Experts are warning that high immigration numbers could hinder Canadian growth by driving up the cost of living and, subsequently, lowering domestic birth rates.
The latest census data shows that in 2011, two-thirds of Canada’s population growth came from immigration and only one-third was due to natural (birth) patterns.
Canadian birth rates have steadily been declining since the 1960s, when the average was 3.9 children for each woman. That rate has now fallen to 1.7, which is below the natural replacement rate of 2.1. Experts believe that the higher costs of raising a child today could be a contributing factor to this trend.
No matter the cause, the forecast seems clear – continued growth will require steady immigration in the coming years. Last year also marked the highest amount of immigrants to Canada on record, with a total of 280,000 new arrivals entering the country.
The result has kept Canada competitive with other members of the G8 nations in regards to population growth. However, some are concerned that the increased focus on immigration in Canada could be a contributing factor in the continued drop of birth rates.
Most of the new arrivals to Canada choose to settle in metropolitan areas such as Vancouver, where seven out of ten immigrants settle in the city. This has caused massive amounts of growth in large cities – an urbanization trend that is making housing a competitive and more expensive market.
Policy experts say that governments at all levels need to examine closely how these trends are having not only a direct effect on local and national economics, but also on the demographics which, in turn, will be eventually have their own repercussions on the economy.
Source: Vancouver Sun
The latest census data shows that both Eastern and Western provinces continue to grow rapidly in terms of population, at what seems to be the expense of Canada’s central region.
New data released this month from Statistics Canada shows that all four provinces from Manitoba to B.C. are gaining in population. Alberta continues to lead the pack, but Saskatchewan and Manitoba have also reported impressive numbers for 2011.
Gains are also being reported in the Eastern provinces, with a reported 2.7 percent of new immigrants choosing to settle in the region last year. Just a few years back the Maritimes attracted less than one percent of new arrivals. Prince Edward Island has seen the most significant jump – a sixfold increase since 2006.
However, the news is not as good for Canada’s most populous province. For the first time in 25 years, population growth in Ontario was below the national average. The province not only is losing its share of immigrants, but is also seeing migration out of the province to such places as Alberta.
The shifts in population are reflecting other changes to Canadian society – particularly the decline in manufacturing as the natural resource-based economies of the West continue to boom, creating thousands of new jobs. On the other hand, immigrants are flocking to the East due to the aging population (on average, the oldest in Canada) whose retirement is leaving many vacancies in the labour market.
These shifts in population also mean that Ontario is losing political power as more and more voters move away.
Ontario is not the only once-powerful province watching its influence decline. Quebec has also experienced a steady decline in percentage of the population. Now only approximately 23.6 percent of the population resides in the once extremely powerful province.
Source: Globe and Mail
A new academic paper is stirring questions over whether Canada should look to Australia as a model for successfully integrating newcomers.
The paper, which was jointly written by Canadian professor Mikal Skuterud and Australian professor Andrew Clarke, examined recent changes to Australia’s immigration system to see if these changes were responsible for the country’s successful track record of newcomer integration.
Australia, like Canada, has a points-based immigration system. They also have a fairly open immigration policy which has led, again like Canada, to one in five people being foreign-born.
However, in the 1990s Australia changed its immigration policy by imposing two strict requirements that have apparently resulted in newcomers, on average, finding better employment than their counterparts in Canada. The changes were a strict English language requirement and pre-screening of credentials.
Skuterud and Clarke tested whether or not these two requirements made a difference and found that they did so but not directly in the way intended. The rules actually deterred many non-English speaking migrants, and resulted in increased immigration from places like the U.K. The success has been due to quick assimilation more than the requirements themselves.
Though many Canadian policy makers have referred to Australia as a possible model for immigration reform, the paper argues that such a policy would be difficult to duplicate in Canada.
Canada is not as likely as Australia to attract people from the United Kingdom (weather is a large factor) and the already strong Asian and South-East Asian immigration patterns are unlikely to dissipate soon.
Instead, say Skuterud and Clarke, Canada’s government should focus on youth immigrants such as foreign students, as the data demonstrates that the younger the immigrant is, the better their prospects for the future.
