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STRONG GROWTH DESPITE THE PANDEMIC

From July 2019 to June 2020 the population of Halifax grew to a total of 448,544. International immigration was the main driver, accounting for 64% of the growth. Halifax continued to attract young families and early-career professionals: nearly three-quarters of international newcomers last year were between the ages of 15 and 44.

Student enrolment in Halifax universities increased in 2020 to a total of 30,825 across our six institutions, up from 30,485 the previous year. Our universities continued to attract bright minds from around the world, with international student enrolment growing by nearly 10% to another record high of 7,588.

As for younger students in Halifax, the share of Grade 6 students performing at or above expectations was fairly stable in the 70% - 80% range for the past several years in assessments related to reading and mathematics. Across the four dimensions of writing (ideas, organization, language use, and conventions), performances were more variable.

COVID-19 Recovery

Given the enormous impact the pandemic had on the movement of people in 2020, a sharp drop in population growth might have been expected. However, Halifax experienced strong growth led by robust migration numbers and increased post-secondary enrolment. Eighty-one per cent of Halifax’s population growth came from outside Nova Scotia.

It is important to note that city-level population estimates are produced annually and cover July 1 to June 30 the following year. So, the most recent figure for 2019-20 includes eight months that were unaffected by travel restrictions. Furthermore, most of Nova Scotia’s migration occurs in late summer/early fall, consistent with the arrival of post-secondary students. Therefore, the most recent peak migration months occurred prior to COVID-19.

For 2020-21, we expect to see population growth drop considerably as much of the year was marked by severe restrictions on travel and many university students attended classes virtually from afar. The return to pre-COVID growth patterns will depend on health-related factors including the emergence of new variants and the success of vaccination programs.

Population

Although Halifax’s population grew by 2.1% in 2020, an additional 9,015 residents, this marked the first time in 5 consecutive years that the city failed to break its record for population growth. However, the recorded growth was still the second-largest annual increase on record, in both absolute and percentage terms. This increase brings the population of Halifax to 448,544 as of July 1, 2020.

Halifax continued to attract young, talented, and diverse newcomers not only from within the country, but from around the world. Of these newcomers, 5,751 (64%) were international migrants, while 1,584 (18%) came from interprovincial migration. Both figures were the second-largest Halifax has ever seen, after 2019.

In 2020, Halifax also had the second-highest population growth rate across Canada’s 35 census metropolitan areas (CMAs). However, the dependency ratio1is still rising. The increase in those either too young or too old to work is higher than the increase in those of working age. The age groups 0 – 14 years and 65+ years grew by 3.1%, while those ages 15 – 64 years grew by only 1.6%.

  • Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0135-01

    Population Growth

    • With a growth rate of 2.1%, Halifax was the second-fastest growing among all Canadian cities in 2020. It was behind Oshawa, Ontario, by 0.03 percentage points.
    • Of the increase, 8.9% was from net natural growth (births minus deaths).
    • As of July 1, 2020, the population of Halifax was 448,544.
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0135-01

    Population Growth by City

    • Halifax’s population growth rate, 2.1%, was the fastest among benchmark cities.
    • In absolute numbers, Halifax had the second-largest growth among these cities with 9,015 new residents. Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (KCW) experienced the largest growth with 11,928 new residents.
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0135-01

    Population Growth By Age

    • Among the comparison cities, Halifax had the second-largest growth in people 25 – 39 years old with 3,517 new residents. This age cohort is generally representative of the most significant contributors to economic activity as people start families and careers at this age.
    • A growing working-age population is a key factor to economic prosperity. The largest growth was in Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (KCW) with a net addition of 8,243 people.
    • Across all age groups in Halifax, the 55+ cohort recorded the largest growth with 4,175 people. Growth in the younger age groups is crucial as most people in the 55+ cohort will reach retirement age soon.
  • Population Age Pyramid

    Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographics Estimates, Tables 17-10-0135-01

    Population Age Pyramid

    • In 2020, the largest age group in Halifax was between 25 - 34 years with a total of 72,763 people. Compared to 2001, this is an increase of 15,431 people or 27%.
    • The dependency ratio increased from 44.3% in 2019 to 44.9% in 2020. For a longer-term comparison, the figure in 2001 was 40.7%.
    • The baby boom population (ages 55 – 74) in Halifax was estimated to be 108,318 in 2020. Most of this group is expected to reach retirement age in the next 5 to 10 years.
    • Since 2001, the male population has risen by 22.3% to a total of 219,865 as of July 1, 2020. The growth in the female population in that same period is 20.7%, to 228,679 individuals.

