Quebec’s 2022 immigration plan is not enough to address labour shortages

The fallacy lies in repeating business arguments about immigration being the solution rather than being one element in addressing labour shortages. On the other hand, if the federal government and other provinces continue with expanded immigration levels, Quebec’s share of the population will continue to decline, leading to declining seats in Parliament in relative if not absolute terms.

And I suspect that immigration levels will not feature greatly in next year’s provincial election, given identity-related issues like Bills 21 and 96, along with federal-provincial relations and respective roles:

This morning, the province announced it would welcome up to 52,500 new permanent residents in 2022.

Unfortunately, the province continues to fall short of the targets it needs to support stronger economic growth.

Quebec currently has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada. Its unemployment rate was 5.9 per cent in September compared with 7.1 per cent nationally. One of the reasons for its low unemployment rate is Quebec has one of Canada’s oldest populations. Over 20 per cent of Quebec’s population is aged 65-and-older, compared with 18.5 per cent nationally. Quebec also has a birth rate that is just as low as the national average, and one of the country’s lowest immigration rates per capita. When you put all this together, the province is facing significant labour shortages. According to Statistics Canada, Quebec is seeing among the highest increases in job vacancies in the country.

Labour shortages are problematic for several reasons. They make it difficult for employers to operate at full capacity, which makes it difficult for them to serve the needs of consumers. This, in turn, makes it difficult for employers to make investments, which hurts job creation and economic growth.

The topic of labour shortages has featured in Quebec media headlines throughout 2021 with stakeholders pointing to the need for higher immigration as part of the solution to better meet the province’s labour market needs.

For instance, the President of the Quebec Employers’ Council wrote an article in July providing ten solutions to tackle worker shortages, two of which pertained to increasing immigration levels and reforming the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). In September, Quebec Manufacturers and Exporters published a report that labour shortages cost the province $18 billion over the past two years, and it also called for more immigrants to help solve this problem.

To put Quebec’s immigration figures into context, the province was targeting the arrival of some 50,000 immigrants annually until it elected a new government in the fall of 2018. The Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) party successfully campaigned on a promise to reduce immigration by 20 per cent due to its believe more needed to be done to improve newcomer integration in the province. Under its first plan, CAQ set a target of welcoming a maximum of 41,800 immigrants in 2019.

Welcoming 50,000 new immigrants per year prior to 2019 was already low, so CAQ’s new policy created even greater pressure on the province’s economy. Even though Quebec has the authority to set its own immigration targets (an authority no other province or territory has), it continues to choose to welcome just 12 per cent of all newcomers to Canada, despite it being home to 23 per cent of Canada’s population. On a per capita basis, Quebec is now aiming for an immigration rate of 0.6 per cent. This pales in comparison to the immigration rate of 1 per cent that the Canadian government is pursuing under the Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023.

It is important to stress that higher levels of immigration will not solve all of Quebec’s labour market challenges. Analysts and commentators point out that a variety of solutions are needed such as more skills training and helping marginalized members of society access job opportunities. At the same time, immigration is a key part of the equation.

So, what is an optimal level of immigration for Quebec?

Given how significant the province’s demographic and labour force challenges are, a strong case can be made Quebec needs to set much higher levels.

A good benchmark would be setting Quebec’s immigrate rate at the same level as the targets currently being pursued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

This means that given its population of some 8.4 million people, it may be wise for Quebec to pursue an immigration target of 84,000 immigrants per year.

This figure may seem high but it would be in line with the national average and would allow Quebec’s immigration rate to catch up after lagging the rest of the country for many years. It would be difficult to increase immigration this dramatically in a short period of time, but the province could set a multi-year plan to gradually reach this figure within five years or so.

At the end of the day, however, CAQ was democratically elected and was given a mandate by voters to keep immigration in the province low. Nonetheless, CAQ also has a mandate to increase the prosperity of its province, and seeking higher newcomer levels without compromising integration is a key element of a prosperous Quebec.

Now that the province’s 2022 plan has been set, we can not expect Quebec’s immigration targets to be adjusted within the next year. But, by this time next year, Quebec voters will head to the ballot box to decide who will lead their next government. At that point, CAQ and opposition parties will have the chance to share their vision of the future for Quebec, including what each party feels is an appropriate level of immigration to support the province’s economy.

Source: Quebec’s 2022 immigration plan is not enough to address labour shortages

Former BC DM Wright: Rhetoric vs. Results: Shaping Policy to Benefit Canada’s Middle Class – Immigration excerpt questioning approach

Interesting and relevant paper on rebalancing policy priorities. Excerpt on immigration of note:

Some nuance on immigration policy, please (it’s GDP per capita, stupid!)

