Ibbitson: China’s population decline poses challenges and opportunities

We need to broaden thinking beyond “more immigration is the solution” to how Canada could adapt to a world of population decline, where fewer higher-skilled Chinese and other groups may wish to come here:

China is reportedly holding back census data because it shows the country’s population has started to decline, years ahead of even the most aggressive predictions.

If so, every game changes: global warming projections, global population projections, geopolitical and economic projections.

The world’s most populous nation is now a nation on the wane.

The Financial Times reported Tuesday that China has delayed the release of its 2020 census, which was expected earlier this month, because the data reveals that China’s population has declined from a peak of more than 1.4 billion in 2019 to less than 1.4 billion now.

If true, this is one of the most momentous events of our time. Many analyses of the geopolitical rivalry between China and the United States are predicated on the assumption of continued Chinese growth and relative American decline.

But it now appears United Nations population projections, which had China’s population peaking in the 2030s before levelling off and gradually starting to decline, were off by more than a decade.

The reason, according to a report this month by the Bank of China, is steadily falling fertility. Even after the ban on more than one child per family was lifted in 2015, China’s fertility continued to fall, to a level well below that needed to sustain the population.

For that reason, Darrell Bricker and I, in our book Empty Planet, predicted that population decline would hit China sooner and harder than expected. The question was how soon and how hard. If the answer to the first question is right now, then China could lose nearly half its population by the end of the century – more if fertility continues to fall.

The decline could have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has suppressed birth rates across much of the world, as couples put off having a child during this period of economic insecurity. A post-pandemic baby boom is unlikely: Past experience shows that once couples put off having a child, they don’t make up for it later on. Instead, they settle for having fewer children than they’d planned.

Population decline will present both opportunities and challenges for China. Environmentally, the news is encouraging: There will be fewer new coal-fired generating stations needed, as the number of people on the grid goes down instead of up.

The problem of labour shortages could be addressed by bringing in temporary foreign workers and improving productivity through automation.

But preserving economic growth becomes difficult when there are fewer young people every year buying their first refrigerator, their first car, their first baby stroller. Fewer young consumers also means fewer taxpayers to sustain the pensions and health care costs of older people, and fewer adult children to look after the needs of aging parents.

Countries that lose population every year stagnate economically: Italy, Spain, Japan. China is the new Japan. And that could lead to problems containing the discontent of an overtaxed, overworked, increasingly frustrated population. China announced this week that it planned to gradually raise the age of mandatory retirement, which is currently 60 for most men.

This delivers a huge competitive advantage to the United States. That country’s fertility rate has also reached record lows. But despite the effort of former president Donald Trump to seal the country’s borders, the U.S. continues to let in immigrants, both legal and illegal.

The U.S. needs to return, as quickly as possible, to its former practice of welcoming a million new permanent residents each year. That may be difficult, given rising nativism among conservatives, but if Americans want to stay ahead in the race for economic and political power, immigration is the not-so-secret weapon.

In any event, as my colleague Doug Saunders noted Tuesday on Twitter, the news about the Chinese census “will help make immigration a seller’s market.” As fertility rates decline in China and other source countries, such as Philippines and India, and as labour shortages grow in China, Japan and elsewhere, the question for immigrant-friendly countries such as Canada will shift from “how many should we let in?” to “how many can we convince to come?”

That is another reasons why former prime minister Brian Mulroney and others are right to maintain that Canada should greatly increase its immigration intake. We need to get them while we still can.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-chinas-population-decline-poses-challenges-and-opportunities/

@JohnIbbitson: Canadians need to form a consensus on long-term #immigration policy [but what should that consensus be?]

John Ibbitson follows on this previous article, Politics It’s time for Canada to focus on expanding our population, highlighting former PM Mulroney’s call for increased immigration and a Canadian population around 100m by the turn of the century and the need for a white paper to help build the arguments to get us there.

However, before we get too caught up in the advocacy by the Century Initiative, the Business Council of Canada and the Globe and Mail, we should step back and ask some fundamental questions a white paper should ask beyond the basic demographic arguments:

  • Does more immigration increase or decrease inequality?
  • In the immediate post-COVID period, should immigration increase given what we know from previous downturns regarding how the most recent immigrants suffer short and some longer-term scarring?
  • How should we factor in the lower-paid “essential workers” and will increased immigration improve their working conditions or not?
  • Longer-term, what are the more likely affects of automation and AI on the labour market and the need for skilled and semi-skilled workers?
  • How realistic is it to improve settlement of immigrants outside of our major cities and regions given past and current experience?
  • Will Canada realistically invest in the needed public and private infrastructure needed to accommodate such growth, again given past and current experience?
  • Will Canada be able to do so in a manner that respects our current and likely future climate change commitments?
  • Will Indigenous peoples accept increased immigration and the focus on newcomers compared to their concerns?
  • Will the greater imbalance between immigration to Quebec and the rest of Canada place further pressures on the federation?

A white paper that largely replicates the group think of the Century Initiative and related players would be a disservice to Canadians, rather than the needed more thoughtful and balanced discussions:

Though progressives and conservatives in the United States disagree on practically everything, they do agree that Canada has a better immigration system.

But as a new paper in the magazine American Affairs points out, they think this only because neither side fully understands how the Canadian system works.

