Canada expects a 40 per cent increase in citizenship among immigrants by 2024

Good overview by Kareem El-Assal, who included the need for a more meaningful performance standard:

A new Statistics Canada study that shows fewer recent immigrants are gaining Canadian citizenship is cause for concern, but improvements are on the horizon. 

Becoming a citizen is one of the defining life moments of Canada’s immigrants. It marks the end of their newcomer journey and the beginning of their journey as a Canadian with the same rights as those born in Canada. These include the right to vote, to run for political office, to gain preferential treatment when applying to government jobs, to travel with a Canadian passport, and to travel outside of Canada indefinitely.

Canada takes pride in supporting the citizenship journey of immigrants as the country’s high rate of citizenship acquisition is an important indicator that Canada does a good job of facilitating integration. A 2018 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that 91 per cent of immigrants who had lived in Canada for at least 10 years held citizenship, compared with the OECD average of 63 per cent. Other top destinations for immigrants such as Australia (81 per cent) and the United States (62 per cent) lag behind Canada by a wide margin.

Citizenship acquisition is down

Statistics Canada’s new study finds that citizenship acquisition stood at 86 per cent at the time of the 2016 Census compared with 82 per cent during the 1991 Census.

This promising finding, however, is overshadowed by the significant decline in citizenship acquisition among more recent immigrant cohorts.

In 1996, for example, 68 per cent of eligible immigrants who had been in Canada for five years were citizens, but this figure fell to 43 per cent in 2016. In fact, Statistics Canada’s analysis found that the citizenship rate for most immigrant cohorts fell in 2016 compared with the 2006 Census. Immigrants with low income, official language proficiency, and education have experienced the sharpest drop in naturalization.

Why has naturalization fallen among recent immigrants?

Statistics Canada’s analysis strongly suggests that citizenship policy changes made by Canada over the past decade have hurt naturalization rates.

In 2010, Canada introduced new language requirements and a new citizenship exam. Immigrants between the ages of 14 and 64 had to demonstrate a minimum language proficiency and obtain a pass mark of at least 75 per cent on their citizenship exam (the previous pass mark was 60 per cent). In 2017, these requirements were reversed to only apply to those aged between 18 and 54.

The rationale for these changes was to ensure immigrants were integrating into Canadian society by demonstrating their language proficiency and understanding of Canada’s history, geography, politics, laws, and economy. The government also introduced multiple versions of the citizenship test to reduce cheating and ensure immigrants had a strong knowledge of the topics that it covered.

In addition, the federal government increased the citizenship application fee from $100 to $300 for adults in February 2014 and then raised it again to $530 in January 2015. The fee for children remained the same at $100. Both adult and child applicants also had to pay an extra $100 “right of citizenship fee.”

The fee hikes were justified on the basis they helped the government recover the costs of processing citizenship applications.

Stricter language proficiency and citizenship test requirements have made it more difficult for immigrants with weak language skills and low education to become citizens.

Moreover, the increase in citizenship fees made it less affordable for low-income immigrants to apply for citizenship. Consider that it currently costs a total of $630 per person to apply for citizenship. A family of four needs to pay $1,500, which may be difficult if they are barely making ends meet.

Citizenship rates should increase

Recent policy shifts could improve naturalization rates in the coming years.

For instance, Canada has increased its economic class selection standards over the past decade, which means more immigrants are arriving with higher levels of language proficiency. Family class immigrants tend to have similar socio-economic characteristics as the Canadian citizens and permanent residents sponsoring them, which means that higher economic class selection standards should result in more family class immigrants arriving with higher human capital.

Reducing language test and citizenship exam requirements for only those between the ages of 18 and 54 will likely also improve citizenship rates since older immigrants tend to have weaker English or French skills than younger ones.

The cost will also no longer be a prohibitive factor in applying for citizenship if the Liberals enact their 2019 federal election campaign promise to waive citizenship fees entirely.

Set better performance standards

One major area for improvement, according to Andrew Griffith, a Canadian citizenship policy researcher, is the introduction of better performance standards that enable the federal government to track how quickly recent immigrants are becoming citizens.

In a recent column, Griffith observes that the federal government tends to measure success based on the total number of eligible immigrants who become citizens, irrespective of when they moved to Canada.

A limitation of this approach is it fails to capture how immigration and citizenship policy reforms and socioeconomic conditions are affecting citizenship uptake of recent immigrant arrivals.

Griffith argues that a more prudent approach to measuring Canada’s effectiveness in supporting integration and citizenship acquisition is by setting performance standards that formally measure the citizenship rates of recent immigrants (those in Canada 5-9 years).

This would enable Canada to make policy adjustments as required to promote higher citizenship rates among this cohort.

40 per cent increase by 2024?

The Liberal campaign platform forecasted they will spend $110 million in 2023-2024 to process citizenship applications compared with the $75 million to be spent over the coming federal government fiscal year.

