Vancouver Overview



Vancouver, the Asia Pacific City  

Vancouver, officially the City of Vancouver, needs no introduction. Though it is not as glamorous or fashionable as in London or New York, it is one of the world’s most livable cities and best places to work and do business - 3rd position among top 65 cities in The Economist Intelligence Unit's Livability Ranking and Overview August 2013 and 5th position among 221 cities in Mercer's Quality of Living 2014. Its thriving diversified economy particularly in creative and green sectors boasts a highly educated, multicultural workforce and a business-friendly, highly entrepreneurial environment. Vancouver is also one of the top 10 best startup cities as ranked by the Startup Genome 2012.


Vancouver’s population is extraordinarily diverse, and the City values that diversity as a source of creativity and strength; 44% of the population speaks a first language other than English (Census 2011). Cultural diversity attracts visitors and investment, which helps the economy.


Vancouver has been host to many international conferences and events, including the 2010 Winter Olympics and 2010 Winter Paralympics. Canada will host the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, and several matches will be played in Vancouver, including the final at BC Place Stadium.












Map of Canada. Vancouver is located in the southwestern region of British Columbia (red circle).  

Double-Digit Population Growth

With a population of more than 603,000, Vancouver is the 8th largest city in Canada and the 4th largest in Western Canada after Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg (2011 Census). The metropolitan area referred to as Greater Vancouver, is home to more than 2.4 million residents which is nearly half the population of the entire British Columbia province, thus making it the third most populous metropolitan area in the country and the most populous in Western Canada (2011 Census). Vancouver is a Beta global city.

Figure 1: Metro Vancouver population, 2011 and 2006 censuses  

In 2011, the population of Vancouver census metropolitan area (CMA) was 2,313,328, representing a percentage change of 9.3% from 2006. This compares to the national growth of 5.9% and to the average growth among all CMAs of 7.4%.


Vancouver became the target for a large influx of educated, English speaking and middle class or wealthy Hong Kong Chinese immigrants after July 1, 1997, the date which Great Britain would relinquish control of its colony Hong Kong to China, a transfer of power that foreshadowed China's rise as a world power in the 21st century. Fearing the Communist-mandated currency controls and Beijing's heavy-handed policy objectives on Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Chinese sought out places like Toronto and New York, San Francisco, London and surprisingly, Vancouver. A relative backwater compared to those cities, Vancouver was seen as a safe, sedate spot for Hong Kong families, just a 13-hour flight across the Pacific and isolated from the worst of Canada's cold winters.


People of English, Scottish, and Irish origins were historically the largest ethnic groups in the city, and elements of British society and culture are still visible in some areas. Today the Chinese are the largest visible ethnic group in the city, with a diverse Chinese-speaking community, and several languages, including Cantonese and Mandarin. Neighbourhoods with distinct ethnic commercial areas include the Chinatown, Punjabi Market, Little Italy, Greektown, and (formerly) Japantown.


Census 2006 recorded 41.7% visible minorities of Vancouver's 2.1 million population. The largest visible minority group in Vancouver was the Chinese population of 381,500, representing 18.2% of Vancouver's total population. The second largest visible minority population in the census metropolitan area of Vancouver was the South Asian community (9.9%), followed by Filipinos (3.8%). 

























Figure 2: Vancouver visible minority population characteristics, Census 2006  

In Vancouver, 56.0% of the population reported English only as mother tongue, 1.1% reported French only, and 40.3% reported only a non-official language, in 2011. In comparison, the provincial / territorial percentages were 70.3% for English only, 1.3% for French only and 26.5% for only non-official languages (2011 Census).


Table 1: Vancouver – Mother tongue and language spoken most often at home, 2011 Census


Each with a distinct character and ethnic mix, Vancouver has been called a "city of neighbourhoods" for a good reason! As one of the world’s most multicultural cities, Vancouver is never short of global talent to give businesses a real competitive advantage in terms of marketing efforts and exposure. In fact the city is one of top 10 lowest risk cities in the world to recruit, employ, and redeploy business talent, according to Aon Hewitt's 2013 People Risk Index.




Immigration And Cultural Diversity

A net immigration country since its inception, Canada has a long and rich experience of immigrants and immigration that is deeply embedded within its sense of nationhood. Foreign-born permanent residents are more than 20% of the country's population, and newly arrived immigrants now account for more than 50% of annual population growth. 