Right-wing Americans praise Canada’s ability to police its borders while focusing on economic migrants who can make an immediate contribution. No less an authority than Donald Trump declared, when he was president: “I think we should have merit-based immigration like they have in Canada” so that “we have people coming in that have a good track record.”

But American conservatives would be less impressed if they realized that Canada protects its border through a dense skein of rules and regulations, a so-called bureaucratic border wall.

The left, on the other hand, celebrates Canada’s robust commitment to diversity through immigration. But they would be appalled to learn that those same bureaucratic rules – such as requiring that all employees provide a social insurance number – make it virtually impossible for undocumented workers to live in this country, and that our system limits diversity by favouring immigrants from more-developed regions, such as South and East Asia, over less developed regions, including parts of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Each side sees only what it wants to see, emphasizing those aspects of Canada’s system that align with their ideological predispositions, while excluding the others,” wrote Michael Cuenco, a Canadian writer based in Calgary.

“The most vocal elements of the Right and the Left are like the blind men grasping at different parts of an elephant. No one has bothered to offer to either side an honest description of the whole.”

Both the left and the right in the U.S. might be even more nonplussed were they to learn that former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney has joined a growing chorus calling for Canada to more than double its population to 100 million by 2100.

They might not understand that what truly distinguishes the Canadian immigration system from the American is that Canada’s reflects decades of increasing ideological convergence on immigration policy, even as America becomes ever-more polarized.

The question for Canadians is whether we are willing to converge on future immigration targets in the same way we have in the past.

Progressive Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker first declared that immigration should be colour-blind. Lester B. Pearson’s Liberal government converted that principle into the points system. Liberal Pierre Trudeau married immigration to multiculturalism, while Mr. Mulroney tripled the intake. Liberals Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin converted a system that favoured the family-class category into one that favoured economic-class applicants, while Conservative Stephen Harper and Liberal Justin Trudeau further refined and expanded the program.

If future Liberal and Conservative governments were to choose to, say, (a) convert the temporary target of more than 400,000 immigrants a year recently established to overcome the cutbacks imposed by the pandemic into a permanent target; b) gradually move toward 500,000 a year over the course of this decade and c) reassess Canada’s needs as the population approaches 50 million at mid-century, that would be nothing out of keeping with the past six decades of immigration policy, which saw Canada’s population more than double from 18 million in 1960 to 38 million today.

Whether we want that future is something else. Proponents of population growth must convince skeptics that Canada can more than double in numbers while still meeting commitments on global warming, that cities can grow in population without increasing sprawl, that creativity and productivity require a young, dynamic populace.

But we need to remember: We got where we are by agreeing we should grow robustly, and that it didn’t matter where people came from, as long as they shared the values that ground the nation. That’s what brought the Irish and the Germans and the Ukrainians here in the 19th century, what brought the Italians and Portuguese and Greeks here after the war, what brought the Vietnamese boat people here and people from Somalia and Lebanon, the Hong Kongers and then Mainlanders and new arrivals from French West Africa and Haiti, the Sikhs and Hindus from India and the Sri Lankans and Filipinos and …

A hundred million? Why stop?

Source: Canadians need to form a consensus on long-term immigration policy

Evidence Mounts That Reducing Immigration Harms America’s Economy

Some useful recent studies, particularly with respect to H1-B visas and skilled workers. Less convinced by some of the general demographic arguments, similar to those made in Canada by the Century Initiative and others. Shout-out to Canadian Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson, authors of the book Empty Planet, making the same broader arguments (with some of the same fallacies):

Donald Trump’s immigration policies were harmful to America’s long-term economic future. That becomes clearer as one compares the Trump administration’s actions to the projected increase in the number of immigrants under recently introduced immigration legislation. The U.S. Citizenship Act, developed by the Biden administration, would aid long-term economic growth by increasing the number of legal immigrants by 28%. In contrast, Trump administration policies would have cut legal immigration in half. The immigration policy path America chooses in the long-term will make a significant impact on economic growth and future labor force growth, of which immigrants are a vital part.

Economic growth or growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is necessary for a country’s inhabitants to improve their standard of living. “GDP growth [economic growth] is made up of growth in the workforce plus growth in labor productivity,” according to Robert S. Kaplan, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “Unless slower workforce growth is offset by improved productivity growth, U.S. GDP growth will slow.”

The Trump administration’s immigration policies harmed long-term economic growth by reducing labor force growth and potential productivity growth through restrictive policies.

High-skilled foreign nationals are important to productivity growth. Yet the Trump administration increased the denial rates of H-1B petitions, causing many long-time H-1B visa holders to leave the United States. The administration also blocked the entry of H-1B visa holders and published regulations that employers believed would make it nearly impossible for many foreign-born scientists and engineers to work in the United States.

“When we aggregate at the national level, inflows of foreign STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] workers explain between 30% and 50% of the aggregate productivity growth that took place in the United States between 1990 and 2010,” according to economists Giovanni Peri (UC, Davis), Kevin Shih (RPI) and Chad Sparber (Colgate University). Research by economist Britta Glennon found rather than saving jobs, H-1B restrictions “have the unintended consequence of encouraging firms to offshore jobs abroad.”

While the Biden-supported U.S. Citizenship Act may have a difficult time becoming law, it serves as a marker for changes to legal immigration by increasing both family and employment-based immigration. The bill would have a positive impact on labor force growth by raising immigration by 28% a year after a transition period.

