February 13, 2023

An outline of IRCC’s 2022 International Experience Canada research study

In March 2022, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) conducted a research study to gather opinions on COVID-19, international travel, and the International Experience Canada (IEC) program. The study included a quantitative survey of over 2,500 Canadian youth and over 1,000 Canadian parents, as well as 108 youth and 39 parents questioned via bulletin board. The study aimed to measure past international travel and work experience, IEC program awareness, desire, and participation, motivations, benefits, and barriers for international work and travel, and desire to travel amid COVID-19. The study also sought different opinions among different groups of youth, including those with mobility or hearing impairments, LGBTQ2+ youth, youth women in STEM, and Indigenous youth.



According to the IRCC's research, there was still a notable degree of concern among participants about COVID-19 risks. Many respondents were also concerned about the mental health and academic consequences that the pandemic has had on Canadian youth. However, some respondents appreciated certain pandemic-related benefits, such as a slower pace of life and the rise in virtual schooling and work options, which helped them cope with pandemic-driven "disappointment and isolation".



Regarding present-day travel, the main reason for not travelling cited by respondents was financial barriers. While the pandemic increased the desire to travel for some, many remained cautious about travelling abroad due to factors like the Ukraine-Russia conflict. When considering future travel plans, coronavirus safety was a top factor for both youth and parents. Domestic and international vaccine mandates were the most prominent factor regarding the safety of international travel. Other common barriers to future international travel included work responsibilities, finances, cost of travelling, and travel companionship as a means of making travel safer for children.

The IRCC's research also found that 86% of Canadian youth have travelled for leisure or business, reporting at least one international trip for this reason in their lifetime. Approximately 40% of youth respondents have travelled to work, study, or volunteer abroad. The benefits of international travel cited by respondents included the opportunity to learn about new cultures, have an adventure, and experience personal growth. 64% of surveyed youth were eager to display international experience to employers, but only 53% believed that international experience improved their Canadian job prospects.


Differentiation Among Youth Groups:

The IRCC's research consciously sought the opinions of youth with mobility or hearing impairments, LGBTQ2+ youth, youth women in STEM, and Indigenous youth. Among and between these four groups, youth with impairments were generally more concerned about COVID-19 and the maintenance of public health measures. Many surveyed Indigenous youth revealed that COVID-19 had strengthened their level of caution about travel and possibly bringing COVID-19 into their communities. Indigenous youth in remote/northern locations cited distance and family/community connections as strong barriers to international travel.


IEC Program Findings:

The IRCC learned a lot about past IEC program participation, program awareness, and future participation desire from both Canadian youth and parents. Less than one in ten youth indicated past IEC participation, and program awareness was low among both survey and bulletin board respondents. However, a large number of respondents expressed a desire to learn more about the IEC program. The main barriers to IEC program participation cited by respondents included cost, work responsibilities, and lack of information about the program.



Overall, the IRCC's 2022 International Experience Canada research study provided valuable insights into the opinions of Canadian youth and parents on COVID-19, international travel, and the IEC program. The study found that concerns about COVID-19 and financial barriers were the main deterrents to travel, but international travel was seen as an opportunity for personal growth and learning about new cultures. The IEC program had low awareness among respondents, but those who were aware of it and had participated in it were satisfied with the experience. The study also highlighted the need to better promote the IEC program and address financial barriers for potential participants.


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