Migration

For yet another year, international immigration was by far the largest component of Halifax’s population growth with 64% of net new residents (5,751 people) coming from outside Canada. Although this figure was lower than 2019, it was still the second-highest immigrant inflow to Halifax.

Looking within Canada, 18% of population growth (1,584 people) came from other provinces and 10% (876 people) came from elsewhere in Nova Scotia, while net natural growth2contributed only 9% (804 people). The net interprovincial figure for 2020 was the second highest on record; conversely, the 2020 intraprovincial figure was the lowest since 2005. The natural growth of the population saw an increase of 22.4% over the record low set in 2019.

Halifax’s labour force also continued to grow: 81% of the people who moved here in 2020 were of working age (15 - 64 years). Of this group, 67% were net new immigrants, 20% came from other Canadian provinces, and 13% were from elsewhere in Nova Scotia. Additionally, there were 1,539 new residents among those ages 0 - 14 years and 65+ years.

  • Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0136-01

    Population Growth by Source

    • Halifax gained 5,751 net new immigrants in 2020, the second-highest annual number ever recorded.
    • Interprovincial migration also reached the second-highest figure with 1,584 people moving to Halifax from other provinces.
    • Intraprovincial migration recorded its lowest number since 2005 with 876 people arriving from other parts of Nova Scotia.
    • Net natural growth, although the lowest of all components, has increased since last year. There were 4,026 births and 3,222 deaths representing a growth of 804 people.
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0136-01

    Components of Growth by City

    • Among benchmark cities, Halifax gained the second-most international and interprovincial migrants (just as it did in 2019).
    • Halifax was the only city that had more than 800 net additions in every component of population growth. Both St. John’s and Regina had people leaving for other provinces while Quebec City and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (KCW) only gained 58 and 252 people from other provinces, respectively.
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0136-01

    Migration by Age

    • Halifax’s new residents are mostly young and diverse. Over 80% of the net new migrants were of typical working ages (15 - 64 years) and 67% of those were international migrants.
    • Young families and youth also accounted for a large share of newcomers: 1,274 net new international migrants were under 15 years of age.
    • Only 317 of these net new residents were 65 years or older, consisting of 149 interprovincial migrants, 141 intraprovincial migrants, and 27 international migrants.

Post-Secondary

Enrolment at Halifax’s universities increased in 2020, growing by 1.1% or 340 students. Total enrolment for the six universities3was 30,825 in 2019-20.

Both enrolment numbers for international students (+671) as well as students from other provinces (+26) increased. In fact, international student enrolment reached its highest-ever level with 7,588 students, a growth of 9.7%. This is the twelfth consecutive record high for international student enrolment in Halifax. In contrast, the enrolment number for students from within the province fell by 357 in 2019-20.

At the Nova Scotia Community College’s three Halifax campuses, total enrolment declined in 2020 by 551 students, a drop of 12%. The NSCC saw its international student enrolment drop by 5% across the province. However, the international student share of total NSCC enrolment actually increased from 7.3% to 7.5%. This means that a larger share of those enrolled were international students.

Enrolment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields4has been increasing consistently for the last 10 years. In 2019-20, STEM enrolment grew by 3.1%, reaching a total of 14,872 students. Looking across all fields of study, the largest undergraduate enrolment was in subjects related to the sciences and mathematics. Additionally, for graduate studies, enrolment in these subjects was second only to enrolment in commerce and administration.

