October 17, 2016
Canadian Immigration: Lead or Supporting Role in Canada’s Future Economic Plan?
Ottawa’s 2017 immigration target announcement next month is set to be an exciting one. The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum must balance having to welcome newcomers, against the backlash from critics regarding rising immigration numbers. The Minister has indicated the Liberal government intends to “substantially” increase the number of immigrants in the coming year. According to Statistics Canada, the country has already taken in 321,000 immigrants in the 2015-16 year, the largest number in a single year since 1910.
An announced increase in immigration would be welcomed by advocates who believe increased immigration is a necessity to offset the retirement of Canada’s baby boomer population. A report released last week by the Conference Board of Canada assessed our aging population, its effect and how Canada could alleviate the impact. The report concluded that immigration levels need to rise to 408,000 annually by 2030 in order to help the growth of the labour force and generate higher economic growth.
Ontario in particular is actively trying to attract highly skilled immigrants to fuel an expected shortage of 364,000 skilled workers by 2025.
Increased immigration has to be balanced with Canadian sentiment against higher immigration levels. Recent immigration polls show that barely a quarter of the country favours higher immigration levels.
Although immigrants are already a major driver of Canada’s labour force, (Toronto 51 per cent of the city’s labour force and in Vancouver 41 per cent), critics say the problem is that new immigrants do not fare well in Canada’s job market. The unemployment rate among immigrants within the last five years has been more than double that of Canadian-born workers over the last decade. The argument is that even if Canada ramps up the number of immigrants it accepts, their performance in the labour market would lag for a few years.
Regardless of the path the Minister is set to take, immigration will continue to hold a role in Canada’s future economic outlook. Whether it will hold a lead or a supporting role is yet to be seen.