This 40 per cent increase in spending suggests the government expects a 40 per cent increase in new citizens by 2024.

If this is the case, Canada will reverse its declining rate of naturalization among recent immigrants in the coming years — and that would further cement Canada’s leadership among its OECD peers in facilitating integration.


A Perfect Scorecard: Canada’s immigrants are faring much better in the labour market

Nice data analysis and overall good news:

Immigrant underemployment has been a longstanding challenge in Canada, but recent evidence runs in contrast to the negativity that often surrounds this subject. 

While it is true that many immigrants are working below their paygrade, which according to a recent report by the Royal Bank of Canada costs the economy an estimated $50 billion in annual GDP, Statistic Canada data shows considerable progress is being made on this front.

A Perfect Scorecard

When assessing various immigrant labour force metrics, everything that we want to be happening is actually occurring: More immigrants are in the labour market and are employed, fewer of them are underemployed, and their wages are on the rise.

Among core-aged workers (those between the ages of 25-54), the participation rate of Canada’s newcomers (those in Canada for five years or less) stood at 78 per cent in 2018 compared with 74 per cent in 2006.

This is a positive finding because it suggests that newcomers today are integrating into the labour market more quickly than their predecessors (the participation rate represents the percentage of people within a specific cohort that are working or are looking for a job).

The newcomer employment rate (the share of a worker cohort with a job) has also improved — it was 71.3 per cent in 2018 compared with 65.2 per cent in 2006.

Similarly, immigrants who have been in Canada between 5 and 10 years have seen their employment rates rise significantly to 79.5 per cent in 2018 compared with 75.6 per cent in 2006.

The unemployment rate (the share of a worker cohort looking for a job) has declined. Among newcomers, it stood at 8.6 per cent in 2018, which may seem high, but is a marked improvement compared with what it stood at after the 2008-09 recession (14.7 per cent) and back in 2006 (11.5 per cent). It has also dropped among other immigrant cohorts—it stood at just 5.3 per cent in 2018 for immigrants that have been in Canada between 5 and 10 years compared with 7.3 per cent in 2006.

Immigrant wages are also rising. A 2018 Statistics Canada report noted that “immigrants admitted to Canada in 2015 earned the highest entry wages of any cohort admitted since 1981.”

Moreover, core-aged immigrants with a university degree saw their wages increase by 3.5 per cent in 2017 compared with the previous year (the Canadian-born cohort saw a 0.9 per cent increase).

Two Factors at Play

The first major factor that can explain the better performance of immigrants is Canada’s tightening labour market.

With more baby boomers retiring, Canadian employers are increasingly counting on immigrants to fill the void. According to a Conference Board of Canada study, all 9.2 million baby boomers will retire over the next decade, which means that employers will need to become even more reliant on immigrants.

Reforms to Canada’s immigration policy are the second factor. These include reforms to selection policies as well as expanded efforts to support newcomer settlement and integration.

Expression of interest systems launched by the federal government (Express Entry) and provinces across Canada are likely contributing to improved immigrant outcomes. By ranking applicants against one another based on human capital factors such as age, work experience, education, and language ability, the federal government and provinces are now giving preference to the highest-scoring immigrants.

This marks a departure from Canada’s previous system where immigrants were selected so long as they met a certain points threshold, even if there were other candidates waiting behind them who had higher scores.

Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) is also likely contributing to the improvements. An evaluation by Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) noted that the vast majority of PNP arrivals become established economically, with high employment rates, and earnings that increase over time.

More temporary residents are now transitioning to permanent residents under Express Entry and the PNP (“two-step migration”). This is sound policy as Statistics Canada research has shown that immigrants who previously worked or studied in Canada initially have a large earnings advantage over those without prior experience living in Canada.

Settlement Services

The federal government and provinces and territories fund settlement supports for immigrants such as language training, employment services, among others. IRCC is the largest funder of such services and has increased its annual settlement budget fivefold over the past two decades to $1.5 billion today.

It is likely that this increased investment is contributing to the labour market improvements immigrants have recently enjoyed.

Room for improvement and reasons to be optimistic

As noted by a recent CIC News article, immigrants continue to face labour market barriers that undermine their ability to make even more significant contributions to Canada’s economy.

At the same time, they are doing better in the labour market, which is probably due to baby boomer retirements and refinements to immigration policy.

These two factors will continue, which should leave us feeling optimistic that immigrants will continue to enjoy stronger labour market outcomes.

Source: A Perfect Scorecard: Canada’s immigrants are faring much better in the labour market

Ontario urged to encourage immigrants to look beyond the GTA

Ongoing challenge that most provincial governments are grappling with – how to encourage immigrants to go beyond the largest centres.

Ontario actually does better than most other provinces in this regard, given the number of immigrants and visible minorities in cities such as Ottawa, Hamilton, Kitchener Waterloo, London and Windsor.

The real challenge lies more in rural and northern Ontario.

