Doug Todd: “Techno-immigrants” fuel Vancouver’s high-tech sector

Interesting study, which recalls an earlier Globe article, Microsoft reminds us that Canada is still a branch-plant economy, on how Microsoft (and likely others) strategically use Canadian immigration as a way to bring talent to their US headquarters:

In light of the political manoeuvring in B.C. over local high-tech jobs and training, the study by Froschauer and Wong quotes the president of a large B.C. high-tech association who says a key reason “Microsoft chose to open a Vancouver office was because of the easier immigration rules.”

The unidentified high-tech CEO told the researchers there’s a crucial reason Microsoft did not simply open its computer development “campus” in Redmond, Washington, which is headquarters for the global tech giant.

“It’s like two hours away, so why would they open up this campus in Vancouver?” said the CEO.

“It’s much easier to bring in (migrants from India) and others, and that’s the reason they came. And their intention is not to recruit people away from other companies in the Lower Mainland but to bring fresh people in, and that’s what the larger companies do. Small ones don’t have the means.”

High-tech companies in B.C. and Alberta also often cross the U.S. border to recruit Chinese and other foreign students, say the authors, because international students in the U.S. are generally not allowed to remain in the country after they graduate, whereas they can stay after graduation in Canada.

The sociologists do not estimate the proportion of Metro Vancouver’s high-tech sector that is made up of immigrants, international students or temporary foreign workers, but they quote the CEO in confirming migrants are “very, very useful. I don’t think we could evolve our sector without” them.

Many of the techno-migrants interviewed in the study say it’s often an advantage to be a migrant in Canada’s high-tech sector.

But others said being born outside the country can be a disadvantage, particularly because of difficulties with language.

Some people from China told the researchers that migrants from India don’t have as many problems with language, since many in the former British colony were educated in English from their childhoods.

Some high-tech executives in Metro Vancouver and Calgary favour temporary foreign workers over immigrants, add Froschauer and Wong, whose article appears in the new book, Trans-Pacific Mobilities: The Chinese and Canada(UBC Press), edited by Wong.

The sociologists learned some corporations prefer “to bring employees to British Columbia on a temporary work permit” because they can be retained longer than immigrants, who have more freedom regarding where to work.

Provincial and federal immigration programs “do not tie employees to the company, whereas the temporary work permit does,” the authors say.

The number of high-tech migrants to Canada, especially from China, is likely to continue to grow in the future, say the authors.

Source: Doug Todd: “Techno-immigrants” fuel Vancouver’s high-tech sector | Vancouver Sun

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.

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