“Increasing legal immigration by 28% a year would increase the average annual labor force growth in the United States by 23% over current U.S. projections, which would help economic growth and address a slower-growing U.S. workforce,” according to an analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). “The average annual labor force growth could be even more than 23% compared to a scenario of no immigration increases because the Bureau of Labor Statistics currently projects the U.S. labor force will grow by 800,000 a year, and that baseline growth may be lower after 2029 without the increase in immigration contained in the bill.”

“In contrast,” the analysis continues, “if the United States continued the Trump administration’s policies that administratively reduced legal immigration by approximately 49%, average annual labor force growth would be approximately 59% lower than compared to a policy of no immigration reductions, according to an NFAP analysis. Under policies that reduced legal immigration by half, in 40 years the United States would have only about 6 million more people in the labor force than it has today. Admitting fewer immigrants results in lower economic growth because labor force growth is an important element of economic growth and immigrants play a major part in both current and future labor force growth.”

A recent National Foundation for American Policy study by Madeline Zavodny, an economics professor at the University of North Florida, shows the positive impact of immigration.

“Analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data finds international migration was the only source of population growth in rural areas as a whole during most of the 2010s,” writes Zavodny. “International migration is strongly related to employment growth in both rural and metro counties. Each additional international migrant is associated with an additional 1.2 jobs in rural counties over 2010 to 2018. The estimate for rural areas suggests that international migration adds to total employment well beyond the jobs filled by international migrants. International migrants may have a larger impact on employment because of the jobs they fill. International migrants may work in jobs that otherwise would go unfilled by local residents and thereby enable businesses to expand.”

Due to declines in fertility, immigration keeps the United States from experiencing negative population growth, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

New economic research finds that negative or falling population growth may yield harmful economic outcomes beyond slowing labor force growth. Fewer available minds may mean fewer solutions to our problems. What if the breakthrough advances in mRNA made by Katalin Karikó, an Hungarian-born immigrant to America, never happened or occurred years later because Karikó was never born? How would that have affected the development of vaccines and other potential solutions to medical problems?

In a recent paper, “The End of Economic Growth? Unintended Consequences of a Declining Population,” Charles I. Jones, a professor of economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, writes, “What happens to economic growth if population growth is negative? We show below—first in models with exogenous [external] population growth and then later in a model with endogenous (internal) fertility—that negative population growth can be particularly harmful.” He asks: “How do idea-based growth models behave when population declines?”

In sum, with fewer people, “knowledge and living standards stagnate.” Jones writes, “If knowledge were to depreciate at a constant exogenous [external] rate, it is easy to show in the simple models at the start of this paper that this would lead to declining living standards in the presence of negative population growth, an even more dire outcome.”

“We refer to this as the Empty Planet result,” writes Jones. “Economic growth stagnates as the stock of knowledge and living standards settle down to constant values.”

Immigration can prevent population decline in the United States and allow America to grow—if U.S. elected officials choose the right policies. “Among great powers, the coming population decline uniquely advantages the United States,” according to Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson, authors of the book Empty Planet, the title to which Charles Jones referred. “For centuries, America has welcomed new arrivals, first from across the Atlantic, then the Pacific as well, and today from across the Rio Grande. Millions have happily plunged into the melting pot—America’s version of multiculturism—enriching both its economy and culture. Immigrants made the twentieth century the American century, and continued immigration will define the twenty-first as American as well.

“Unless. The suspicious, nativist, America First groundswell of recent years threatens to choke off the immigration tap that made America great by walling up the border between the United States and everywhere else. Under President Donald Trump, the federal government not only cracked down on illegal immigrants, it reduced legal admissions for skilled workers, a suicidal policy for the U.S. economy. If this change is permanent, if Americans out of senseless fear reject their immigrant tradition, turning their backs on the world, then the United States too will decline, in numbers and power and influence and wealth. This is the choice that every American must make: to support and open, inclusive, welcoming society, or to shut the door and wither in isolation.” It is a significant choice.

Source: Evidence Mounts That Reducing Immigration Harms America’s Economy

Ibbitson: It’s time for Canada to focus on expanding our population

As regular readers will know, I am not convinced that the arguments of the Century Initiative take into account the shorter-term impact of COVID on immigrant outcomes and the longer-term impact of automation and AI in their support of vastly increased immigration.

But the range of well-known people they have mobilized in their advocacy is impressive.

Their National Scorecard on Canada’s Growth and Prosperity is yet another approach to measuring how well Canada is doing with respect to overall socio-economic outcomes.

I do find it odd that a newspaper would take such a high profile advocacy role, essentially organizing a promotional event rather than a discussion more inclusive of diverse perspectives. Preaching to the converted rather than engaging those who need to be engaged.

That being said, the idea of a white paper makes sense, but its mandate needs to take a broader perspective on immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism than just justifying increased immigration levels.

And should we not also consider how to manage an aging population, not just focussing on increasing it?

On Brian Mulroney’s watch, Canada almost tripled the number of immigrants coming to Canada each year, from fewer than 90,000 people to more than 250,000.

Now Canada’s 18th prime minister is calling on Canadians to embrace what he calls “a new national policy” that would commit this country to achieving a population of 100 million by the end of the century.

“If we are going to maintain … our internal strength and our growth and our capacity and our outside influence, we need more people – a lot more,” Mr. Mulroney said Tuesday at a forum presented by The Globe and Mail and by Century Initiative, which champions the goal of a Canada that is 100-million strong by 2100.

