Halifax Index 2024

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BIGGER, YOUNGER … AND OLDER

Halifax’s population grew to 492,199 in 2023. The record-breaking annual growth (19,237) over 2022 was driven by international migration (15,776). Migration from other provinces remained substantial, although it was down from 2021 and 2022. Net natural population growth remained positive with the highest number of babies born in Halifax in almost a decade. For the second consecutive year, however, more people moved from Halifax to other parts of Nova Scotia than went the other way.

Halifax got younger last year. The median age in 2023 dropped to 39.0 years, the lowest figure since 2009. At the same time, though, the population share of those age 65+ was at a record high: 17.0%.

Enrolment at Halifax universities declined slightly between 2021-22 and 2022-23, but enrolment at Halifax campuses of the Nova Scotia Community College increased by 6.1%. India remained the top source country for international students at Halifax universities. Halifax continued to have the highest undergraduate domestic tuition cost among benchmark cities.

Assessment results across a variety of subjects for P-12 students continued to show a general downward trend, and in many cases, scores remain below pre-pandemic levels.

Halifax Index 2024
Population

Halifax experienced record-high population growth from 2022 to 2023 in both absolute (+19,237) and percentage (+4.1%) terms. Across benchmark cities, Halifax ranked fourth in percentage growth from 2022 to 2023.

As of July 1, 2023, Statistics Canada estimated Halifax’s population to be 492,199.

The majority of this growth – 80% or almost 16,000 people – came from international migration, while interprovincial movement accounted for roughly 3,300 (17%).

Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0150-01

Halifax Population Growth

  • From July 1, 2022, to July 1, 2023, Halifax’s population grew by over 19,000 people – a new record and a record-high growth rate of 4.1%.
  • Last year’s Halifax Index reported a total population for July 1, 2022, of 480,582; however, subsequent revisions by Statistics Canada resulted in an amended estimate: 472,962. Taking this revision and growth into account, the estimate for Halifax’s population as of July 1, 2023, is 492,199.

*Halifax Economic Region
Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0148-01

Population Growth by City

  • Population growth in benchmark cities ranged from a high of 6.1% in KCW to a low of 2.6% in Quebec City and Ottawa.
  • Halifax ranked fourth with a growth rate of 4.1%.

Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0151-01

Population Growth by Source

  • Halifax’s population growth in 2023 was dominated by net international migration, which accounted for an additional 15,776 people. Of these, approximately 6,300 were new non-permanent residents, while close to 10,000 were immigrants.
  • Net interprovincial migration remained significant at 3,338. This is down from the more than 5,000 net interprovincial migrants Halifax received in each of the two previous years, but it is still the third-highest annual figure on record.
  • Net natural growth (births minus deaths) rose to 605 in 2023. The 4,038 babies born in Halifax were the most in almost a decade.
  • For the second year in a row, more people left Halifax for other parts of Nova Scotia than came the other way. Net intraprovincial migration to Halifax was -482 in 2023 following the net loss of -291 in 2022.

*Halifax Economic Region
Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0149-01

Components of Growth by City

  • All benchmark cities relied heavily on international migration for their population growth in 2023.
  • At 16.9%, Halifax had the highest share of population growth attributable to interprovincial migration.
  • Intraprovincial migration was a significant contributor to population growth only in Calgary where 27.8% of the population increase comprised people coming from other parts of Alberta.
  • Net natural growth was a small contributor to growth in nine benchmark cities and negative in St. John’s.

Halifax Index 2024
Demographics

By many metrics, Halifax continued to get younger in 2023.

Migrants to Halifax continued to lean younger with the vast majority of net migrants being under 45 years old.

The increase in Halifax’s population from 2022 to 2023 was dominated by growth in those 15 - 19 years and 30 - 44 years. The next largest increase was in those 65+.

Across benchmark cities, Halifax had one of the lower shares of the population in the youngest (0 - 14 years) age bracket. Halifax had the fifth-highest population of those 65+.

At 39.0 years, Halifax’s 2023 median age was the lowest recorded since 2009. At the same time, Halifax’s 65+ population share in 2023 was a record high of 17.0%.

Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0151-01

Migration by Age

  • Migrants to Halifax from all sources skewed younger with the total number of net migrants in the three youngest groups far outweighing the number in the three oldest groups.
  • Net international migration for all age groups was positive, and net interprovincial migration was positive for all age groups except those ages 0 - 14.
  • For those ages 15 – 29 and ages 30 - 44, net intraprovincial migration to Halifax was positive, while for the very young (0 - 14) and the oldest groups (45 – 54, 55 – 64, and 65+) it was negative. This pattern would be consistent with students and early-career workers coming to Halifax in search of educational and professional opportunities, while some younger families, empty-nesters, and retirees sought less-expensive housing options outside HRM’s borders.

Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0150-01

Population Growth by Age

  • Halifax’s population in each of the depicted age groups grew from 2022 to 2023 except in those 55 - 64 years. This group declined by 474.
  • The largest increases continued to be in the young adult cohort as the number of those ages 15 - 29 grew by 4,617 and the number of those ages 30 - 44 grew by 8,971.
  • The number of those ages 65+ increased by 3,306.

*Halifax Economic Region
Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Demographic Estimates, Table 17-10-0148-01

Population Shares By Age

  • In 2023, Calgary had the highest population share of the very young (0 - 14 years) at 17.4%, while Vancouver had the lowest share at 13.1%. Halifax’s share (14.2%) placed it eighth-highest across the ten benchmark cities.
  • At the other end of the age spectrum, Quebec City had the largest share of those 65+, while Calgary had the lowest at 13.7%. Halifax ranked fifth-highest at 17.0%.
  • Halifax’s median age in 2023 was 39.0 years, the lowest figure since 2009. Quebec City had the highest median age at 42.5 years, while KCW had the lowest at 35.5.

Halifax Index 2024
Post-Secondary

Despite record population growth for the municipality, enrolment at six universities1in Halifax declined slightly by 0.6% between 2021-22 and 2022-23. In contrast, the 2022-23 enrolment figures for Halifax campuses of the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) showed a 6.1% annual increase.

Across the universities, enrolments for Nova Scotian and international students declined, while the number of students from other Canadian provinces and territories rose. The net change was a decrease of 180 students.

Country-of-origin data for international university students are available only at the provincial level. India remained the top source country with 48% growth from 2021-22 to 2022-23. Just under 5,000 Indian students were enrolled at Nova Scotia universities in 2022-23, which accounted for 41% of all international students in the province. The second-largest cohort were Chinese students, but their numbers dropped by 24% from 2021-22 to 2022-23. New federal limits on the number of international students coming to Canada may result in significant changes to these numbers next year.

Looking at credentials granted by Halifax universities in 2021-22, humanities and social sciences accounted for the largest number of undergraduate credentials (1,306), while the largest number at the graduate level were in the sciences and mathematics (494).

Business programs had the largest number of students (734) at NSCC Halifax campuses in 2022-23 followed by engineering technologies (606) and building & manufacturing (556).

Halifax continued to have the highest undergraduate domestic tuition among benchmark cities in 2022-23 at $9,802.

Source: Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, Enrolment Data

Halifax University Enrolment by Origin

  • Total enrolment at Halifax universities declined slightly (-180) from 2021-22, but the 32,346 students still represented the second-highest annual total on record.
  • Enrolment by students from Nova Scotia dropped by 334, and the number of international students decreased by 51. Enrolment of students from other parts of Canada went up by 205.
  • Given the very small changes in enrolment numbers, the shares for each source of students were essentially unchanged from 2021-22 to 2022-23.

Source: Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, Enrolment Data

University Enrolment by Country of Origin

  • Breakdowns of international students by country of origin are available only at the provincial level. While international enrolments went down slightly at Halifax universities, across Nova Scotia they went up by 14%.
  • India remained the top source country, and its total rose substantially (+48%) over the previous year. In 2022-23, India accounted for 41% of all international students at Nova Scotia universities.
  • In contrast, the number of Chinese students declined by 24%. In 2021-22 Chinese students made up 26% of all international university students in Nova Scotia, but in 2022-23, this dropped to 17%.

Source: Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, Credentials Granted Data

University Graduates by Field of Study

  • The total 7,727 credentials granted by Halifax universities in 2021-22 was virtually unchanged from the year before.
  • Commerce and administration again accounted for the largest number followed by sciences and mathematics, and humanities and social sciences. In contrast to 2020-21, health professions jumped ahead of engineering in 2021-22.
  • Commerce and administration, sciences and mathematics, humanities and social science, and engineering all saw declines in the numbers of credentials granted from 2020-21 to 2021-22. The largest drop was in sciences and mathematics with 52 fewer credentials granted (3.2%).
  • Credentials granted in health professions were up by 35 (+3.3%).

*The Halifax calculations include the Akerley, Ivany, and Institute of Technology campuses. NSCC's eCampus enrolments (1,320 students) are not included.
Source: Nova Scotia Community College, Custom Request

NSCC Enrolment by Field

  • Total enrolment at Halifax campuses of the Nova Scotia Community College rose by 254 students (+6.1%) to reach 4,449 in 2022-23.
  • Enrolment rose in most fields, led by IT & data analytics (+21.7%) and health & wellness (+10.1%).
  • Two fields had lower enrolments in 2022-23 than in 2021-22, creative & digital media (-2.3%), and building & manufacturing (-4.3%).