There is a growing push from opinion leaders and decision makers to

significantly raise the level of immigration.[19] The current federal government has raised the target for annual immigration levels and seems on a path to raise it further down the road.

Let me state upfront that I am in favour of maintaining immigration at significant levels. Over the past 60 years Canada has evolved into a wonderful multiethnic, multicultural nation. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have issues with tolerance and inequitable socioeconomic outcomes. But the general view of the

population is that immigration continues to be positive for Canada.[20] Furthermore, Canada has a moral obligation to do its share of ameliorating the suffering of the millions of refugees created from regional wars, civil wars, ethnic cleansing and failed states.

Given the emphasis in this paper on the essential need for tightness in the labour market, however, it is important to consider whether higher immigration levels will be helpful or harmful in re-establishing a rising standard of living.

The rationale for the need to increase immigration levels weaves together four elements:

  1. To offset the challenges of the aging baby-boomer bulge in the population pyramid;
  2. To keep GDP growing by increasing the labour supply and the demand for goodsand services;
  3. To realize greater economies of scale; and
  4. To supply employers with the workers they cannot find.

The first of these sounds reasonable on the face of it. But there is much less

there than one might suppose. The age structure of immigrants is not that different from the existing population in Canada. On average it is somewhat younger, but not dramatically so. This is because, in addition to prime working age adults and their children, the immigration mix also includes family class parents and grandparents. This has led at least one analyst to joke that the only way immigration could be a solution to the population pyramid problem is if Canada only accepted 15-year-old orphans as immigrants.

A recent analysis[21] shows that “changes in immigration levels have impacts on the margin only: no increase within the realm of practicality can prevent population aging. Other policies to ease the demographic transition, notably encouraging people to work longer are at least as powerful.” The authors calculate that Canada would need to raise immigration levels to 1.4 million a year to even out the population pyramid. In 2019, 341,000 — a record level — arrived in Canada.

The second is more than a little specious, hence the somewhat rude subtitle for this sub-section. Almost daily news items quote somebody of influence saying the only way to increase the rate of growth of GDP is to increase immigration. Some interests will benefit from increasing immigration levels — employers who would prefer a buyers’ labour market to a sellers’ labour market, the real estate industry, financial institutions that provide mortgages and people who already own their homes. But the critical metric is not GDP; it is GDP per capita and how it is distributed.


Immigration Can Offset US Population Decline | Cato at Liberty Blog

Cato Institute’s reply to the CIS post highlighting the limits of immigration in addressing an aging population ( Immigration and the Aging Society ). Not convinced. And like all immigration debates, the question is one of balance and understanding the limits of immigration in addressing ongoing policy and demographic issues:

The U.S. population is growing slowly and the average age of Americans is increasing as a result. Although the United States is not as old as other countries and likely to age better, the future looks demographically grim. Some social scientists and commentators think that boosting immigration can help delay or reverse those trends. Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, makes a series of silly argumentsagainst the notion that immigration can slow the aging of the U.S. population. Camarota’s points below are in quotes and my responses follow.

In reality, a significant body of research shows that the impact of immigration on population aging is small. While immigration can certainly make our population larger, it does not make us dramatically younger.

Camarota might be correct that the current and historically low rate of immigration to the United States doesn’t much lower the average age of the population, but that does not mean that immigration could not lower the average age if it were expanded. He merely shows that current U.S. immigration policy, which is very restrictive and much closer to his ideal level than mine, cannot much affect the average age. We shouldn’t expect a restrictive immigration system that allows in, at least prior to the immigration restrictions adopted by President Trump and partly maintained by President Biden (so far), a number of immigrants roughly equal to 0.3 percent of the population annually to have a big effect on the average age of the population. In 2018, 32 OECD countries had higher immigration flows as a percent of their populations and only five had lower flows, relative to the United States. Camarota’s point does not rebut the argument that expanded immigration would lower the average age and expand U.S. population.

But demographers have known for a long time that, absent truly gargantuan and ever‐​increasing rates of immigration, it isn’t actually possible for immigrants to undo or dramatically slow the overall aging of society. As Oxford demographer David Coleman observes, ‘it is already well known that [immigration] can only prevent population ageing at unprecedented, unsustainable and increasing levels of inflow.’