Increasing the population by more than 60 million people would be “an historic and challenging initiative,” Mr. Mulroney acknowledged in an interview. After all, it took more than 150 years to get Canada’s population to 38 million. More than doubling it in about half that time would require much greater political and popular will than exists today.

Hence his proposal for “a white paper which indicates the need for 100 million people by the turn of the century.”

A white paper is a document through which a government puts forward a major policy proposal. If there is sufficient support, after consultation with experts, provincial governments and the broader population, it becomes settled policy, maintained by future governments whatever their partisan stripes.

Criticism of a white paper can be more important than the white paper itself. A deeply flawed white paper in 1969 that essentially called for the assimilation of First Nations into the general population helped give birth to Indigenous activism.

Conversely, a white paper on immigration produced three years earlier, which called for the final dismantling of racial barriers to accepting newcomers, led the Pearson government to invent the points system, which rated applicants based on how well they matched what the country was looking for, regardless of race.

High levels of race-blind immigration, embraced by both Liberal and Conservative governments, gave us the Canada we live in today. But the pandemic has restricted recruitment, and once the shortfall has been made up, there remains this vital question: How many people should live here?

A white paper on population, followed by a parliamentary committee travelling across the land, would encourage discussion, build momentum and, no doubt, focus opposition, which deserves to be heard.

Ideally, both Liberals and Conservatives at the federal level would express support for a target of 100 million through votes in the House and Senate.

If so, “that would become the new objective of Canada in this area,” Mr. Mulroney said, “and all governments would be bound to strive to achieve it.”

Such a goal would push Canada ahead of Germany and France and Britain in population, and probably ahead of Japan and South Korea and Vietnam as well.

That’s because the economic insecurity generated by the pandemic has exacerbated the decades-long trend of fertility decline. Low fertility, coupled with resistance to immigration, has led to population decline in dozens of countries.

Canada’s willingness to aggressively recruit newcomers leaves us better positioned to weather the demographic storms ahead than just about any other country. Taking immigration from 300,000 a people a year to a million, along with enhanced supports for child care and parental leave, would reduce labour shortages and help pay for the health care and pension needs of older Canadians, while boosting creativity and innovation. Imagine the contribution that a Toronto that was the size of New York or London or Tokyo would make to this country and to the world.

That said, the pandemic has completely disrupted how we live and work. The patterns of the past may never return. All sorts of assumptions – about downtowns and suburbs and rural areas, about commutes – may have to be rethought.

And as fertility continues to drop, the greatest obstacle to achieving a population of 100 million might be, not internal resistance, but a shrinking pool of available immigrants.

Nonetheless, Mr. Mulroney urges us to embrace “this indispensable cause.” For him, “this is a great dream of Canada, and it requires leadership to bring it true.”

Let the discussion begin, and let it begin with a new white paper on population.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-its-time-for-canada-to-focus-on-expanding-our-population/

Ibbitson: Ottawa needs an aggressive immigration plan

Will be interesting to see how this largely opening the gates to anyone already in Canada will affect overall economic integration and outcomes.

This fixation of meeting the target level in the middle of a downturn and at a time of ongoing travel restrictions has an element of unreality, given the recent RBC report predicting only 275,000 new Permanent Residents compared to the target of 401,000 (less than 70 percent) and what I am seeing in observing monthly data.

Many of his points are, of course, valid, particularly greater recognition of lower skilled/paid essential workers, increased competition to attract immigrants by the USA and European countries, and a possible decline in potential interest in emigration from current source countries given their declining birthrates.

His commentary is, like so many, silent on the anticipated impact of automation and AI on the economy and labour force:

If you are studying or working in Canada on a visa, if you are here as an asylum claimant, even if your visa has expired and you are an undocumented resident, the odds have never been better that you could soon be on the path to citizenship.

In order to maintain immigration targets, the federal government is aggressively courting non-Canadians who are living here to apply to become permanent residents.

This may stoke resentment among some old-stock Canadians who don’t like the change, literally, in the complexion of the population. But there is no alternative, if Canada is to grow and prosper.

Because borders were closed by the pandemic, we accepted only 184,000 new permanent residents last year, rather than the target of 341,000. Most of those granted status were already in the country when the pandemic hit.

To make up the loss, the Liberal government has set goals of 401,000 new permanent residents this year. But with borders still closed, a recent Royal Bank report predicted we’ll be lucky to get to 275,000 in 2021.

“With the effects of the pandemic looking more likely to remain into the spring and summer, the headwinds … will keep immigration into Canada low throughout most of 2021,” wrote senior economist Andrew Agopsowicz.

There are between a million and a million and a half people in Canada who are here on work or student visas, who are seeking asylum, or who are undocumented because their visa expired or for some other reason.

To show it’s serious about converting as many as possible to permanent residents, the federal government greatly lowered the entrance requirement in its most recent call for applications under the Express Entry system, which fast-tracks economic-class applicants.

“It’s a catch-all draw, meant to transition many of those who are eligible to be permanent residents and who are currently residing in Canada,” explained Kareem El-Assal, director of policy at Canadavisa.com, the website of an immigration law firm.

Mr. El-Assal believes that Canada can meet the target of 401,000 new permanent residents this year by drawing on the pool of people already here and by bringing in family-class immigrants, who are permitted to enter Canada under pandemic rules.

