.1 12.0 12.8 14.8 20.3 8.8 7.0 15.3
Educational services 3.7 1.7 7.1 12.8 2.7 12.5 2.3 14.2 42.8 3.1
Health care and social assistance 3.4 3.6 2.3 3.0 3.6 2.9 3.4 2.8 2.0 2.9
Information, culture and recreation 2.1 1.9 2.5 2.0 2.6 2.4 2.0 3.7 2.3 2.1
Accommodation and food services 31.2 34.0 26.0 19.0 32.4 26.1 31.2 24.8 10.6 32.9
Other services (except public administration) 3.1 2.8 3.0 3.8 3.7 2.2 2.3 2.3 1.5 3.2
Public administration 0.4 0.2 0.5 0.6 0.5 1.0 0.6 1.7 1.7 0.5
   dollars
Median earnings from all jobs 9,300 9,800 7,400 10,000 9,000 10,700 12,300 7,900 9,700 11,300

Among SPHs not in the PSIS, 22% reported school enrolment in their tax return in 2019. Because tax filing rates among international students are low (61% among those in the PSIS, Table 1), this figure is likely a low bound for the percentage of SPHs enrolled in private postsecondary institutions. Putting together this share and the share of enrolled SPHs in the PSIS suggests that at least 81% (=76%+24%*22%) of SPHs in 2019 had enrolled in Canadian postsecondary institutions.

Relatively larger shares of study permit holders not enrolled in publicly funded postsecondary programs intended to study in British Columbia and came from India

Some differences in sociodemographic characteristics were found between enrolled and non-enrolled SPHs (Table 1). A disproportionately large share (31%) of non-enrolled SPHs intended to study in British Columbia, compared with enrolled SPHs (18%). In comparison, 39% of non-enrolled SPHs were destined to study in Ontario, whereas 52% of enrolled SPHs were. The difference was largest among non-university postsecondary SPHs (47% versus 68%).

A relatively large share of non-enrolled SPHs who intended to enrol in non-university postsecondary and university degree programs were from India. Indian nationals accounted for 66% of non-enrolled SPHs for non-university postsecondary programs and 28% of non-enrolled SPHs at the bachelor’s degree level. The corresponding percentages of Indian nationals among enrolled SPHs were 59% at the non-university postsecondary level and 10% at the bachelor’s degree level.

Most non-enrolled SPHs were recent arrivals. More than 70% arrived in Canada within two years, and 42% were first-time permit holders in 2019.

Among SPHs who intended to enrol in non-university postsecondary or other programs and who had paid jobs in 2019, being in the PSIS or not made no difference in their industry distribution. About 72% were employed in three industry sectors: accommodation and food services; wholesale and retail trade; and business, building and other support services (primarily temporary employment services).

However, at university degree levels, the industry distribution was significantly different between enrolled and non-enrolled SPHs. The educational services sector was one of the top three sectors among SPHs who studied at the bachelor’s degree (14%) or graduate degree (43%) levels in publicly funded postsecondary institutions. In contrast, the corresponding shares were 7% and 13%, respectively, among non-enrolled SPHs. A larger share of non-enrolled SPHs at the bachelor’s degree level (20%) worked in business, building and other support services than enrolled SPHs (9%). At the graduate degree level, wholesale and retail trade (31%) was the top sector for non-enrolled SPHs, but the corresponding share was 14% among enrolled SPHs.

Enrolled and non-enrolled SPHs had similar median annual earnings at the bachelor’s and graduate degree levels. However, among non-university postsecondary SPHs, non-enrolled SPHs had lower median annual earnings than enrolled SPHs.

Concluding remarks

This article sheds light on the activities of postsecondary SPHs who were not enrolled in publicly funded postsecondary institutions. The analysis suggests that, as of 2019, at least 54% stayed in Canada, with some (at least 22%) studying in school, possibly in private colleges, and some working with or without a work permit. Relatively larger shares of non-enrolled postsecondary SPHs intended to study in British Columbia, came from India and were first-time permit holders. When employed, a relatively larger share found work in low-paying industry sectors, including wholesale and retail trade, and accommodation and food services.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that the current dataset does not provide a precise estimate regarding international student enrolments in private postsecondary institutions. More comprehensive insights on enrolment in private postsecondary institutions could be gleaned from administrative data on tuition and enrolment certificates once they become available for analysis.

Authors

Youjin Choi and Feng Hou are with the Social Analysis and Modelling Division, Analytical Studies and Modelling Branch, at Statistics Canada.

Acknowledgments

The authors thank Marc Frenette, Yuqian Lu and Aimé Ntwari for helpful comments and discussions.

References

Choi, Y. & Hou, F. (2023). A comparison of postsecondary enrolment trends between domestic and international students by field of study. Economic and Social Reports 3 (9): 1–25. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 36-28-0001. https://doi.org/10.25318/36280001202300900003-eng

Frenette, M., Lu, Y., & Chan, W. (2019). The Postsecondary Experience and Early Labour Market Outcomes of International Study Permit Holders. Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 11F0019M No. 431. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11f0019m/11f0019m2019019-eng.htm

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