Where are the immigrants in Canada’s policy debates?

Good commentary by Keith Banting:

COVID-19 is the great revealer. It has revealed yawning gaps in Canada’s current patchwork of social programs, which manifestly failed to cope with the crisis. Emergency measures such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and wage subsidies had to be rushed into place simply to keep individuals, families and the economy afloat.

Other fatal limitations soon appeared. Lax regulation of long-term care facilities had tragic consequences for thousands of vulnerable elderly, a crisis which required the emergency deployment of military health personnel in our two largest provinces. More broadly, the pandemic shone a harsh light on inequality in Canada. Many ‘essential’ workers had to travel to work for low pay in infectious workplaces, while the professional middle class worked from the safety of their homes, with little if any hit to their incomes.

These burdens were not shared equally across Canada’s diverse society. The economic and health impacts were greatest in the case of women, recent immigrants, racialized minorities, and members of the First Nations. An analysis by Statistics Canada documents the economic hit. Poverty rates were already high among recent immigrants and racialized communities before the pandemic, but the gaps grew during the crisis, with recent immigrants and racialized communities among the hardest hit. Poverty rates increased most in the South Asian, Chinese, Black, Korean, Arab, Latin American and West Asians communities.

With emergency programs set to wind down, Canadians are engaged in an intense debate over how to ‘build back better’ by improving our social programs. The agenda is larger and more complex than at any time in recent memory.

Income security programs are front and centre. There is pressure to expand eligibility for Employment Insurance to include contingent workers and more of the self-employed. Additional options range from incremental change, such as expanding the existing Canada Workers Benefit, to radical change, such as the introduction of some form of Basic Income.

Other reformers prefer to tackle precarious work, not through income transfers, but through market-shaping policies. Too many workers are in low paying jobs that lack any guarantee of sufficient hours, job security, or sick leave. From this perspective, Canada needs tougher labour market policies, including higher minimum wages and stronger worker rights, to ensure all jobs pay a living wage that can support a dignified life.

Beyond the world of incomes and wages, the social policy agenda extends to the improvement of core services, such as an expansion of childcare and a much stronger long-term care sector. In addition, stronger protections for temporary foreign workers, especially in the agricultural sector, are clearly essential.

Income security, market protections, stronger services: This is a huge agenda.

Canada needs tougher labour market policies, including higher minimum wages and stronger worker rights

Immigrant groups, however, have an ambiguous place in this great debate. With many recent immigrants and racialized minorities working in precarious, low-wage, unsafe jobs, their interests are deeply affected by the political struggle. Many of them would benefit the options on the table. Despite this, the politics of race and immigrant integration are unlikely to play a distinctive, energizing role in the political struggle. The issues are being framed around generic or ‘universal’ workers and their needs. This is the standard way of thinking about social policy in Canada.

The 2015 election provides an earlier example. The Liberal Party promised to raise taxes on high-income earners, cut taxes for the middle class and significantly expand child benefits, which help low-income families most. Strikingly, there was virtually no mention of race and racial minorities during the election debates. Rather, the Liberals presented their package designed to help “the middle-class and those working hard to join it.” Many racial minority families with children, including newly arrived Syrian refugee families, were significant beneficiaries when the new Liberal government significantly expanded child benefits. But racial inequality was not part of the politics that drove policy expansion.

Admittedly, there may be benefits in this generic framing. In the United States and Europe, many commentators argue that ethnic and racial diversity erodes a sense of community, weakens feelings of trust in fellow citizens, and fragments coalitions that might otherwise support social programs. They fear that members of the majority public might be reluctant to support social programs that give money to ‘strangers’ who are not part of ‘us’.

So far, such corrosive politics have been muted in Canada. Nevertheless, one cannot help but wonder whether the politics of diversity might bring added energy to social policy struggles. The Black Lives Matter movement is bringing much needed pressure on the justice system. But it is not part of the social policy debate. This framing of social policy, with its limited acknowledgement of the diversity of those whose interests are at stake, is a little unsettling, a sign perhaps that Canada is not fully comfortable in its own social reality.

Source: Where are the immigrants in Canada’s policy debates?

Douglas Todd: Progressives wrestle with dilemma on migration

Good nuanced summary of the various research:

It’s called the “progressive’s dilemma,” a term popularized by two Canadian scholars of multiculturalism. It describes the way people with left-of-centre views often find themselves in a fix on the issue of migration.