Do demographers know that? I looked up the source of the quote by David Coleman, former British MP and member of the Galton Institute. Camarota clipped a portion of a longer quote that makes a slightly different point. Coleman’s full quote is: “Although immigration can prevent population decline, it is already well known that it can only prevent population ageing at unprecedented, unsustainable and increasing levels of inflow, which would generate rapid population growth and eventually displace the original population from its majority position [Camarota’s quote italicized].”

Coleman agrees that immigration can prevent population decline. He identifies two problems with more immigration: It would “generate rapid population growth and eventually displace the original population from its majority position.” Rapid population growth is one of the many goals of those of us who favor liberalized immigration, so I have no argument with Coleman there. We simply disagree as I believe that population growth is positive and he thinks it’s negative. When it comes to “displace the original population from its majority position,” Coleman means that immigrants and their descendants would eventually become the majority of the population in the United Kingdom at a high level of immigration.

There’s no good reason for Camarota to find that shocking as it has happened at least once in U.S. history. As sociologist Charles Hirschman pointed out, the population of the United States today would only be about 100 million if immigration had stopped in 1800. Since the current population is about 330 million, that means most Americans are immigrants or the descendants of post‐​1800 immigrants. That doesn’t mean that boosted immigration would be “unprecedented” or “unsustainable.” It sounds like a return to immigration normality for Americans.

There are four broad reasons why the demography doesn’t support the political credo. First, not all immigrants arrive young — in fact, a growing share are arriving at or near retirement age. Second, immigrants age just like everyone else, adding to the elderly population over time. Third, immigrant fertility rates tend to converge with those of the native born. Fourth, to the extent that immigrants do have higher fertility rates than the native born, their children add to the dependent population — those too young or old to work.

Camarota’s first point is a curious criticism of the current restrictive immigration system. If this is his concern, why not just increase legal immigration opportunities for younger immigrants? Camarota’s second point somewhat answers that criticism – because “immigrants age just like everyone else, adding to the elderly population over time.” After all, newborn babies age too and will one day retire, which is a particularly poor argument against having children or increasing immigration.

Camarota’s third point is that immigrants assimilate. While a surprising admission from Camarota given his research, immigrants and their children still increase the population, and it takes time for immigrant fertility to approach that of natives – which he admits in his next point. Camarota’s fourth point is that immigrants have higher fertility rates that produce children who are also dependents.

To sum up, Camarota thinks that our current immigration system doesn’t help reduce the ratio of dependents to workers, immigrants age like everybody else, immigrant fertility shrinks too rapidly, and immigrant fertility doesn’t shrink fast enough.

The Census Bureau also estimates that, in 2060, 59% of the population will be of working age. Again, this is based on the assumption that net migration will amount to an average of 1.1 million each year. Under a zero‐​immigration scenario, just under 57% of the population would be of working age. In other words, while immigration is projected to add 75 million people to the American population by 2060, it will only increase the working‐​age share of the population by about two percentage points. Even if annual net immigration were expanded by 50% above what the Census Bureau projects, so that it averaged about 1.65 million a year, it would still only increase the working‐​age share of the population by three percentage points.

In other words, Camarota writes that the U.S. can increase immigration by 50 percent and have a working‐​age share of the population in 2060 similar to what it would otherwise be in 2027 or, on the extreme other side, 2060 America will look like Japan will in 2032. The percentage point spread is small, but the social, economic, and fiscal impacts are larger than they appear. Japan’s looming population collapse is terrifying and a few percentage points difference caused by expanded legal immigration can delay it for decades or longer. Even better, expanding legal immigration is a lot cheaper than birth subsidies.

You can read the rest of Camarota’s piece as it merely expands upon his points, offers some politically correct suggestions for reforming entitlement programs, and adds more figures. Nowhere does Camarota contest the obvious counterargument that immigration’s currently small effects on America’s age distribution result from very restrictive immigration policies.

The U.S. fiscal imbalance is a serious problem created by a poorly designed entitlement system. Declining U.S. fertility exacerbated the problem of the fiscal imbalance in a way that a well‐​designed system would not face. In addition to that, a growing population is correlated with increasing prosperity over the long term. More people mean more ideas, workers, consumers, investors, as well as potential friends, neighbors, and family members.

The worldwide and American increase in economic output from expanded legal immigration would be large and much of it could be captured to resolve the fiscal imbalance – at least for a few more generations. According to some estimates, massively expanded immigration would place the United States in an unassailable economic position. Allowing Americans and immigrants to interact as they see fit would also be a more ethical policy. In short, there are many reasons to support expanding legal immigration, and reversing expected US population decline is one of them, despite what Neo‐​Malthusians say.

