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Canadian Immigration Blog


The Impact of Immigration on the Labour Market for Vulnerable Canadians

March 23, 2015
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Many of the arguments for reducing immigration center around a common concern – namely, that an influx of immigrants (particularly within the unskilled categories) adversely impacts the job market for vulnerable portions of the Canadian population who may not possess high levels of education and skills. This type of argument is unconvincing for a number of reasons. First, evidence suggests that immigrants often take on jobs that citizens commonly do not desire.[1]

Second, there is an issue of causation with this type of argument. Namely, it is not immigrants who are the cause of adverse implications in the labour market, but employers who evade payment of market wages for labour. As long as employers pay market wages, Canadian citizens and lawful residents will continue to be viable candidates for the positions irrespective of illegal migration. Some argue that were it not “but for” the supply of immigrants willing to work for low wages, vulnerable groups of citizens who have limited education and skills would not be edged out of the labour market because employers would need to pay market wages. While intuitively appealing, this argument is problematic when taken to its logical conclusion. For instance, take the example of a Canadian citizen who is extremely poor and who may therefore be willing to work for low wages – under the above-noted rationale – she would pose the same risk of driving down the costs of labour as immigrants allegedly do. Should she too be deprived of her immigration status? Of course not. Such a conclusion would be absurd. This underscores the point that it is not the individuals in desperate circumstances who pose a threat to the labour market for Canadians but rather, employers who exploit that vulnerability.

The United States and now Canada increasingly recognize this issue and are imposing strict sanctions on employers who fail to pay market wages. An appeal to the labour market impacts affecting the most vulnerable in a society provides limited support, at best, to the case for reducing immigration.

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