They become ensnared by a 21st-century debate over whether a higher immigration rate weakens domestic support for social-welfare programs. Most scholars conclude it generally does: The main questions they’re now trying to answer are to what extent and why.

Since “progressives” tend to support both strong immigration and a generous social-safety net, they are put in a bind, say Canadian scholars Keith Banting and Will Kymlicka. It’s why Canadians are often in some denial about the correlation between in-migration and support for a welfare society.

Most Americans and Europeans do not shy away from the problem, however, even if they sometimes exaggerate it. The influential Harvard economists Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser maintain Western European countries have more generous welfare societies than the U.S. (and to some extent Canada) because their populations are more ethnically “homogeneous,” which makes it harder for European taxpayers to “demonize” the poor.

With the ratio of foreign-born residents expanding in many Western countries, a small army of researchers continue to test the theories of Alesina and Glaeser, to pin down where and when immigration might hurt popular support for such things as universal health care, unemployment insurance, social housing, maternity benefits and welfare.

It’s a distinctly First World problem, but not in a trivial sense.

The “progressive’s dilemma” only applies to advanced, democratic countries that welcome immigrants. Since most large or developing countries either don’t seek immigrants or don’t have significant social programs, there are relatively few nations in which progressives have to struggle with the trade-off.

It’s telling that one of the most important studies into whether immigration undermines support for a liberal safety net focuses on just 17 countries (including Canada), which University of California sociologist David Brady and Ryan Finnigan, of Berlin, chose because they are affluent, long-standing democracies.

Some First World progressives believe it’s best this topic, in the name of tolerance and diversity, not be publicly aired. But Finnigan and Brady (the latter is the author of Rich Democracies, Poor People), say that “of course it is reasonable to ask” whether immigration undermines public support for social programs.

“Immigration is changing labour markets, reconfiguring ethnic composition and altering the politics of affluent democracies,” Finnigan and Brady write. “In the past few decades, there has been rapid growth in immigration to affluent democracies. In recent years, there has seemingly been an even more rapid growth in concern for the political consequences of immigration to the welfare state.”

They see weaknesses in the theories of the Harvard economists, who basically maintain the U.S. has more stingy welfare policies because the country is more ethnically diverse than Western Europe and more prone to racial rivalry (partly because of a history of black slavery and undocumented migration from Hispanic countries).

Yet they maintain their findings “do not actually contradict” Alesina and Glaeser. Even though Finnigan and Brady found through their comprehensive study that rising immigration rates do not necessarily erode support for unemployment insurance and pensions, they did discover a conflict over job programs.

When a sample of residents of affluent nations were asked if they supported government programs that would “provide jobs for everyone who wants one,” there was significant resistance.

The authors believe that domestically born people often see immigrants as a “threat” and “competition” for limited jobs (and, to a lesser extent, for social housing and universal health care).

“Individuals with low education, those with low income, and the unemployed tend to be both anti-immigrant and pro-welfare,” say Finnigan and Brady, referring to the way policies that increase migration make some members of the host society feel more “instability, vulnerability and insecurity.”

The authors also point out a common fallacy: That North Americans often mis-label European political parties that want to lower immigration rates as “far-right.” The reality, they say, is many of Europe’s so-called extreme-right parties actually champion the left-wing values of a welfare society.

How foreign-born populations are growing in 17 affluent countries. (Source: David Brady, Ryan Finnigan)

What are the consequences of all this for Canada?

There is cause for concern, since the federal Liberals are increasing immigration rates at the same time immigrants are relying in greater numbers on social assistance than native-born Canadians, according to UBC economists Craig Riddell and David Green and Carleton University’s Christopher Worswick.

“Before 2000, social assistance receipt among immigrants was generally below that of the native-born (in Canada), but recently it has consistently been higher,” Riddell et al say in Policy Options.

“These trends imply that newly arrived immigrants are a net drag on government budgets: they pay less in taxes on average and make average or slightly above average use of government services and benefits. Second-generation immigrants do well, which may offset this net drag to some extent, but the initial impact of a large increase in immigration should be expected to be an increase in taxes, a decrease in services, an increase in deficits, or some combination of the three.”

The “progressive’s dilemma” is also exacerbated in places like Metro Vancouver, in part because the region is a popular destination for wealthy trans-national migrants, who some real-estate analysts, such as Richard Wozny, say are not paying their fair share of taxes. It’s led to the rise of domestic housing-affordability organizations, such as Housing Action for Local Taxpayers (HALT).

For his part, Banting acknowledges there is increasing danger the “progressive’s dilemma” could develop into a bigger predicament in Canada.