Source: Globe and Mail
Migration experts are urging Canadian citizens and their leaders to embrace more open immigration policies as people will continue to mobilize and labour markets will become increasingly competitive.
Geoffrey Cameron and Ian Goldin both work with the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford. They argue that global migration patterns, rather than stabilizing or dropping off over the coming decades will, in fact, increase as a result of many complex factors.
In a recent article for the Globe and Mail, Cameron and Goldin advocate for more open immigration policies, noting that the recent global recession has resulted in a more protectionist shift in public attitude. They argue that closing off immigration would do more harm than good to Canada in the coming years.
They point out that, not only do we need immigrants to counter the effects of low birth rates and aging populations, but also that immigrants are on the whole more innovative and more likely to contribute more to the economy than they receive in benefits. They also argue that migration benefits economies more than trade or foreign aid, which most governments focus on instead.
“Completely opening borders, World Bank economists predict, would produce gains as high as $39-trillion for the world economy over 25 years,” say the authors. “These numbers compare with the $70-billion that is currently spent every year in overseas development assistance and the estimated gains of $100-billion from fully liberalizing international trade.”
Source: Globe and Mail
A new report on Canada’s immigration system is warning that the current categories all combine, often overlapping in the process, to address short-term labour needs while long-term employment needs are not reflected.
The report was conducted by TD Economics and released just days before the latest census figures showed that Canada’s labour market will soon face major stress as the nation’s baby-boomer generation retires in the next decade or so.
A major concern for the writers of the report was the “doctors driving cabs” effect, which results from the Federal Skilled Worker program focusing solely on short-term needs. Between 2000 and 2005 the FSW program targeted computer professionals, just as the dot-com bubble burst, stalling growth.
By the time a targeted worker’s application is accepted, the labour market has usually shifted away from that profession. Furthermore, Provincial Nominee Programs often target the same group of workers as those applying through the FSW stream.
The report recommends that the government allow the PNPs, along with Temporary Worker Programs, to function as solutions to short-term employment concerns, and allow the Federal Skilled Worker program to look at long-term needs, being more open and flexible with its targets.
There was some good news, however, which indicated that Canada is attracting high-quality immigrants and retaining them. So much so, in fact, that Canada has become a model for other developed nations like Sweden and Germany.
The new report comes just in time for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s expected changes to regulations sometime this year. Authors of the report hope that their findings will be helpful to Canada as it searches for a way through the looming labour shortages.
Source: Globe and Mail
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has announced his intentions to overhaul Canada’s immigration system, including changes that will allow employers more opportunity to choose workers.
Kenney says that his changes will make for a faster, more flexible immigration system in Canada. He also says that he plans on re-designing the point-system toward a focus on youth and language ability, and that he would like to add a category of immigration specifically for trades workers.
However, the main focus of the announced changes was the power that would be given to Canadian employers, many of whom will soon be facing labour shortages as the baby-boomer generation retires.
“Once people have been identified by employers, if they meet our other standards we would fast-track them into the country,” said Kenney. “Frankly, the employer knows better than a big bureaucracy whose skills are needed and will be relevant to the Canadian labour market the minute they arrive.”
The changes to language abilities would provide for a more flexible schematic in assessing skilled workers – those who would have to deal with the public for example, such as doctors, would need to be fluent, while other professionals would not be held to the same standard.
Kenney admits looking to the Australian immigration model, wherein immigrants’ professional accreditations are assessed before arrival. He also plans on increasing the minimum amount of investment for those entering through that stream.
The Minister gave assurances that his government did not plan to lower the number of immigrants entering the country next year, and that they would still keep the same proportions of economic versus sponsored or refugee-class immigration.
Source: Globe and Mail
This month the Conservative government tabled new legislation that will address problems with Canada’s refugee system and further key reforms that were made in 2010.
“To be blunt, Canada’s refugee system is broken,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney upon announcing the new bill, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act. “Too many tax dollars are spent on bogus refugees.”
The new bill will give authorities greater powers, including allowing for the collection of biometric data of temporary visa holders. As well, the government would limit the number of refugee claims from citizens of the European Union – most of which are rejected, withdrawn or abandoned.