Source: Immigration Can Offset US Population Decline | Cato at Liberty Blog

Increased Immigration is Not A Simple Solution for US Population Woes

I do not normally agree with the Center for Immigration Studies, with its general anti-immigration work, but this analysis largely mirrors my own concerns regarding the arguments of Canadian advocates for increased immigration:

Conventional wisdom has developed that the United States desperately needs more immigration to address the supposed twin evils of population aging and slowing population growth. The 2020 Census showing the U.S. grew by “only” 22.7 million over the last decade has prompted a new round of calls to expand immigration.

In fact, immigration does not make the population substantially younger unless the level is truly enormous and ever-increasing. Moreover, there is no body of research showing that higher rates of population growth necessarily make a country richer on a per-person basis. Advocates of mass immigration also ignore the downsides of larger populations, as well as the more effective and less extreme alternatives that exist for dealing with an aging society.

Despite this reality, Jay Evensen of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News argues that the slowdown in population growth revealed by the Census “portends a population disaster.” Bloomberg News’ Noah Smith thinks lower population growth creates a “grim economic future.”

Many commentators argue for increasing immigration above the more than one million already allowed in each year to spur population growth and “rebuild the demographic pyramid,” as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush famously put it in 2013. But as the former director of Princeton’s graduate program in population studies, Thomas Espenshade, observed a number of years ago, “the effect of alternative immigration levels on population age structure is small, unless we are willing to entertain a volume of U.S. immigration of historic proportion.”

To illustrate, the Census Bureau’s “low-immigration” scenario produces a U.S. population of 376 million in 2060, compared to 447 million under its “high-immigration” scenario — a 71 million difference. Under its low-immigration scenario, 56 percent of the population will be working-age (18-64) in 2060, compared to 57 percent under its high-immigration scenario. Thus, the addition of 71 million people raises the working-age share by just one percentage point.

One reason the impact is so modest is that immigrants are not uniformly young when they arrive — many now come in their 50s and 60s — and they grow old over time just like everyone else. Moreover, immigrant fertility now only slightly exceeds native-born fertility, and their children add to the dependent population — those too young or too old to work. Of course, these children eventually grow up and become workers, but by then many of their immigrant parents will be at or near retirement age.

Given the inefficiency of immigration as a tool to address population aging, immigration advocate Justin Gest at George Mason University is forced to propose unprecedented levels of future immigration to accelerate population growth and slow population aging. In a piece for CNN and a report for the immigration advocacy group, he argues for doubling immigration to the United States to make the country “younger, more productive, and richer.”

Gest’s own projections show that the current level of immigration will make the U.S. population 74 million larger in 2050 than if there was no immigration, while doubling immigration would add another 92 million people by 2050.

Gest emphasizes that making the population 166 million larger increases the aggregate size of the economy significantly. More workers, more consumers, and more government spending does make for a larger GDP. But a larger population means the larger GDP is spread out over more people, so each individual is not necessarily better off. If all that mattered was the overall size of the economy, Bangladesh would be considered a richer country than New Zealand. Of course, what really determines the standard of living in a country is its per capita GDP.

Gest claims that the 74 million additional people that the current level of immigration would add will raise per capita income by 4 percent in 2050, relative to no immigration. He further asserts that doubling immigration would, along with an additional 92 million people, increase average income by another 3 percent. The idea behind this calculation is that if there are more workers — or more specifically, if a larger share of the population is of working-age — the average income of the entire population will be higher.

What is so striking about these numbers is that even if everything Gest argues is true, adding a total of 166 million people to the country — more than the combined populations of France and Germany — in just three decades only modestly improves per capita economic growth. But even this small increase is an overestimate if the new immigrants crowd out some existing workers from the labor force. There is certainly evidence that this happens with teenagers and Black Americans.

In the real world, it is hard to find evidence that population growth actually increases per capita economic growth. For example, if population growth were such an economic boon, then countries like Canada and Australia, which have among the highest rates of immigration and resulting population growth in the developed world, would dramatically outpace a country like Japan, which has relatively little immigration and a declining population. And yet, between 2010 and 2019, Japan’s per capita GDP growth was slightly higher than Canada’s and Australia’s. Among all developed countries, the correlation between population growth and per capita economic growth was actually negative between 2010 and 2019.

One of the reasons population growth is not associated with economic growth is that increasing the supply of workers reduces incentives to improve productivity. Looking across countries, a 2017 study by Ronald Lee and Andrew Mason found that “low fertility is not a serious economic challenge.” Instead, they find that “The effect of low fertility on the number of workers and taxpayers has been offset by greater human capital investment, enhancing the productivity of workers.” There is simply no reason to assume that a larger population will necessarily be richer.