I would argue that Ottawa and the provinces should also look for qualified workers from the pool of asylum claimants and undocumented workers as well, subject to the appropriate background checks. Right now we need workers more than we need to enforce bureaucratic rules.

The government’s determination to meet its immigration targets coincides with a lesson many have learned about the value of so-called low-skilled work in areas such as agrifood and health care.

“The pandemic revealed that many people who were described as low-skilled were really essential workers,” said Usha George, director of the Centre for Immigration and Settlement at Ryerson University. When many Canadians were forced out of work or had to work from home because of lockdowns, “they contributed to keeping us all going,” she said.

Our immigration system is geared to attracting high-skilled workers in the professions and trades. But our economy also depends on people whose work we undervalue, and they too should be welcomed to Canada as permanent residents.

Surveys show a significant minority of Canadians believe that immigration levels are too high. There is plenty of evidence on social media that some Canadians of European background resent high levels of non-European immigration.

But Canada’s fertility rate has been declining since the 1970s, and is now more than half a baby shy of replacement rate. Without immigrants, our population would soon start to decline.

Meanwhile, India and the Philippines, two major source countries of immigrants to Canada, have brought their fertility rates down to replacement rate, or very close to it. And factoring in the robust economic growth they were enjoying before the pandemic, there could soon be fewer people available – or interested – in coming.

Aging societies across the developed world need immigrants to fill vacant jobs and to pay taxes to support the elderly, whatever nativist know-nothings may think.

In the not-too-distant future, rather than the federal and provincial governments choosing which applicants get to come to Canada, we will be begging potential newcomers to pick us over the American and European competition. The sooner we get used to that idea, the better.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-ottawa-needs-an-aggressive-immigration-plan/

Ibbitson: COVID-19 is severing a lifeline of immigration Canada needs to survive. Here’s what we can do to repair it

Ibbitson makes the case to accelerate the transition of temporary residents to Permanent Residents, as they are already in Canada and thus travel restrictions are not an issue.

To a certain extent, this is already happening. This past June, almost 70 percent of new Permanent Residents were previously temporary residents. July numbers should be out sometime next week.

However, once we get through the “inventory” of qualified temporary residents, the lack of new arrivals will become more of an issue:

Tens of thousands of future Canadians are missing. Because of closed borders brought on by COVID-19, only a fraction of those who were supposed to become new permanent residents this year and next will actually arrive.

This country relies on immigrants to sustain its population and expand its economy. But Canada admitted only 34,000 permanent residents in the second quarter of this year, down 67 per cent from the same period in 2019. Most new permanent residents were already in Canada on work or study permits.

And lockdowns and closed visa offices overseas could suppress immigration for years to come.

There is a fix, though only for the short term. Tens of thousands of international students, temporary foreign workers and asylum claimants who are in Canada right now could be fast-tracked to permanent residency.

“We’ve got all these people that are here,” Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said in an interview. “And if we give them permanent residence, they’re going to be able to contribute to Canada. So we end up benefiting from it.”

Converting students, temporary foreign workers and asylum claimants into permanent residents could ease the shortfall of immigrants until Ottawa can get the overseas applications process back on stream, air travel fully resumes and barriers between countries come down.

If they come down.

In an August report, the International Organization for Migration warned “the age of migration itself may now be coming to an end.” More than 90 per cent of the world’s population live in countries with pandemic-related restrictions on new arrivals.

A recent report from the Royal Bank of Canada estimated that, best case, immigration in 2020 will be down 30 per cent from the target of 341,000 set by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“The worry is that what happens in the short run may turn into the long run,” said Andrew Agopsowicz, a senior economist at the bank and author of the report.

Consider the situation of international students. There were 642,000 of them studying in Canada in 2019. Only the United States and Australia take in more foreign students. As well as contributing $22-billion to the Canadian economy and helping to sustain 170,000 jobs, they serve as one of the main sources of new permanent residents each year. But not this year. In the second quarter, the Immigration department issued just over 10,000 new study permits, compared with 107,000 a year earlier.

The University of Waterloo, with its strong reputation in engineering and computer sciences, plays host to about 7,000 international students each year, along with about 35,000 Canadian students.

But apart from the roughly 2,000 students who are already here, almost all foreign students will be taking their courses online from their home country, said Christine McWebb, the university’s assistant vice-president responsible for international operations.

Those international students who are in Canada and wish to remain provide a pool of applicants who could be fast-tracked to permanent residency. And those who can’t get here this year can be encouraged to come as soon as conditions permit.

Ottawa agrees. Last week, the Immigration department announced new measures that will make it easier for students to study from abroad while still being able to later obtain a work permit in Canada.

Another potential pool of permanent residents can be found among temporary foreign workers. Although the federal government took special measures to ensure agricultural workers were admitted this year, TFW permits were down about 50 per cent in the second quarter. These workers are critical to sustaining not just agriculture, but health care, construction, transportation and other sectors.

“We call them temporary foreign workers but the work they are doing is neither temporary nor superfluous,” said Usha George, director of the Centre for Immigration and Settlement at Ryerson University. “These people are called unskilled, but they are essential workers.”

A third group of potential permanent residents might be more problematic, at least to some.

In 2019, just over 16,500 people sought asylum in Canada by making use of unauthorized border crossings, such as Roxham Road in Quebec. But as of the end of July, this year, just over 3,100 asylum seekers had been intercepted by the RCMP, owing to the closing of the border between Canada and the U.S. and the severe reduction in international travel.

