Multicultural explosion

Toronto is a diverse city, perhaps the most ethnically diverse city in the world. Even in the old 1996 census, the ethnic origin of 66% of the people in the Toronto CMA was found to be something other than English or French.

Toronto is a diverse city, perhaps the most ethnically diverse city in the world. Even in the old 1996 census, the ethnic origin of 66% of the people in the Toronto CMA was found to be something other than English or French.

But if you think that’s something, wait until you see the Toronto of 2011: By the end of the next decade, almost 4 million people in Toronto will have an ethnic origin other than English, French or Aboriginal. This will represent a market roughly the size of the total Toronto CMA population today.

To understand where Toronto’s population is headed, you first need to understand what’s happening now. The latest immigration statistics report that 227,209 landed immigrants entered Canada in 2000. Immigration has been fairly consistent over the past decade, averaging roughly 220,000 immigrants per year. This adds up to more than 2 million immigrants coming to Canada in the past decade alone.

Of these new immigrants, almost 50% settle in Toronto. In fact, Toronto is attracting an increasing share of the new immigrants, while Vancouver and Montreal are attracting a smaller proportion. Specifically, Toronto’s share of new immigrants in 1998 was 44%; this increased to 45% in 1999; and by 2000, Toronto was attracting 48% of all new immigrants to Canada.

The biggest change in current immigration patterns can be seen within the Chinese community, thanks mainly to the recent power shift in Hong Kong.

In 2000, there were 18,305 immigrants from mainland China. This is an increase of 34% over 1999 levels and more than double the number of immigrants from two years ago (8,757 in 1998). Hong Kong, once the fifth largest source of immigration to Toronto, has now dropped to number 19. As a result, there is a rapidly growing pool of immigrants who speak Mandarin first. This shift has future implications for the Chinese language most spoken and best used for marketing communications.

The second most important trend is the increase in immigration from South Asia. Immigration from this region will continue to grow, and this community will eventually come to equal the Chinese market in terms of size, economic potential, and buying power. The diversity of the South Asian community is one of its defining characteristics, beginning with the range of languages spoken, which include Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati, Sinhalese, Tamil, Bengali and, of course, English.

Between the 1991 and 1996 census, the South Asian community in Toronto grew by 62%. According to the most recent data available, the number of immigrants from India increased by 70% from 1999 to 2000. The number of immigrants from Pakistan increased by 60% over the same time period. A young community fueled by immigration levels at this rate will become a dominant force in Toronto in no time.

Keeping track of all these changes and the implications is a mind-boggling job. To that end, CFMT commissioned Statistics Canada to project the likely population sizes for various ethnic groups in the year 2011, based on their most recent growth rates.

In addition to the huge growth of the group with a non-English, French or Aboriginal cultural background, it is estimated that by the year 2011 we will see the number of people who speak a mother tongue other than English, French or Aboriginal reach 2.5 million (see chart above). This will represent an incredible 45% of the Toronto market. Huge numbers, but they only just begin to suggest the full marketing implications for many mainstream advertisers that are currently ignoring the language markets.

The Chinese, South Asian, and other growing ethnic groups offer companies outstanding marketing opportunities. We must remember that when people arrive in a new country they often have no preconceptions of where they should buy furniture, which car they should buy, even what kind of toothpaste they should use. They are new consumers looking for information about making purchases today and in the future. They represent a golden opportunity to build and develop brand loyalty in their new home.

In short, if you want to reach the total market in Toronto, you’re going to have to turn to ethnic marketing sooner or later. The one thing we can be sure of is that immigration will continue to grow, and that Toronto will remain a multicultural showcase to the world.

Malcolm Dunlop is general sales manager and Christine Comi is director of research at CFMT, Canada’s first multilingual TV station. For more information, please contact Malcolm Dunlop at (416) 260-3601.