Putting aside economics, making the population 166 million larger or even 74 million larger than it would otherwise be has important environmental implications. While population is not the only factor that determines human impact on the environment, it does have a direct bearing on everything from preventing further habitat loss to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

One can debate the severity of climate change and how best to address it. But mathematically, if the total population is 166 million (50 percent) larger in 2050 than it would otherwise be, then each person would have to reduce their greenhouse gases admission by roughly one-third just to maintain the current level of emissions, to say nothing of lowering levels. As Joseph Chamie, the former director of the United Nations Population Division, pointed out in The Hill recently, stabilizing America’s population is necessary “to deal effectively with climate change and many other critical environmental concerns.”

In addition to the environment, making the population dramatically larger must also have profound implications for the quality of life. Most Americans aspire to live in areas with a fair amount of open space. A 2018 Gallup poll found, by a two-to-one margin, that Americans want to live in rural areas or suburbs. The rapid suburbanization of immigrants shows that they share this desire. Significantly increasing the nation’s population density is likely to make it more difficult for many Americans to live the way they want to.

There is also the issue of traffic. As a Brookings Institution analysis a number of years ago concluded, “The most obvious reason traffic congestion has increased everywhere is population growth.” Traffic congestion alone has been estimated to cost the American economy $120 billion annually. Both the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Department of Transportation have reported that the nation’s roads are in a state of disrepair and need significant upgrades. It is hard to imagine that adding tens of millions more people in just 30 years would not create even more congestion.

If we are concerned about population aging, there are far less radical ways to address it. Projections by Karen Zeigler and myself show that raising the retirement age by just one year increases the share of the population that is working-age (16-64) about as much as all of the immigration expected by the Census Bureau through 2050. Increasing it by three years improves it more than does doubling immigration. We also found that increasing the share of working-age people who have a job from the pre-Covid rate of 70 percent to 75 percent would do more to improve the overall share of the population who are actually workers in 2050 than would the current level of immigration.

Population boosters assume a larger population would be a boon to the economy, even though there is no clear evidence that this is the case. They also ignore the negative impact on the environment, congestion, traffic, and other qualify of life issues. There are more effective, less radical, and more environmentally sustainable ways to deal with the challenges associated with population aging than using an ever-increasing level of immigration to dramatically increase the population.

Dr. Steven Camarota is director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Source: Increased Immigration is Not A Simple Solution for US Population Woes

My latest: Increasing immigration to boost population? Not so fast.

In Policy Options:

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney recently called for a government white paper on immigration to support the Century Initiative’s advocacy in favour of a Canada of 100 million people by 2100. Immigration is seen as the most likely way to address Canada’s aging population and ensure there are a sufficient number of working adults to pay for increased health care and other costs of seniors, with calls for more than 80 per cent of Canada’s population growth to be due to immigration.

In many ways, this has parallels with the Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada initiated under a Liberal government in the early 1980s that paved the way for the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement under the Conservative Mulroney government.

While a comprehensive and independent look at our immigration policies and programs is merited, any such review should take a critical look at Canada’s current and future needs, what fundamental questions need to be asked and the realities of what an increase would entail across Canadian society.

In the short term, we need to consider what the experience of past economic downturns tells us about immigrant economic outcomes. Statistics Canada’s Feng Hou gave a presentation in January of this year regarding the labour market outcomes during the COVID-19 lockdown and recovery. That presentation pointed out that following the 1990-91 recession, many recent immigrants were unemployed and under-employed, leading to criticism that Canada was overselling immigration. In contrast, immigrants arriving around the time of the 2008-9 recession were largely unscathed. It is too early to tell whether immigrant outcomes will resemble the deep and prolonged impact of 1990-91 or the minimal impact of 2008-9.

However, given what we know about which sectors (hospitality, travel, retail) and which groups (women, immigrants and visible minorities) have been most affected during COVID-19, how confident should we be that these sectors and groups will bounce back quickly? Will increased immigration exacerbate the difficulties these sectors and groups face? How likely is increased immigration to result in improved working conditions and equality for those we now recognize as “essential workers?”

In the longer term, it is striking the relative lack of attention regarding what sectors and workers are more likely to be vulnerable to automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and remote work, particularly in the context of setting a target some 80 years from now. Will professionals such as accountants, lawyers and other white-collar occupations become increasingly replaced in whole or in part? Will increased automation and AI result in “creative destruction” and new industry and job creation, or a further hollowing out of manufacturing? Will improved remote working technology lead to more offshoring and reduce the interest of moving and immigrating?