Figure 3: Population by immigrant status, Metro Vancouver and Canada, Census 2011.




Table 2: Immigrant population in Metro Vancouver, 1991-2011

Immigration plays an important role in supporting economic growth within the region. Its relative contribution to Metro Vancouver’s population growth and economic prosperity has accelerated in recent decades. As the regional workforce continues to age, immigration will continue to play a key role in providing a replacement workforce in the region.


Nearly one-third of Metro Vancouver’s immigrant population arrived within the last decade. Between 2001 and 2011, the population of Metro Vancouver increased by 326,363 persons. The recent immigrant population of 292,810 accounts for nearly 90 per cent of that increase


Figure 4: Recent immigrants compared to the 10 year population change in Metro Vancouver

Another report reveals the lion’s share of Metro’s population expansion is new immigrants. Nine out of 10 newcomers to Metro Vancouver between 2001 and 2011 were born outside the country. In addition, Statistics Canada reports that 70% of all recent immigrants to Metro Vancouver have origins in Asia. Meanwhile, 19% of new immigrants in the city have European ethnic heritage, while small portions have roots in Latin America or Africa.


Table 3: Place of birth of total immigrants to Metro Vancouver, 2011

An interesting and important pattern which emerged in the most recent Statistics Canada is the fact that Metro Vancouver immigrants are sourced primarily to three countries: China, India, and the Philippines. Immigration levels to the region are expected to remain high for years to come.



Scenic Geography

Vancouver covers an area of 115 square kilometres and is located in the southwestern region of British Columbia. The city is surrounded by 21 smaller municipalities collectively known as Greater Vancouver. The city is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the US border to the south, the valley of the Fraser River to the east and the Coastal Mountains to the north.  Seattle, Washington is 226 km to the south, while Calgary, Alberta is 975 km to the east.





















Vancouver is surrounded by 21 smaller municipalities collectively known as Greater Vancouver

Vancouver has one of the largest urban parks in North America, Stanley Park, which covers almost 1,000 acres. The North Shore Mountains dominate the cityscape, and on a clear day, scenic vistas include the snow-capped volcano Mount Baker in the state of Washington to the southeast, Vancouver Island across the Strait of Georgia to the west and southwest, and Bowen Island to the northwest.

















Stanley Park is Vancouver's urban oasis and one of the top city parks in North America. The 1,001-acre park borders the downtown of Vancouver and is almost entirely surrounded by waters of the Pacific Ocean
















The North Shore Mountains are a mountain range overlooking Vancouver in British Columbia. Their southernmost peaks are visible from most areas in Vancouver and form a distinctive backdrop for the city.



Mild Temperate Climate

Vancouver is one of Canada's warmest cities. In fact the climate is temperate by Canadian standards due to its oceanside location. During summer months the inland temperatures are significantly higher, causing Vancouver to have the coolest summer average high of all major Canadian metropolitan areas. Vancouver is also one of the wettest Canadian cities; however, precipitation varies throughout the metropolitan area. Winters in Greater Vancouver are the fourth mildest of Canadian cities after nearby Victoria, Nanaimo and Duncan, all on Vancouver Island. Vancouver receives only a few snowfalls in the average winter but the nearby mountains have snowy peaks from November to May. Temperatures range from an average of 2 degree Celsius in the winter and 26 degree Celsius in the summer, and most rainfall occurs between October and March.



World Class Education

Vancouver’s educational institutions have global recognition and an outstanding reputation. The University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU) are consistently highly ranked among the world’s top universities. The 2013-2014 Times Higher Education ranks UBC 31st overall, 24th in North America and 2nd in Canada while the 2013-2014 Times Higher Education 100 Under 50 ranks SFU as 24th overall among the world's youngest institutions, 6th in North America, and 2nd in Canada.


Other important institutions include the BC Institute of Technology (BCIT), Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Centre for Digital Media and Vancouver Film School.


Table 4: The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2013-2014.








The University of British Columbia (UBC), established in 1908, is one of Canada’s leading research universities and is consistently ranked among the top 40 in the world. The university attracts 54,000 students from across Canada and countries around the world to two major campuses















SFU was ranked first among Canada's comprehensive universities in 1993, 1996-1998, 2000, 2008-2013 by Maclean's University Rankings. In 2007, Simon Fraser University was the first and remains the only university to be awarded the Prix du XXe siècle from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada recognizing the "enduring excellence of nationally significant architecture". 