The majority of claims referred to the Refugee Protection Division are eventually approved, although the process can take years. Many claimants are already working. They speak or are learning English or French, have housing, and have forged ties within the community. Expediting their claims would provide new permanent residents to make up for those not arriving from overseas, while eliminating the backlog.

“We’d be better off saving the money of the refugee claim process,” Ms. Dench said. “And the sooner they can obtain permanent residence, the sooner they can get on with their lives and really contribute to Canadian society.”

Ottawa has already announced that some asylum claimants working in the health sector may apply to become permanent residents.

Immigrants to Canada tend to be better educated than the native-born and they start more businesses. As Canada’s population ages, they will be vital to providing both the labour and the taxes needed to care for older citizens.

With luck, either a vaccine or effective treatments will arrive next year, weakening the impact of COVID-19 to the point where borders can reopen. In the meantime, the opportunity exists to convert as many students, foreign workers and asylum seekers into permanent residents as possible, to make up for the shortfall.

Whatever their background, we can expect the new arrivals will make splendid Canadians. They almost always do.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-covid-19-is-severing-a-lifeline-of-immigration-canada-needs-to-survive/

@JohnIbbitson Our competitive advantage: Canada hasn’t completely gone off the deep end

My vote for the best slogan to attract highly talented and skilled immigrants:

At the moment, Canada enjoys the unique competitive advantage of being the only major developed, English-speaking country that hasn’t gone crazy.

As a result, once the pandemic travel restrictions are lifted, we should be able to attract many thousands of the world’s most skilled and talented workers, making Canada a global leader in the next generation of the knowledge economy.

The United States suffered yet another self-inflicted wound this week, when President Donald Trump suspended all new work visas – including the H-1B visa used to recruit foreign workers in the technology sector – until the end of the year.

“America is making a pretty big mistake here, and Canada and our tech sector are going to be the beneficiaries of that,” said Yung Wu, chief executive officer of the MaRS Discovery District, a high-tech incubator in Toronto.

“The thing that fuels the entire innovation economy and ecosystem is talent,” he said in an interview. “When you starve the supply of talent, your innovation and tech ecosystem wither.”

Talent might have been having second thoughts about moving to the U.S. even before the latest visa restrictions. America in the age of Trump is not a welcoming place. The rampant racism, the toxic polarization, the collapse of competence revealed by America’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the protests and clashes with police – who would want to move there right now?

Great Britain is not much better. The decision to leave the European Union was economically destructive, driven in part by a deeply ingrained resentment of foreigners felt by some Britons. The country’s per-capita death rate from COVID-19 is one of the worst in the world – almost three times as high as Canada’s – offering further evidence of Britain‘s declining competence and confidence.

“With the U.S. and the U.K. going crazy, sideways, whatever you want to call it … if you’re a highly skilled individual who doesn’t happen to be American or English, where are you going to go?” asks Dan Breznitz, chair of innovation studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs. The answer, he says, is Canada. “And that’s great.”

We are far, far from perfect. The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has forced Canadians to confront anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in this country. My English settler culture has much to answer for.

But there is much to be proud of as well, including the hundreds of thousands of immigrants Canada welcomes each year. The federal and provincial governments actively encourage high-technology workers and students to come to and stay in Canada. The closing of American and British doors gives us the chance to bring in even more.

Our companies may never pay as well as the big players in Silicon Valley. But our cities are diverse and peaceful, our education system is one of the best in the world, and the pandemic proved how superior the Canadian health care system is to the American. Such things may matter more to newcomers today than they did even a few months ago.

We need every one of those who will come. Before the pandemic, analysts predicted more than 200,000 technology jobs would go unfilled in the tech sector in 2021. Canada competes with the United States for tech-skilled workers from other countries, and we have been decidedly No. 2.

But now the United States has taken itself out of the running. Even if presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden defeats Mr. Trump in November, it will take years to undo the damage. And America’s deep divisions will remain.

The key, for Mr. Wu, is for Canadian governments to recruit even more aggressively for workers in the life sciences, advanced manufacturing, energy transition, clean tech and agri-tech sectors. Mr. Breznitz would like to see governments investing directly in individuals and companies.

At the same time, we should hope the U.S. gets its mojo back. Canada’s tech sector is joined at the hip to the American tech sector. “They need to be strong for us to be strong,” said Mr. Wu. Every future in which the United States does not lead is a bad future for Canada.

But while we wait for the United States to recover, perhaps we can take advantage of the situation by luring more of the brightest and best.

In these times, apart from February, what’s not to love about Canada?

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-our-competitive-advantage-canada-hasnt-completely-gone-off-the-deep/

Ibbitson: Tens of thousands of Canadians won’t be born due to COVID-19

Some serious thinking needs to be done regarding alternatives to solely relying on immigration to address the aging demographics, as immigration alone, even at higher levels, won’t eliminate the trend.

One or two missed years won’t make much of a difference in the longer term, and a too quick return to the existing plan, at a time when large segments of our economy will likely take a number of years to recover, is setting up immigrants for failure.

Previous recessions have resulted in worse economic outcomes for immigrants that arrive during downturns:

One of the worst long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for Canada will be the tens of thousands who won’t be born, a loss to this country’s future.