Only 8.7 per cent of recent immigrants settle outside our major urban areas. How realistic is the call for more immigrants to settle outside our major cities and urban areas? While the Provincial Nominee Program has had some success as have the various pilots (e.g., Atlantic, Northern and Remote), most new immigrants tend to settle in the larger provinces and urban centres. Government efforts to encourage immigration to francophone communities in English Canada continue to fall short of targets.

There are a number of other medium- and longer-term issues that will need to be addressed to successfully manage such growth.

To start, will governments invest in the public and private infrastructure needed to accommodate such growth, ranging from roads, transit, housing, health care, utilities and parks? Doug Saunders, in Maximum Canada, makes the convincing case that large-scale immigration requires these investments, along with other measures such as zoning to increase population density. However, experience to date suggests that Canadian governments have not done so, hampering growth and quality of life.

Canada already has difficulties meeting its climate change commitments. How likely is it that Canada will be able to do so with a significant increase in population creating further urban sprawl? Even if Canada manages to reduce emissions on a per-capita basis, a larger population will mean an overall increase in carbon emissions.

Will the general consensus among provincial governments in favour of more immigration increasingly confront the reality of Quebec’s reduced percentage of the Canadian population and the consequent increasing imbalance between population and representation in our various political and judicial institutions? How will Indigenous peoples, the fastest-growing group in Canada, perceive increased immigration, compared to addressing their socioeconomic and political issues?

The coalition that the Century Initiative is building in favour of increased immigration across the business community, non-governmental organizations, academics and others is impressive. The business community interest is clear: more immigrants mean more customers. But for any review or commission to be meaningful, it needs to engage with a broader group than those who already favour increased immigration and focus on per capita, rather than overall, growth.

Moreover, such a review has to question the fundamental premise that more immigration will “substantially alter Canada’s age structure and impending increase in the dependency ratio” when the available evidence suggests it will not.

A white paper that largely replicates the group think of the Century Initiative and related players rather than a much-needed more thoughtful and balanced discussion would be a disservice to Canadians.


How Australia can benefit from low or no immigration

A critical look, one that the Australian government appears to have largely adopted, but not going so far as “no immigration”:

For years there has been an often heated debate about the impact of high immigration on the Australian economy.

It is clear that population growth driven by some of the highest immigration levels in the world have supported bottom line GDP growth – the new Australians work, eat, live and spend.

High immigration has also fuelled strong demand for housing and was, at least in part, one of the divers of the unrelenting rise in house prices for many decades.

At the same time, population growth outpaced infrastructure capacity, most notably the transport networks in the big cities where most immigrants settled. Congestion was also seen in productivity destroying traffic chaos, overcrowded schools, hospitals and other government services.

Immigration was also a source of labour for many businesses, which has seen the government slash trade training funding, made university costs oppressive and generally undermined the skills set of many Australians.

If workers were needed to pick fruit, work as highly skilled engineers in the mines or IT gurus for businesses, the government simply granted work visas and the problem was solved.

Resources to train and upskill the 2 million Australians unemployed and underemployed – many of who do not have the skills needed in today’s economy – were hopelessly inadequate which is why, with the borders closed, there is a widespread skills shortage.

The benefits of high immigration were being offset or at least diluted by the costs.

COVID-19 and the border closures

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government effectively closed the international borders to immigrants.

Indeed, the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that more people are leaving Australia permanently than are arriving. This is the first time this has happened in 100 years.

A year after net immigration turned negative, there are some economic trends emerging that might give a few insights into the sort of immigration policy that is best for Australians after the COVID-19 pandemic is over or at least when we learn to live with the virus in an orderly way.

Perhaps the most obvious issue is a skills shortages among the current workforce which is sparking up opportunities for a long overdue acceleration in wages growth. Business are reporting it difficult to find suitable workers and for obvious reasons, this cannot be fixed by working visas and immigration.

A recent RBA survey of business shows expectations for wages growth is at its highest level in over a decade. Weak wages growth, for so long a problem for the Australian economy, is poised to turn with a substantial pick up in private sector wages unfolding.

It is well understood that rising wages growth will fuel household incomes and with that, consumer spending.

And the key thing about this wages growth is that firms are able to meet this higher wages bill given there has been solid growth in bottom line profits and margins as the economy expands.

Border closures are now linked to higher wages.

