Summary of the authors conclusions
In a recent analysis, published in the Globe and Mail on May 3, 2018 and on the Conference Board of Canada website, Craig Alexander and Kareem El-Assal argue that it is in the interest of Canada to increase the number of immigrants it accepts every year. They also conclude, based on a recent Environics Institute poll, that such a policy would be widely supported by Canadians, 80% of whom believe immigration is good for the economy.
The Conference board analysts argue that current immigration targets, already high, should be increased even further. They base their prescription for higher immigration targets on the basis of the economic benefits that Canada would derive from such a policy. In their words:
“The main message is that Canada needs to gradually increase immigration inflows. The federal government’s 2018-2020 Immigration Levels Plan will see the country’s intake steadily rise to 340,000 newcomers a year by 2020, up from about 290,000 in 2017. According to our projections, boosting immigration to some 400,000 in the early 2030s will help keep population growth steady at about 1 per cent per year…()….support a healthy labour force and economic growth—replace workers leaving the work force exodus of baby boomers from the labour market.”
Conversely, failing to do so would lead to a shrinking labour force, slower economic growth, lesser ability to generate a rising standard of living for Canadian citizens. This would
“would make it even more difficult for Canada to pay for social priorities such as health care, ….(…)…Canadian governments would need to increase taxes—which would squeeze incomes—or run higher deficits.”
The authors conclusion should not be surprising as Canada’s economy, and more generally its society, have almost always counted on immigration albeit in varying degrees over time.
Canada: a country built by immigrants
Whereas initially, immigration was almost exclusively composed of arrivals from France and the United Kingdom who found well established first nations communities throughout the North American continent, immigration diversified with arrivals from other European nations especially when crises hit the old world. Over the last decades, successive Canadian immigration policy reforms have led to a degree of unprecedented openness the likes of which can be found in only a handful of countries.
Over the past 5 years, Canada has welcomed an average of 240,000 immigrants every year, from 200 countries, with largest contingents from Philippines, India, China, Iran, Pakistan, United States, Syria, United Kingdom, France and South Korea.
To illustrate the importance of immigration, it is worth to mention that today, 1 of every 2 persons living in a city like Toronto in Ontario was born outside of Canada. And though percentages vary from one city to another, it is good to remember that 21,9% of Canada’s current population is composed of persons born outside of Canada.
Meeting the needs of both Canada and newly arrived
We can only applaud to the Conference Board’s analysts recommendations of increased immigration levels. The challenges posed by low birth rates, an increasingly older population and the need to replace rising numbers of qualified baby boomers who are retiring from the work force are all too real. If Canada is to remain competitive and continue to experience higher standard of living then it must attract qualified and trained immigrants.
As Canadians, we must however make sure that higher immigration levels are accompanied by a closer matching of the qualifications of newly arriving immigrants with the needs of our economy otherwise the benefits of higher immigration levels will have failed in generating the benefits expected from such levels. Neither will those arriving benefit from their move to come to Canada. The authors are aware of this as they appropriately conclude that:
“Canada must (…) ensure that those arriving here meet the needs of business and are given a fair shot to succeed in the economy …..(and)…. identify improvements to our selection criteria and settlement services to benefit immigrants and our economy.”
Canada is Moving in the right direction and can do more to improve the system
It is our opinion at Siminca that the redesign of Canada’s system of selection of skilled workers which started with the implementation of Express Entry since 2015 as well as the Provincial Nominee Programs which rely so much on selecting candidates for immigration who have either some Canadian educational training or work experience in Canada goes in the right direction.
We further believe that the future Declaration of Interest program to be set by Quebec (similar to the federal Express Entry model) will also represent a move in the right direction.
However, we at Siminca also think that more can be done to match more closely the labour needs of Canadian employers and the needs of new arrivals to integrate successfully and rapidly into the Canadian labour market. And that further changes to the selection of immigration candidates can be brought upon to further that goal.