To make up for that loss, and for the immigrants who were unable to come to Canada this year because of the lockdown, the federal government would need to increase its immigration target beyond 400,000 next year and in future years, which may be politically and logistically impossible.

The lost potential population – the work not done, goods not consumed, taxes not paid – will be felt for decades to come.

The Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, released a report this month that concluded “the COVID-19 episode will likely lead to a large, lasting baby bust.”

Like most developed nations, the United States has a fertility rate well below the 2.1 children per woman needed to sustain the population. (The U.S. fertility rate is 1.7; Canada’s is 1.5.) Women are choosing to have fewer children, and to delay their first child until their late twenties or their thirties. (The mean age at which a woman has her first child in the U.S. is 27; in Canada, 29.)

Economic uncertainty can cause a woman to put off having her first child even longer, which may lead to her having fewer children than she originally intended. Examining past recessions and recoveries, the Brookings study found that “a one percentage point increase in the state unemployment rate led to a 0.9 per cent reduction in the birth rate.”

More than simple economic calculation is at work. “Economic pressures and uncertainty cause enormous pressure and stress within households and relationships,” said Judith Daniluk, professor emeritus at University of British Columbia, where she specializes in women’s sexuality and reproductive health.

“Surviving, much less rebounding from, this type of economic and existential crisis is challenging and takes time,” she told me, which can lead to “some women being unable to bear a child when they have regained their economic and relational footing, or in having fewer children than they had hoped.”

Based on projected unemployment levels resulting from the coronavirus lockdown, and a drop in fertility that accompanied the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19, the Brookings study concluded that “we could see a drop of perhaps 300,000 to 500,000 births in the U.S.” in 2021.

Since Canada has about one-tenth the population of the United States, and the unemployment rate is similar (13.3 per cent in May in the U.S.; 13.7 per cent in May in Canada), we can expect to lose on the order of 30,000 to 50,000 babies next year – the equivalent of West Vancouver (population 42,694) or Belleville, Ont. (population 50,720) in the number of babies not born.

The fewer babies that are born each year, the more immigrants who are needed to replace them. The alternative is a shrinking and aging population, with too few workers and taxpayers available to fill vacant jobs, to power the economy through consumption, and to support the pension and health-care needs of the elderly.

The Trudeau government had planned to welcome 341,000 permanent residents this year and 351,000 in 2021. But with the year half over, and immigration essentially frozen through border closings, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino faces a difficult choice when he presents his immigration update this fall.

To prevent an overall drop in immigration, he will have to increase next year’s intake to compensate both for immigrants who didn’t arrive in 2020 and for babies not born.

But a target between, say, 400,000 and 500,000 would strain the resources of the department and of settlement services, and intensify protests from those who believe Canada is bringing in too many newcomers as it is.

Compensating for lost intake could be staggered over several years. Even so, we may be forced to accept that many thousands of people who should be with us in the years to come won’t be.

“That will be yet another cost of this terrible episode,” the Brookings report concludes.

To limit that cost, this Liberal government should do everything within its power to bring in as many new Canadians as it possibly can in the years ahead.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-tens-of-thousands-of-canadians-wont-be-born-due-to-covid-19/

Ibbitson: Neither the United States nor Canada can afford to ban immigration

As some have noted, this is more of a rhetorical argument than substantive, as the debate, at least in Canada, will be more with respect to levels and the mix of programs than a ban (which Trump will continue to talk about for political purposes):

However, Ibbitson is a bit too optimistic that Canada will automatically go back to the current immigration plan and a bit too accepting on the general demographic arguments without considering the expected impact of AI and automation.

Posing options as closing doors or returning the current immigration plan and levels is a false choice as the reality for Canada, I expect, will remain towards open immigration but with some adjustments once the medium-term effects of COVID-19 work through the economy:

The tweet may simply have been a bit of raw meat for his base. But if Donald Trump really does plan to ban all immigration into the United States, that would be the worst act of his presidency, which is saying something.

Banning immigrants would amplify one of the most important demographic trends of our time: declining fertility rates among millennials and Gen Z. Babies who are not being born must be replaced with people brought in from abroad. The inevitable alternative is increased joblessness and economic decline. This is as true for Canada as it is for the United States.

The U.S. President tweeted Monday night that “in light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

On one level, the tweet in nonsensical. Most countries have closed their borders as they grapple with this pandemic. Until the novel coronavirus is brought under control one way or another, both Canada and the United States will be largely closed to immigration.

But once economic life returns to something approaching normal, then not only will immigration need to return to previous levels – currently 340,000 a year in Canada’s case; traditionally more than one million a year in the case of the United States – they should be increased to make up for the immigrants who should be arriving today but aren’t.

“We desperately need immigration,” said Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, in an interview. “We are an aging society that in 10 or 15 years will be totally dependent on immigrants that we are getting now.”

That Canadian fertility rate declined from 1.6 children per woman in 2010 to 1.5 last year, while in the United States it fell to 1.7, far below the 2.1 needed to keep a population stable. Fertility rates have been below the replacement rate in most developed countries for decades, which is why immigration is required for population growth.

But in recent years, a new trend has emerged. The birth rate for millennials and Gen Z is lower than it was for Gen X and the baby boomers. A study by Ron Kneebone, a professor of economics at University of Calgary, showed that fertility levels for Canadian women under 30 declined significantly between 2000 and 2017.