  • Source: Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, Enrolment Data

    University Enrolment by Origin

    • International students led the growth in university enrolment with a net increase of 671 students for a total of 7,588 international students. This was the highest number ever recorded.
    • The Nova Scotia student enrolment figure was down 357 students compared to 2018-19, a decrease of 2.5%. In contrast, enrolment of students from other Canadian provinces increased for the first time in 5 years.
    • Total university enrolment (30,825 students) was at its highest since 2014-15 when it was 30,993.
  • Source: Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, Enrolment Data

    University Enrolment by Field of Study

    • Total enrolment numbers continue to be the highest in subjects related to sciences and mathematics. Out of the 7,238 students enrolled in these subjects, 5,806 were undergraduate students (the highest across undergraduate fields), and 1,432 were graduate students (the second highest across graduate fields).
    • Commerce and administration was the second most popular field in terms of enrolment, with 4,743 undergraduate and 1,512 graduate enrolments.
    • 21% or 6,632 students are pursuing graduate studies. Both the percentage and total are new records for graduate student enrolment.
  • Source: Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, Enrolment Data

    University Enrolment in STEM Fields

    • STEM enrolment experienced a 2.8% compound annual growth over the past 10 years. 2019-20 saw the total enrolment (graduate plus undergraduate) reach a record high of 14,872.
    • After showing steady growth over the past few years, total enrolment in health and related fields fell in 2019-20 driven by the 3% decrease in undergraduate enrolment. However, graduate student enrolment in these fields did increase by 4%.

Schooling

Student performance in our elementary and high schools provides a long-term preview of labour supply in Halifax: is the next generation of Nova Scotians developing the competencies they will need to succeed in our workforce?

According to the Program of Learning Assessment for Nova Scotia (PLANS),5in 2019-20, Grade 6 students in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) system performed on par to previous years in reading and mathematics. For writing, results varied across the four dimensions: ideas, organization, language use, and conventions. The share of students performing at or above expectations rose by 4 percentage points from the previous year for language use and was unchanged for the other three dimensions.

The gap in performance between the general population of students and those in historically marginalized groups mostly improved. The share of Grade 6 students with Indigenous ancestry performing at or above expectation increased between 3 and 8 percentage points in every area. Similar improvement was seen among students of African descent with the exception of reading and writing conventions where performance fell by 3 percentage points from 2018-19.

Looking at provincial-level student assessment data for 15-year-olds, Nova Scotia was in the middle of the pack in comparison to other provinces. The province ranked fifth in reading, mathematics, and science according to the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)6 2018 report. The average scores of Nova Scotia students in all 3 assessment categories (reading, mathematics, and science) fell from 2015 to 2018, with the largest drop in science.

  • Source: Program of Learning Assessment for Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Assessment Results

    Student Performance by Subject

    • The shares of Grade 6 students in Halifax who met or exceeded expectations in mathematics and reading have been stable over the past few years.
    • The range of students underperforming across the four writing dimensions ranged from a low of 25% in ideas to a high of 42% in conventions.
  • Share of Grade 6 Students At or Above Expectation by Identity Status

    Source: Program of Learning Assessment for Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Disaggregated Assessment Results

    Performance by Identity Status

    • 2019-20 saw the share of Indigenous Grade 6 students who performed at or above expectation increase in all assessment categories.
    • This was also the case for students of African descent except for a 3-percentage-point decrease in writing conventions and a 3-percentage-point decrease in reading.
  • Gap in Grade 6 Performance by Identity Status

    Source: Program of Learning Assessment for Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Disaggregated Assessment Results

    Difference in Share of 6th Grade Students At or Above Expectation

    • The gap in performance between the general population and students of Indigenous ancestry has narrowed for all assessment categories between 2018-19 and 2019-20 by:
      • 7 and 5 percentage points in reading and mathematics, respectively
      • an average of 4 percentage points in writing (all dimensions)
    • The gap in performance between the general population and students of African descent increased for reading and for writing conventions by 3 percentage points each.
    • For the other three dimensions of writing (ideas, organization, and language use) and for mathematics, the gap narrowed from 2018-19 to 2019-20, with improvements ranging from 1 to 3 percentage points.
  • The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a study of educational performance among millions of 15 year-olds across 79 countries. In Canada over 600,000 students took PISA examinations in 2018.
    Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Programme for International Student Assessment (Various)

    PISA Student Performance By Subject

    • Nova Scotia ranked fifth in reading, mathematics, and science among all provinces in the 2018 OECD PISA assessment.
    • Average scores for Nova Scotia students declined for all three categories from 2015 to 2018.
    • The average score for mathematics has decreased 4% since 2003. Over the same period, the average score in reading has increased by 1%. Since 2006, overall scores in science have dropped by 2%. (Science was not assessed in 2003.)

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