With the working from home phenomenon that has been experienced due to the COVID-19 restrictions, congestion in most CDBs and on public transport is less common. Again this is good news and if sustained, will ease the pressure on State budgets for future infrastructure spending. Fewer people are using existing public transport and roads.

While it is yet to be fully tested, there is tentative evidence that low immigration has reduced demand for residential property.

The mini-boom in house prices evident over the last 8 or 9 months has been driven by favourable affordability with first home buyers using stunningly low interest rates and a raft of financial incentives to get into the market and pay-up for their home.

New immigrants have, obviously, been absent from auctions of the queues for rental properties.

Immigration an election issue?

The next Federal election is less than a year away. It could even be in October as Prime Minister Morrison works to take advantage of the favourable economic news and as some of the measures in the budget start to impact on voters.

It is possible that immigration will be an election issue particularly if one side, or other, uses the good news from low immigration as part of a platform to improve the well being of Australians with strong per capita growth.

Of course, Australia needs to maintain its humanitarian immigration program, and when health conditions permit, this should resume.

But the bigger picture immigration program, which saw 1 million people arrive in the three years prior to COVID-19, needs to be scaled back even when the borders reopen.

If we go back to huge population growth in the years ahead, get set for weaker wages, further house price gains, pressure on infrastructure and higher unemployment.

Source: How Australia can benefit from low or no immigration

Quebec will raise immigration quotas, minister confirms

Looks like more catch-up for 2020 decline than an increase in planned levels:

Quebec will have no other choice but to significantly increase its immigration quotas, says the province’s minister on the file, Nadine Girault.

Girault said Thursday that the pandemic has suddenly slowed down the entry of newcomers to Quebec while it continues to grapple with severe labour shortages in several sectors.

Though she refuses to give precise numbers for the moment, Girault reported a “shortfall of nearly 17,000 or 18,000 people” immigrating to the province in her planning. 

Quebec received barely 25,000 immigrants in 2020, while the Legault government had expected to receive between 43,000 and 44,000.

The CAQ government significantly reduced immigration quotas when it came to power, cutting the target for total newcomers to around 40,000 for 2019, compared to some 50,000 annually under the previous Liberal government.

The goal of this reduction was, according to the slogan of the time, “En prendre moins, mais en prendre soin,” meaning “take less, but care for it better.”

Quebec then forecast annual growth that should have brought this threshold back to around 50,000 in 2022.


The pandemic, however, flouted these plans.

“Two years ago the situation was very, very different from what we are experiencing today,” said Girault during a joint announcement with Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante on funding newcomers’ integration into the city.

Citing a “deficit for 2020” in terms of immigration, Girault said Quebec “wants to catch up to these thresholds and we also want, as we said from the start three years ago, [to] increase the thresholds precisely because we wanted to welcome them better, integrate them better.”

The comment suggested the catching-up would be added to the increase already planned.


The agreement with Montreal provides for investments of $24 million over three years, funded equally between Quebec and the city, to facilitate the integration of new immigrants.

Roughly 70 per cent of immigrants who arrive in Quebec settle in Montreal. One of the goals of financial assistance is francization or integrating them into French-speaking life, authorities say.

“The reality of the metropolis presents challenges in terms of francization and integration,” said Girault. “If we want to ensure the survival of this francophone character of Montreal, we must take great strides so that immigrants can be part of the solution.”

Girault also pointed out in passing that her government had added $70 million to the francization effort in the last budget, bringing the total to $170 million.

Plante said the agreement “will give us the means to pursue our actions to promote [newcomers’] integration, their inclusion and their full participation in Montreal society.”

The sums will go to around 100 organizations, to support the completion of nearly 200 projects.

Source: Quebec will raise immigration quotas, minister confirms

‘We want you to stay’: Canada opens door to permanent residence for 90,000 international graduates and temporary workers with one-time program

One-time or a pilot? Addressing some long-standing equity issues. Doing so during a downturn when some sectors are unlikely to recover soon (e.g.., hospitality, travel, in person retail) is risky. Will be interesting to follow the economic outcomes of Permanent Residents that are admitted under this policy:

Canada is rolling out a one-time special immigration program to grant permanent residence to 90,000 recent international graduates as well as temporary foreign workers with work experience in essential occupations.

International students will qualify for the new program if they have graduated from an eligible post-secondary program within the past four years, after January 2017, and if they are currently employed. They do not need to be in a specific occupation to meet the requirements.

