Canada ranks as the world’s eleventh biggest economy, and is above the US and most European nations in terms of the economic freedoms afforded to its residents. Canada’s strong services in the manufacturing and energy sectors have propelled it up the global economic ladder, with its logging and oil industries making it one of the few developed countries that are net exporters of energy.
One contributing factor in Canada’s status as an economic powerhouse and member of the G7 is arguably its pioneering and successful immigration and integration policies. And these policies are a reflection of its attitude towards immigration.
Support for immigration in Canada has been consistently high over the past 15 to 20 years, with public support for immigration in 2010 being at its highest since 1957, according to research published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP). The study shows that the majority of Canadians (58%) support high levels of immigration, a figure that has held steady over time and which has been relatively unaffected by economic recessions, the threat of terrorism and negative media coverage of specific immigrant groups.
Support is especially strong among educated Canadians and is consistent in rural and urban regions, irrespective of the levels of concentration of immigrants among the population.
This widespread support of immigration in Canada can be accounted for by two widely held beliefs on immigration. One is the belief that immigration is important to Canada’s economic growth, and the other is the high value placed on Canadian multiculturalism.
Despite being the second-largest country in the world in land mass, Canada’s population is less than 3% of China’s, while being larger in size. And with a population growth rate of 1.2%, Canada has long recognized the need to supplement its local workforce and aging population with the worlds’ best and brightest.
To that end, Canada’s integration programs have been tailored to attract economic immigrants by making the transition to living in Canada as smooth and successful as possible. While most other countries leave migrants to overcome the issues they face in settling in on their own, Canada has set up a significant formal support system for immigrants.
The Canada Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP) assists with the settling in and integrating into the Canadian workforce by providing free orientation to all economic immigrants and their families prior to their arrival in Canada. It provides useful information and online support through partners in Canada, and has offices in India, the Philippines, China and the UK.
The CIIP puts immigrants in touch with Focal Point Partners (FPPs) that act as the first point of contact for CIIP clients. These organizations are key immigrant-serving agencies and colleges set up in each province, and act as hubs, making onward referrals to other education institutions or organizations that serve immigrants depending on their individual needs.
For example, the Community Airport Newcomers Network (C.A.N.N.) facilitates the pre-settlement of all immigrants arriving in Canada at the Vancouver International Airport by offering individualized reception, orientation, information, and referrals to other organizations. The service is offered by a team who speak over 20 languages. A C.A.N.N. officer meets with each newcomer and provides orientation and information based on their unique settlement needs and anticipated challenges. Advice given covers medical insurance, education for adults and children, employment, accreditation, business, etc.
Other such initiatives include the Business Immigrant Integration Support and Active Engagement Integration Project. Advice and assistance is readily available to new immigrants starting their work life, with help provided in getting their credentials assessed, and advice given on professional regulation classes and exams prior to commencing work. Immigrants are also given guidance on Canadian banking, housing, social/national insurance and medical services, among other day-to-day things.
One major initiative for new immigrants is the foreign credential recognition loan project, which offers low-interest loans of up to $15,000 to foreign trained skilled immigrants to help them obtain employment in certain regulated professions in Canada. The loan covers tuition, exam fees, travel expenses, qualification assessments, books and course materials, professional association fees, and living allowance during the period of study, and has flexible repayment terms.
The government also has an online immigration information portal which lists the services from a variety of government and non-government departments, with similar provincial online portals available as well.
While most developed countries view economic migrants as second-class citizens who are a threat to their economy and security, Canada has long realized the true worth of economic immigrants for their economic and cultural value, and has developed a remarkable model that invests in immigrants and values their contribution to society.
And with the new Express Entry system, and a simplified and streamlined process that reduces economic migrant visa processing time from two years to six months, Canada is looking to consolidate its position at the forefront of global economic development. The latest immigration schemes have been developed to attract and bring in the most skilled and talented individuals from all over the world in order for them to contribute to the continued economic growth and social development of Canada.
Population economics has been a greatly ignored field of study, especially when it comes to deriving solutions for an economic crisis, which many countries have been fighting against since the recent recession. Most of the focus has traditionally been on making strategies around financial regulation, unemployment and monetary policy, even though population can easily prove to be a crucial game-changer by providing a valuable resource in a struggling economy.
A United Nations report published recently argued that the world’s population was not going to peak anytime soon, as had been predicted previously, and that there was an 80% chance that it will rise to 12.3 billion (from the current 7.2billon) by the year 2100. It is likely that highly populated regions of South Asia and Africa will see higher rates of population growth, leading to further reduced standards of living. On the other hand, the well-to-do countries of the West and parts of eastern Asia will likely face a shortage of young workers, which can have an adverse impact on their economic growth.
One example of a country facing challenges due to a declining work force population is Japan. The country has had an excellent economic growth rate, however, of late it is struggling with trade deficits. This can be pinned down to Japan’s work force population, which has been witnessing a decline since 1997. The increasing numbers of retired people are having to be supported by a smaller number of younger people, thus causing a decline in national savings and diverting resources from economically productive activities. Other nations who are likely to face similar economic problems due to declining populations are South Korea, China and Italy. China’s one child policy will make it increasingly difficult for a young couple in the future to support two sets of parents and their own children all on their own. Similarly an ageing Italian population can hardly be foreseen to lift the nation out of its current state of economic stagnation.
A possible solution to the global population problem can be attained through immigration, whereby developed but underpopulated countries deficient in a young workforce introduce policies to absorb people from overpopulated regions of South Asia and Africa. However, this is easier said than done as many nations have prejudices against foreigners, and the immigrant population may also not find it easy to acclimatize in new lands. Moreover, where there is a requirement for a highly-skilled workforce, immigrants with weaker educational backgrounds may not be found suitable.
Some economists have argued that those developed countries that can successfully absorb immigrants will thrive in the future, empowered with a young workforce, whereas those nations which are too nationalistic and follow conservative immigration policies will likely find their economies stagnating due to declining populations.
However, immigration is not the only solution for countries with declining populations. Several governments have started policies encouraging their people to bear more children – by offering flexible working conditions and manageable costs of living. Japan has been experimenting with both possible solutions, but hasn’t reached far yet with either of them.
Nevertheless, countries that are positively considering population as an important factor affecting economic growth are now developing policies to encourage more child births. These include Singapore, France and Israel, with several more likely to follow. The United States, however, has been ignoring the issue so far. Equipped with a moderately increasing population growth rate, the US may have overlooked some key problems that could arise in the near future due to a possible decline in fertility rates and reduced childbirths, possibly due to relatively unfriendly workplace policies. Moreover, policies that increase immigration will definitely not be on the agenda for the conservative Republicans, who took over the Congress during the recent elections. This can has serious repercussions on the country’s working age population in the future.