What immigration target should Ottawa set for 2018? – Conference Board

An important and balanced take on the choices facing Canada and the government. The full report is worth reading as it makes a serious effort, through scenarios, to assess likely overall impact of increased levels, for GDP and more important, per capita GDP.

Unlike most immigration boosters, it also emphasizes the need for associated investments to ensure that immigrants integrate successfully into the economy and society (Doug Saunders in Maximum Canada makes the same essential point):

Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen is currently consulting with his colleagues and Canadians to identify the appropriate number. This is a much more challenging task than it sounds. Canada must not only consider demographic and economic metrics – such as birth, death and unemployment rates – but also “known unknowns,” such as the impact that automation will have on jobs in Canada. Immigration levels are also influenced by key social factors such as public opinion.

The Conference Board of Canada does detailed modelling on the impact of various immigration-level scenarios. We look at the effect on economic growth, income per capita, health-care costs, the ratio of workers to retirees and other metrics. Most importantly, we also consider the challenges of integrating newcomers into the Canadian economy.

While immigration is a huge benefit to our economy, the Conference Board estimates that $12.7-billion of potential is lost each year as a result of the labour market barriers that immigrants experience. This gap occurs in spite of the fact that immigrants are highly educated and bring many skills. Canada’s economic performance suffers through lost productivity, lower tax revenue and reduced purchasing power for immigrants.

Canada has made significant reforms in recent years to improve immigrant outcomes. These changes include: giving provinces and employers a bigger role in the selection process; increasing selection standards; and giving advantage to immigration applicants already in Canada, such as international students. Much work has also been done on the settlement front, such as increased investments in language training and providing immigrants with more information before they arrive in Canada.

In addition to these positive reforms, Canada can pursue other measures. Often, businesses are keen to hire immigrants but don’t know where to start. Governments can do more to help businesses navigate the immigration system and develop intercultural competency. Canada also needs to identify the right balance between accountability and flexibility for the settlement program. It is vital to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent prudently, while also giving settlement organizations the ability to be flexible and innovative to respond to the needs of immigrants and business within their local communities.

Source: What immigration target should Ottawa set for 2018? – The Globe and Mail

Full report: 450,000 Immigrants Annually? Integration is Imperative to Growth

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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