indicatorThe Owl

Containing multitudes: Sources of population growth in Alberta

International migration will continue to be the largest source of population growth in Alberta

By Rob Roach, ATB Economics 15 June 2023 2 min read

There are three ways a provincial population can grow (or shrink): 1) natural increase/decrease (births less deaths); 2) international migration; and 3) interprovincial migration.

Looking back in time, we see that natural increase was responsible for adding the most residents to Alberta’s population between 1972 and 2022 at 46% of total growth. Net international migration accounted for 32% and net inflow from other parts of Canada for the remaining 22%.

More recently, international migration has been the major driver of Alberta’s growth accounting for 61% of total new residents between 2018 and 2022 compared to 38% for natural increase and a gain of just 2% from interprovincial migration.

When we look ahead in time, the net inflow from outside Canada is projected to be the largest source of new Albertans across all ten population growth scenarios prepared by Statistics Canada, accounting for between 48% to 78% of total population growth from 2022 to 2043.*

Natural increase is projected to be a relatively steady source of new residents for Alberta at between 20% and 31%. This is not the case nationally with natural increase causing the population to decline by as much 16% due to more deaths than births or generating a maximum of 19% of total growth.

Interprovincial migration is something of a wild card with a net outflow to other provinces/territories reducing Alberta’s population in two of the scenarios to increasing Alberta’s population by 15% to 28% across the other eight scenarios.

Projections prepared by Alberta Treasury Board and Finance (TBF) anticipate the same trends. According to TBF’s medium-growth scenario, international migration will account for 55% of total population growth between 2022 and 2046, natural increase for 29% and interprovincial migration for 16%.

For more information on demographic trends in Alberta, please check out our new report Foot traffic: Population growth and the Alberta economy.

*The total population of Alberta is projected to be between 5.8 million by 2043 in the low-growth scenario and 7.2 million in the high-growth scenario. According to Alberta Treasury Board and Finance, Alberta’s population will reach between 5.7 million and 7.5 million by 2046.

Answer to the previous trivia question: There are 124 calories in a tablespoon of canola oil.

Today’s trivia question: How many residents did natural increase add to Alberta’s population between 1972 and 2022?

The importance of international migration as a source of population growth in Alberta has increased over time

The importance of international migration as a source of population growth in Alberta has increased over time


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