Canada’s COVID-spurred immigration backlog is hurting its economic growth, survey suggests

Valid concern. But perhaps it would be more helpful to recommend reducing levels to focus on timely approval processes particularly for the economic class that IRCC can manage, and do not excessively strain housing, infrastructure, healthcare, the environment etc.

Programs highlighted by Business Council members: the global talent stream, federal skilled worker program and the Canadian experience class.

Immigration backlogs and processing delays have become a top barrier to Canadian employers seeking to attract talent and the situation is impeding economic growth and business investment, a new survey suggests.

The report by the Business Council of Canada found 80 per cent of surveyed employers were having trouble finding skilled workers, with labour shortages in every province and territory — with it being most pronounced in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

Canada’s immigration system has been upended during the pandemic, with applications piling up while staff worked remotely in a restricted capacity. There’s not a single program without a backlog and processing times have gone off the roof, doubling or tripling what they were pre-COVID.

According to CIC News, an online immigration information website, Canada’s immigration backlog has grown to 2.4 million people, including 522,047 awaiting permanent residence; 1.47 million waiting for temporary residence on work and study permits; and almost 400,000 for citizenship.

Sixty-seven per cent of employers said they are being forced to cancel and/or delay projects; 60 per cent are suffering revenue loss; 30 per cent are relocating work outside of Canada; and 26 per cent are losing market share as a result, said the business council, whose member companies employ 1.7 million Canadians in 20 industries and generate $1.2 trillion revenues yearly.

Eighty of the council’s 170 members responded to the survey, including in sectors from agriculture to automotive, energy utilities, finance, high technology manufacturing, information technology, telecom/media and transportation.

Sixty-five per cent of the respondents said they recruit workers through the immigration system and the rest hire permanent residents already in Canada. More than 80 per cent of employers reported relying on immigration to address labour shortages and for global experience, knowledge and networks.

While two-thirds of those who use the system intend to increase their recruitment of immigrant talents, 67 per cent said processing delays have become the top barrier for employers to meet those needs, while 58 per cent of the companies expressed frustration with the complex administrative requirements.

“Given the growing immigration backlog has been identified as a major barrier to economic growth and business investment, it’s imperative Canada take an all-hands-on-deck approach to secure a competitive advantage and … modernize the immigration system,” said Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada.

Of all economic immigration programs, employers said they relied most on the global talent stream, federal skilled worker program and the Canadian experience class, but the two latter programs have been suspended during the pandemic.

The survey found skills shortages are most common in fields such as computer science, engineering and information technology. There is also a huge demand for construction workers, plumbers, electricians, and other skilled trades.

Half of the employers said Canada should increase its annual intake of permanent residents and the rest support the government’s current three-year immigration plan to welcome 431,645 permanent residents in 2022; 447,055 in 2023; and 451,000 in 2024.

“Canada is in a global competition for talent, and we risk losing out to countries with more effective and efficient immigration systems,” Hyder said. “Nobody can afford to wait a year or more to have an application processed, not the deserving candidates themselves nor the companies hiring them.”

Source: Canada’s COVID-spurred immigration backlog is hurting its economic growth, survey suggests

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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