Canadians’ over-riding commitment to a “multicultural identity” has served as a kind of “cultural glue,” Banting said, thus forestalling broad antagonism to immigration based on fears it will reduce support for the country’s welfare policies (which, in terms of generosity, lie somewhere in between those in the U.S. and northern Europe).

“But past successes can never be taken for granted,” Banting says. “The slowing economic integration of newcomers has increased their need for support, and their average benefits now exceed those of the native-born. … As a result, we seem to be heading toward territory that has proven politically combustible elsewhere.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Progressives wrestle with dilemma on migration

Immigration, intolerance and the ‘populist paradox’: Ibbitson on Banting

Good summary of Keith Banting’s talk at the recent Conference Board of Canada’s Immigration Summit (and his earlier talk on the Hill), although with more of a pessimistic spin than Banting:

We may think most Canadians support the federal government’s wide-open immigration policy, which has made Canada a beacon of tolerance in this increasingly intolerant world, but the reality is more worrying.

Support for immigration in Canada is soft and vulnerable. Governments must act to strengthen it, if this country is to avoid the polarization and conflict afflicting the United States and much of Europe.

These are the findings of Keith Banting, who researches public policy at Queen’s University. Prof. Banting and I each gave a talk on immigration policy at a recent gathering sponsored by the Conference Board of Canada. This column is based on his remarks, which were much more interesting than mine.

Six out of 10 Canadians support the federal government’s target of accepting 300,000 immigrants a year, the highest intake per capita of any country in the developed world, according to a 2016 Environics poll. But four in 10 do not, and almost six in 10 believe that “too many immigrants do not adopt Canadian values.” Support for both immigration and multiculturalism – which welcomes diverse cultures within the Canadian mosaic – is far from universal.

Canadians, Prof. Banting believes, are every bit as susceptible as Americans or Britons or Poles to a lethal combination of economic insecurity and cultural anxiety. Many of us fear we may lose our job to a machine or to a foreigner in an overseas factory, even as the 1 per cent accrue more and more of the common wealth.

And some descendants of Canada’s settler culture fear that their Christian, European heritage is being overwhelmed by new arrivals from developing countries.

Meanwhile, a string of terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere contributes to the fear that some newcomers or their descendants seek to do us harm.

Drawing on attitudinal research by former graduate students and the Queen’s University Multicultural Policy Index (http://www.queensu.ca/mcp), Prof. Banting paints a much more ambiguous picture of support for multiculturalism in Canada.

“The population could roughly be divided three ways,” he argues. “One third of Canadians really don’t support multiculturalism. One third are enthusiastic multiculturalists. And one third are what you could call ‘soft multiculturalists’: They support the current policies, but with reservations. And that support could change.”

Canadians living outside Quebec roughly correspond with Americans when asked whether they support such policies as allowing religious headgear for police officers and members of the military (about six in 10 oppose), requiring employers to make a special effort to hire minorities and immigrants (about four in 10 oppose), being allowed to wear a hijab (the Muslim head scarf) while walking down the street (about two in 10 oppose) and other markers of multicultural tolerance.

In responding to many of the questions, people in Quebec showed less multicultural tolerance than either Americans or Canadians outside Quebec.

Could such ambiguous support for multiculturalism lead to the creation of a populist, nationalist, anti-immigrant political party in Canada? Not immediately, Prof. Banting believes. For one thing, most Canadians who confess to economic insecurity do not blame immigrants for that insecurity. Eight Canadians in 10 agree with the statement: “The economic impact of immigrants is positive.”

As well, Prof. Banting refers to what has been called the “populist paradox.” There are so many immigrants and children of immigrants in Canada – 20 per cent of our population was not born in this country – that no political party can win government without their support.

These two factors make the rise of someone like a Donald Trump or a Marine Le Pen – the nativist French leader who came second in that country’s recent presidential election – less likely in Canada.

But the undercurrents of dissatisfaction are real. Canadian governments must repeatedly and convincingly demonstrate the importance of immigration to economic growth in this country. And they must confront the causes of income inequality and the fears fuelled by it.

Conservatives and progressives will address those priorities in different ways. But they must always keep them front and centre. Canada’s future depends on it.

Source: Immigration, intolerance and the ‘populist paradox’ – The Globe and Mail

Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies

Map2010The comparative work by Keith Banting and Will Kymlicka of Queen’s University. A wealth of detailed and general information in this site.

Expect that Australia’s score will change following the change in government.

Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies – Home.