The government wants international students because the Canadian birthrate is low, and additional human capital is needed to pay into the social safety net to support the retirement of the aging boomer generation. In theory, those who have already been educated here are ideal future immigrants, and whatever problems they encounter now, their children and grandchildren will all be fully integrated Canadians. Plus, from day one, they stimulate the economy with their discretionary spending on housing and food. This all makes sense from a government perspective.
Businesses want international students because the Canadian population is getting more educated, and therefore more concentrated in major cities where white-collar jobs tend to be. This leaves low-wage industries across the country, and especially in rural areas, in need of workers. Fewer Canadians are available and willing to pour coffee at a Tim Hortons in Timmins, stock shelves at a Canadian Tire in Sarnia, clean offices in Charlottetown, or drive a trailer truck from Saskatoon to Swift Current, but someone still has to do those jobs. International students and graduates show up on time and don’t complain about working conditions like their Canadian counterparts, no matter how little you pay them. This all makes sense from a business perspective.
Finally, colleges want international students because as Canadians become more educated, they are also choosing more often to attend universities, not colleges. In the face of declining domestic enrolment, colleges have discovered that international students are a lucrative revenue source who will pay three or even four times as much as their Canadian peers, keeping the entire school afloat. Furthermore, their academic struggles aside, international students are far less likely to drop out because they legally can’t if they want to stay in Canada. This all makes sense from a college perspective.
Add it all together, and you have three very powerful sectors (the government, businesses, and colleges) with the same incentives to continue accepting more and more international students. Good luck going against that. I would venture to call it the international student-industrial complex. Don’t forget the unregistered consultants and agents hanging on to the underbelly of the whole thing! There truly is money to be made all around, even in the middle of a global pandemic.
What does this mean for you, the prospective international student? Well, it’s a great opportunity to have a better life in Canada. As long as you understand your place in this system, attend a reputable school, and work hard to achieve your goals, you’ll be seen as a success by a lot of important people. Good luck!