Source: Statistics Canada, Undergraduate Tuition Fees, Table 37-10-0120-01

Undergraduate Domestic Tuition Costs

  • For the fourth consecutive year, Halifax had the highest undergraduate domestic tuition cost across benchmark cities.
  • Halifax’s 2023-24 average figure, $9,802, was up $310 (3.3%) over 2022-23. The average increase across Canada was 3.0%.
  • KCW remained in second-highest place at $8,967, and Quebec City remained the lowest at $2,950.

Halifax Index 2024
P-12 Education

As knowledge work grows ever more important in the economy and opportunities narrow for those with less formal education, schooling becomes increasingly important. Assessments of students in the school system now may indicate their future success in post-secondary education and in the labour market.

Unfortunately, the results this year are worrying. Results trended down for both the Program of Learning Assessment for Nova Scotia (PLANS)2results for Halifax students across four different grade levels and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results for 15-year-old students across Nova Scotia.

The latest results are mostly below pre-pandemic levels, and while results for Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) compared favourably to other parts of the province, Nova Scotia overall placed in the bottom half of Canadian provinces.

Note that additional information on P-12 assessment results for African Nova Scotian students are available in the African Nova Scotian Prosperity and Well-being Index, published in May 2024.

*No assessments were conducted in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years.
Source: Program of Learning Assessment for Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Assessment Results

Grade 3 Student Performance by Subject

  • The most-recent assessments of grade three students were conducted in the spring of 2023.
  • It is heartening to see improved results in reading and mathematics, but for both subjects, close to one-quarter of students performed below expectations in the latest assessments.
  • The results for writing are sobering: the trend is downward, and more than half of students performed below expectations.

*No assessments were conducted in the 2020-21 academic year.
Source: Program of Learning Assessment for Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Assessment Results

Grade 6 Student Performance by Subject

  • The most recent assessment of grade six students were conducted in the fall of 2023.
  • Results in reading and mathematics have been fairly stable for the past three years but remain below pre-pandemic levels.
  • Results in writing have been stable since 2020-21 with slight improvement in 2023-24 over the prior year.
  • Depending on the subject, anywhere from 27% to 40% of students performed below expectations in 2023-24.

*No assessments were conducted in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years.
Source: Program of Learning Assessment for Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Assessment Results

Grade 8 Student Performance by Subject

  • The most recent assessment of grade eight students were conducted in the spring of 2023.
  • Reading and mathematics results remained below pre-pandemic levels, while the latest figure for writing was just above the 2018-19 result.
  • In the “best” subject, writing, 30% of students performed below expectations, while in the “worst”, mathematics, that number was 45%.

*No assessments were conducted in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years.
Source: Program of Learning Assessment for Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Assessment Results

Grade 10 Student Performance by Subject

  • The most recent figures for grade ten students come from examinations written in the spring of 2023. Here, results for writing are broken out into four components.
  • Reading results were stable across time, while results in mathematics were down compared to the pre-pandemic period.
  • Across all components of writing, there has been a drop in scores since the pandemic.
  • Across all items, the share of students who performed below expectation in 2022-23 ranged from a low of 25% in reading to a high of 44% in writing conventions.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a study of educational performance among millions of 15 year-olds across 81 countries. The most recent results are for 2022. Results are also provided for certain subnational areas, including Canadian provinces.
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Programme for International Student Assessment (Various)

PISA Student Performance By Subject

  • In reading, mathematics, and science, results for Nova Scotia continued to decline in 2022.
  • The 2022 scores for each subject were the lowest on record dating back to 2003 (2006 for science).
  • By comparison, Singapore was the highest-scoring country in reading (543), mathematics (575), and science (561), while Cambodia recorded the lowest scores at, respectively, 329, 336, and 347.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a study of educational performance among millions of 15 year-olds across 81 countries. The most recent results are for 2022. Results are also provided for certain subnational areas, including Canadian provinces.
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Programme for International Student Assessment (Various)

Comparative PISA Student Performance by Subject

  • Across provinces in 2022, in reading and science, the highest mean scores were seen in Alberta while New Brunswick recorded the lowest. Nova Scotia ranked sixth and seventh, respectively.
  • Quebec was the top province in mathematics, while Newfoundland and Labrador was at the bottom of the list. Nova Scotia ranked seventh.
  • Nova Scotia’s mean scores are not significantly different from many provinces. However, in all three subjects, the top provinces have mean scores that are above Nova Scotia’s in a statistically meaningful way.

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