Citing correlations between past economic downturns and fertility, Prof. Kneebone strongly suspects that the current economic crisis will lower Canada’s birth rate even further. “When I’m uncertain whether I’m going to keep my job and be able to pay the mortgage, is this the time to be having another kid? Probably not,” he said in an interview.

And, as he points out, countries with low fertility, little immigration and declining populations struggle to preserve economic growth. Just ask Italy or Japan.

Mr. Trump has played to nativist sentiments throughout his presidency. The fabled wall on the Mexican border, banning visitors from certain Muslim countries, suppressing immigration levels overall – these are policies designed to appeal to Americans who fear their white, Christian culture is being overwhelmed by foreigners.

In that context, Monday’s tweet should be seen not as an update on pandemic border control but as a racist reassurance to his MAGA base.

But restricting immigration would be disastrous for the United States. One-quarter of all health care workers in the U.S. are immigrants. They account for half of all the entrepreneurs whose startups grew to be worth US$1-billion or more. They account for almost 40 per cent of U.S. Nobel Prize winners.

The American health care system and the American economy depend on immigrants. By stoking anti-immigrant sentiments, Mr. Trump is threatening the future of both.

Polls show that most Canadians continue to support the high level of immigration that this country has enjoyed under both Conservative and Liberal governments for three decades. But Quebec Premier François Legault has reduced the number of immigrants coming into the province and has said he may reduce the level even further in the wake of the pandemic.

That’s a policy for economic suicide. When the borders reopen, Canada should increase its immigration target above next year’s goal of 350,000. Every immigrant we don’t bring in this year and next is an opportunity lost for Canada’s future, unless we make it up further on.

Neither the U.S. nor Canada can afford to close its doors.

Source: Opinion: Neither the United States nor Canada can afford to ban immigration

Quebec’s religious symbols ban a major issue in federal election campaign

Good range of people interviewed. Odd conclusion given overall demographic changes and that most immigrants integrate:

The new Quebec law that bans many public servants from wearing visible religious symbols has become a major issue in the federal election campaign.

This isn’t a Quebec-versus-the-rest-of-Canada conflict. This is the shires against the cities, old stock versus those who welcome newcomers, the Canada that was against what Canada is becoming.

This is a conflict on the rise, not the wane.

Mario Levesque, a political scientist at Mount Allison University, agrees that Bill 21, as the Quebec legislation was known before it came law, divides Quebec from the rest of Canada. But even more, he says, it divides rural Canada from urban Canada.

When it comes to accepting high levels of immigration and the racial and cultural diversity that follows, “I would almost limit that to some of the bigger cities,” he said in an interview. “In other parts of Canada, I think there is some support for Bill 21.”

Erin Tolley, a political scientist at University of Toronto, points to research she and co-author Randy Besco conducted that shows about a third of Canadians oppose multiculturalism, a third support it, and a third are “conditional multiculturalists” who, as they wrote, “approve of immigration and ethnic diversity, but only under certain conditions” – the most important being that immigrants integrate fully into Canadian society.

“There is some difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada” on the question of embracing multiculturalism, Prof. Tolley said in an interview, “but it’s not as big a difference as you might think.”

Daniel Weinstock, a professor of political philosophy at McGill University, said that an important difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada “is that, in Quebec, politicians and pundits have been able to couch the law, fallaciously in my view, as being in continuity with Bill 101 [Quebec’s language law], as a defence of Quebec identity.”​​

But even without the veil of protecting French language and culture as an excuse, many Canadians object to minority religious and cultural practices. Prof. Tolley says that when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives vowed to ban the niqab – the full face and body covering worn by some Muslim women – at citizenship ceremonies, “many Canadians sided with the Conservatives.”

Prof. Levesque believes that more time may be needed for people in rural areas of Ontario, where he used to live, or the Maritimes, where he teaches now, “to learn about and welcome new arrivals, since they typically get so few of them.”

Although Maxime Bernier’s efforts to leverage voter discontent over multiculturalism with his new People’s Party have thus far gone nowhere, most political leaders are treating the Quebec law as though it were a new third rail.

Andrew Scheer says a Conservative government would not join the court challenge against the law. At this stage, neither would a Liberal government, Justin Trudeau said on Friday, although “we’re not going to close the door on intervening at a later date. “Intervention if necessary, but not necessarily intervention.

At Thursday night’s debate, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May hoped “that we can find a solution where we leave Quebec alone but we find jobs for anyone that Quebec has taken off their payroll.”

Only NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh stands firm against the law, which would prohibit him from being a teacher or judge in Quebec because he wears a turban. “It’s legislated discrimination, and it’s sad and it’s hurtful,” he said at the debate.

Prof. Weinstock profoundly objects to Quebec’s new law because it “asks vulnerable minorities to do something that they can only do at the cost of enormous symbolic harm to themselves,” by publicly abandoning religious symbols “that they see as central to their identities.”

Yet, despite the openly discriminatory nature of the legislation, Quebec Premier François Legault has warned federal politicians not to support the court challenge.

“I want them to stay out of it – forever,” he told reporters earlier this week. “Not for the moment, but forever.”

No political fight is more useless than a culture war. Not a job is created, not a single child lifted out of poverty, not a jot of environmental progress made. It’s just Us and Them, with both sides the loser.

But there may be no escaping this fight, if enough voters in the future reject what Canada is becoming and demand the old one back.

Source: Quebec’s religious symbols ban a major issue in federal election campaign