Ontario must start encouraging immigrants to settle in communities outside the GTA in order to reduce pressure on housing, transit and other infrastructure in the 905 and stimulate growth in the rest of the province, a new report says.

According to the Conference Board of Canada report, 45 per cent of Ontario’s 13.5 million people live in the GTA, but each year almost 80 per cent of new immigrants settling in the province make the region their home, meaning that most of Ontario doesn’t get enough newcomers to sustain their communities, and that even more pressure is being put on an already strained housing pool and other services in the 905.

Last year, 106,000 immigrants settled in the GTA, while just 31,000 made their homes in the rest of Ontario.

“The GTA has the difficult task of integrating large numbers of newcomers into its labour market each year. Nearly half of its newcomers arrive under the family and refugee classes, which means they require more labour market supports than economic class newcomers,” said the 47-page report, “Immigration Beyond the GTA,” being released Thursday.

“On the other hand, some communities across the province — particularly those in Northern Ontario — are in desperate need of immigrants to support their economic health, but less than one-quarter of the province’s newcomers choose to settle outside of the GTA.”

Spreading more immigrants across Ontario is more urgent than ever, the report warns, since demographic pressures, if not addressed, will significantly impact the province’s economic performance over the next two decades, with the average age of residents rising to 44.1 in 2040 from 40.5 in 2017. By 2040, almost a quarter of Ontario’s population will be 65 and over, compared with just 17 per cent in 2017.

While communities outside the GTA do not have the same number of job opportunities, settlement services, cultural amenities, and ethnic diversity, they still offer a range of immigration advantages compared with the GTA, said the report, written by researcher Kareem El-Assal.

With the exception of Barrie, it said, other census metropolitan areas currently all have lower unemployment rates than the GTA. Hamilton, Kingston, Guelph and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo all have unemployment rates below 5 per cent, compared to 6.4 per cent in the 905 area.

Although all levels of government have recognized the need to “regionalize” the distribution of immigration, including the most recent federal pilot program to encourage newcomers to settle in rural and remote communities, the report calls for the creation of a regional strategy led by the province with active participation from municipalities.

Municipalities have had few options in immigrant recruitment because immigration is a shared federal-provincial jurisdiction. However, the report said all three levels of government can draw inspiration from Canada’s latest international post-secondary education strategy, which has successfully brought all players to the table to promote the “regionalization” of foreign students across the country.

The study said a regionalization strategy must set targets to ensure half of newcomers to the province settle outside of the 905. The province should juggle the point grids of the provincial immigrant nomination programs by rewarding applicants with community and family ties outside of the GTA because those are among the most important considerations for newcomer settlement.

A 2016 evaluation of Nova Scotia’s various provincial immigration streams found that 82 per cent of those who arrived under the community identified class with strong ties to an established cultural community had continued to stay in Nova Scotia instead of moving to other provinces.

Given immigrants always go where the job opportunities are, the report suggested business groups such as chambers of commerce take the lead in sharing information with local employers on hiring newcomers, creating a welcoming and inclusive environment and tapping existing newcomer communities to reach out to immigrant talent.

“Ontario municipalities must showcase their leadership. One way they can do this is by ensuring they have immigration strategies of their own in place,” said the Conference Board. “This is crucial to signalling their intention that they want to welcome more immigrants and will take all necessary steps to succeed.”

Source: Ontario urged to encourage immigrants to look beyond the GTA

ICYMI – 2016: A Record-Setting Year for Refugee Resettlement in Canada?

Good background brief on refugee acceptance patterns and history by the Conference Board’s Kareem El-Assal, in preparation for their April Immigration Summit:

Should Canada meet its Syrian refugee pledge, we can expect to see several interesting developments in 2016. Canada’s combined intake of refugees across all categories and source countries will likely exceed 30,000 for the first time since 2006, and could surpass 40,000 for the first time since 1992, which would mark only the fifth such occasion since 1979. Canada’s intake of resettled refugees in 2016 is set to exceed 20,000 for the first time since 1992.

Another noteworthy statistic: should Canada meet its pledged amount of 23,000 Syrian GARs in 2016, it will result in the largest number of refugees arriving to Canada through government assistance in a calendar year since 1957, when Canada helped land over 32,000 Hungarian refugees.

While the number of Syrians arriving will likely fall short of the number of boat people resettled between 1975 and 1980, the total of Syrian refugees admitted into Canada by December 2016 could well surpass the Hungarian arrivals in 1956–57 as Canada’s second-largest post-Second World War resettlement effort ever, underscoring the historical magnitude of Canada’s Syrian refugee commitment.

On April 4–5, 2016, in Ottawa, we will be discussing refugee settlement and integration, and other pressing immigration issues, at The Conference Board of Canada’s 2016 Immigration Summit.

The Summit will engage participants in thought-provoking dialogue, and share national and international best-practice solutions to the challenges we face in improving our immigration system. Click here to become involved.

Source: 2016: A Record-Setting Year for Refugee Resettlement in Canada?