Economy – A Breeding Ground For Entrepreneurship & Creativity

Vancouver offers one of the most globally competitive tax regimes with significant incentives to key industries. It is globally connected by air with the award-winning Vancouver International Airport and by sea with Vancouver’s port, which is North America’s closest sea-route to Asia’s burgeoning markets.


The Port of Vancouver is Canada's largest and most diversified port, trading more than C$184 billion in goods (based on 2013 cargo volumes) with more than 160 trading economies annually. Port activities generated 98,800 jobs, C$9.7 billion in gross domestic product and C$20.3 billion in economic output (Port Metro Vancouver's Statistics Overview 2013). The 2013 year-end statistics report also showed that Port Metro Vancouver handled 135 million tonnes of cargo, a record for the Port, and an overall increase of 9% over 2012. The Vancouver region's economic drivers have been and continue to be the resource-based industries: forestry, mining, and oil and gas. 


In recent years, Vancouver has become an increasingly important centre for software development, biotechnology, aerospace, video game development, animation studio sand a vibrant television production and film industry. The city’s creative economy, especially in film production, digital media, gaming, animation and visual effects employs over 16,000 people across 600 digital media companies. World’s top studios including Sony Imageworks, Industrial Light & Magic and MPC has made Vancouver a global top 5 film production centre.


Vancouver has one of the most productive tech ecosystems in the world contributed by outstanding talent and an abundance of home grown success stories like Hootsuite and Avigilon.

A growing number of established incubators such as Launch Academy, GrowLab, Invoke Labs, InstituteB, and Wavefront has been fostering a burgeoning startup community. Further legitimizing Vancouver startups is the fact that Amazon and Facebook have offices and warehouses slated to open in the city in the next couple of years.


The city’s council has recently drawn up the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, which aims to turn Vancouver into the greenest city in the world within the decade, addressing issues from clean technology, clean energy and green building to urban design, local food and environmental services. Present businesses are benefitting from some of the lowest energy costs in North America with primarily clean energy.

Table 5: Vancouver economic indicators







Sources: Conference board of Canada and Statistics Canada


Competitive Housing Market

Metro Vancouver is one of the most beautiful places in the world to live and it is also one of the most expensive. An estimated one fifth of metro Vancouver households have trouble finding housing that is affordable, including nearly 80,000 renters. Nonetheless house prices continue to rise in tandem with strong economic trend particularly in the commodities sector, high immigration, strong investor interest and a relative abundance of low cost debt and equity capital allocated to the property sector.


Way back in 1986, billionaire Li Ka Shing started getting everyone excited about the local property market by buying the Expo 86 lands and transforming them into a miniature version of the towering condos of his hometown Hong Kong. That accelerated a radical change to the city's skyline, with the luxury condos of Coal Harbour following, along with a profusion of downtown condo towers that have densified and energized the city's core.


Over the past 20 years the house prices were mainly pushed up by a large number of wealthy buyers from mainland China who is snapping up properties in the most expansive parts of the city. According to an analyst with the Conference Board of Canada, Vancouver’s real estate market closely mirrors the growth of China’s economy; better economic health in China gives its residents wealth to spend on Vancouver housing.


Figure 5: Chinese real GDP growth and Vancouver resale price growth



Figure 6: House prices in Canada vs major cities, 1980-2011

Data suggests slowdown at best and reasonable probability of price declines in Canadian real estate prices over the next five years as prices revert back to long-term average price growth. 

Source: Canadian Real Estate Association


Figure 7: House prices in Vancouver, 1977-2013

Vancouver leads with unaffordable housing. Vancouver has the highest housing prices in Canada, the greatest price increases, and the world’s least affordable housing prices, according to recent figures.  

Source: Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver



A Green City for Growth, Sustainability and Entrepreneurship

Vancouver is unlike any other cities in the world – it strives on creating a balance between economic growth and a sustainable environment - whilst adopting a stance to encourage cultural diversity, creativity and entrepreneurship, some of the few essentials that will propel the city in the new decade.


For those who seek a healthy and enterprising work-life balance, the city offers an excellent network of community, governance and infrastructure that benefits the young and old.


Vancouver is a city for the people of the world.


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