Canada’s demographic gap can’t be filled with immigrants

Jason Kirby on the limits on immigration to address the aging population and the economic integration challenges immigrants face:

This isn’t to say immigrants can’t mitigate the effects of Canada’s aging population. This country’s ability to absorb people from diverse cultures is an advantage remarkably few other nations enjoy.

As it is, immigrants are already a major driver of Canada’s labour force. In Toronto, for instance immigrants now account for nearly 51 per cent of the city’s labour force. It’s slightly less in Vancouver (41 per cent) and lower still in Montreal (26 per cent) but all three cities have seen immigrants grow as a share of the labour force over the past few years.


There’s a problem here too, though. New immigrants don’t fare well in Canada’s job market. The unemployment rate among immigrants who landed in Canada within the last five years has, on average, been more than double that of Canadian-born workers over the last decade. Those who came between five and 10 years ago are a bit better off—their unemployment rate is about 1.5 times higher. It’s only among immigrants who’ve been in the country for more than a decade that the gap with Canadian-born workers is erased. It shows that even if Canada ramps up the number of newcomers it accepts, their performance in the labour market will surely lag for years.

The experience over the last year with the influx of more than 30,000 Syrian refugees, who are included in this year’s higher immigration count, has shown how challenging it is to quickly integrate large numbers of people. So too has the backlash in Vancouver against homebuyers from mainland China (and the murky question of who is a foreign buyer and who is a genuine immigrant) even as Canada works to double the number of visa offices in that country. Meanwhile, Canada may pride itself on being more open and tolerant of immigrants, especially in contrast to the ugliness going on in the U.S. and Europe, yet internal polling carried out by Immigration Canada shows one quarter of Canadians feel immigration levels are too high as it is. The news of this year’s immigration boom does not sit well with them.

Which is silly, really, because despite that headline-grabbing number of new immigrants, their number works out to just 0.8 per cent of Canada’s population, or 0.1 percentage points higher than the average of the last 20 years. Some boom.

Source: Canada’s demographic gap can’t be filled with immigrants –

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

One Response to Canada’s demographic gap can’t be filled with immigrants

  1. Pingback: Increased immigration urged to support economic growth amid aging population: Conference Board | Multicultural Meanderings

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