One of the more controversial changes in the new laws would be granting the Immigration Minister the power to add specific countries to a “safe” list without having to defer to any sort of committee with expertise in human rights.
Critics are also expressing concern over the government’s intention to move so quickly, after already implementing previous refugee reforms in 2010 with Bill C-11.
“This minister didn’t even implement Bill C-11,” said Don Davies, immigration critic for the NDP. “How he can say the system doesn’t work when he didn’t give it a chance is beyond me.”
Minister Kenney, however, maintains that the new bill is needed and that these changes will save Canadian taxpayers over $1-billion over the next five years.
Source: Globe and Mail
Canada’s skilled worker shortage is expected to be felt even more acutely in the coming years.
Canada has for years been experiencing a shortage of workers in the skilled trades such as carpentry, plumbing and welding. However, experts are warning that a new energy boom, combined with the retirement of the baby-boomer generation in the coming years will result in a massive shortage that could stall economic growth.
One estimate from the Construction Sector Council states that from 2011 to 2019 208,000 skilled trades’ workers will retire. In that same period, approximately 111,000 – just over half that amount – will enter the workforce.
During that same time, two large energy projects are expected to begin. The oil sands project in Alberta is expected to generate approximately 800,000 new jobs with a capital investment of over $250-billion. The other upcoming project is the refurbishment of the aging energy infrastructure across the country.
The growth in the coming years is unprecedented, and career prospects in the trade are excellent at the moment, say Eugene Lang and Christopher Smillie. Lang is co-founder of an Ottawa-based public policy think tank and Smillie is a senior advisor for one of the nation’s largest construction unions.
The two advocates for an urgent planning and execution of a national strategy to address these issues at both the federal and provincial levels of government, saying that immigration, funding, training, and labour mobility will be key factors.
Source: Globe and Mail
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is promising to make changes to the country’s immigration and retirement policies in order to ensure continued economic prosperity in the coming years.
Speaking this month to an international economic forum in Switzerland, Harper warned that if no changes are made, Canada’s economy will suffer. There is simply not enough labour coming in to offset the costs of an aging population who will need more social programs.
Policy experts are speculating that the upcoming changes will involve raising the retirement age so that citizens would have to work an extra two years before receiving Old Age Security program benefits. The government is expected to announce these proposals this spring.
By 2030, the elderly population in Canada (aged 65 or over) is expected to reach over 9 million, approximately double the current amount. This is expected to raises costs of the Old Age Security program for $36 billion to $108 billion.
Harper also hinted at changes to Canada’s immigration policy to offset these costs. He ensured the crowd that his government’s is intent on prioritizing immigration policies that will address economic and labour needs in the coming years.
“We will ensure that, while we respect our humanitarian obligations and family reunification objectives, we make our economic and labour force needs the central goal of our immigration efforts in the future,” Harper said.
The Prime Minister made reference to Europe’s economic woes, saying that unlike his government, many others seem to no longer consider economic prosperity as one of their top priorities.
Source: Toronto Star
The latest census data is renewing concern over Canada’s aging workforce and the lack of new labour poised to enter the job market in the coming years.
Statistics Canada has announced the release of the 2011 census data, which is expected to highlight information on the aging demographics of the nation’s population. The news comes just as the debate over Old Age Security benefits heats up – centered on whether or not the retirement age should be increased.
According to an internal document, Stats Canada estimates that the number of 45-64 year-old Canadians is at a record high. This is the group that is poised just below retirement age and will be reaching that milestone starting next year.
Furthermore, the data shows that those who are in and approaching retirement age are not evenly dispersed across the country – the highest proportions of aging demographics can be found in the eastern Atlantic Provinces and Quebec.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been developing ongoing strategies to deal with the shifting demographics, including the controversial move to increase retirement age. A more open immigration policy is also being touted as a possible solution to the looming worker shortage.
Canada, however, is thought to be in a better position than most of the G8 countries that are facing similar issues with retiring workers. Currently only Russia has a larger work force (aged 14-64) than Canada.
Source: Globe and Mail