The program is also open to temporary foreign workers with at least one year of work experience in one of the 40 health-care occupations, as well as 95 other essential jobs across a range of fields, such as caregiving and food production and distribution.

This time-limited immigration pathway will take effect on May 5 and remain open until Nov. 5 or until the target is reached.

“The pandemic has shone a bright light on the incredible contributions of newcomers. These new policies will help those with a temporary status to plan their future in Canada, play a key role in our economic recovery and help us build back better,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said on Wednesday.

“Our message to them is simple: Your status may be temporary, but your contributions are lasting — and we want you to stay.”

The Liberal government has made immigration a critical part of Canada’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery with plans to welcome 401,000 permanent residents in 2021, after the annual intake of immigrants nosedived by 45.7 per cent last year to just 185,130.

The 90,000 intake under the new program will account for almost a quarter of this year’s overall immigration goal.

With the border remaining closed to non-essential travel, many would-be immigrants who have already been granted permanent residence have been unable to come to Canada. 

It has prompted officials to shift gears and focus more on prospective candidates who are already in Canada and normally would face a lengthier process to qualify.

In February, Ottawa raised eyebrows when it issued 27,332 invitations — five times more than its previous high of 5,000 people — to hopeful candidates already living in this country.

Mendicino said these are unprecedented steps taken to create “the fastest and broadest pathways” for permanent residency and toward achieving the 2021 immigration level plan through a series of “smart choices.”

“We need workers who possess a range of skills in a range of sectors within our economy to keep it going forward and accelerate our economic recovery,” he said.

“We value those who are highly educated, those who are highly skilled, but we also need people who work in the agriculture sector and in trades and construction sector who provide manual labour to build our communities. For too long, we haven’t been able to provide these pathways.”

Among the 90,000 spots of the program, 20,000 will be dedicated for temporary foreign workers in health care; 30,000 for those in other selected essential occupations; and the remaining 40,000 for international students who graduated from a Canadian institution.

All candidates must have proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages, meet general admissibility requirements; be authorized to work and be working in Canada at the time of their application to qualify. Migrants who are already out of legal status won’t be eligible.

To promote Canada’s official languages, three additional streams have also been created for French-speaking or bilingual candidates, with no intake caps.

The business community welcomed the new immigration pathways, saying the newcomers will strengthen Canada’s economy when they are needed most.

“They fill labour-market shortages, offset our aging population and broaden the tax base, thereby helping fund social and public services,” said Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, whose members represent all major industries in the country.

“COVID-19-related restrictions have hit Canada’s immigration system hard, significantly reducing the number of newcomers entering the country. The (immigration) minister’s plan addresses this challenge by welcoming urgently needed talent.”

Although the program opens up a short-term window for thousands of migrants who are able to meet restrictive criteria, advocates say it still maintains the fundamentals of the temporary immigration system that will continue to keep many migrants in limbo.

“This announcement is a start, but without fundamental change through granting full and permanent immigration status for all, it will simply not be enough,” said Syed Hussan, executive director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change based in Ontario.

Mendicino said the immigration department has recently hired an additional 62 officers to boost its processing capacity and the new program will only accept applications online to allow remote processing by staff, most of whom are still working from home.

He said processing immigration applicants within and outside of the country are not mutually exclusive, and officials will continue to process applications of those who are abroad because Canada needs immigrants to fill labour market needs and replenish an aging population.

These special public policies, he said, will encourage essential temporary workers and international graduates to put down roots in Canada and help retain the talented workers in need in the country.

“Imagine you’ve been asked to bring in the greatest number of permanent residents in the history of the country. People could’ve said, ‘Put a pause on immigration.’ We said no, because we believed we need to continue to grow our economy through immigration,” said Mendicino.

“Newcomers create jobs. They create growth. They give back to their community. They are rolling up their sleeves and invested in Canada”


IRCC requirements and eligible occupation list:

Faut-il vraiment réduire les seuils d’immigration?

Taking issue with the PQ position on reduced immigration levels (similar to Lisée’s arguments posted earlier):

Dans une lettre parue le 9 avril, l’économiste et président du Parti québécois, Dieudonné Ella Oyono, affirmait que, devant la rareté de main-d’œuvre qui touche plusieurs secteurs de l’économie québécoise, « augmenter les seuils d’immigration n’est pas une solution soutenable à long terme, ni du point de vue économique (chômage élevé) ni du point de vue social (pression sur les services publics). » Cette conclusion nous semble toutefois fondée sur des prémisses erronées.

La position que défend M. Oyono se base sur un examen du taux de chômage des immigrants reçus au Canada entre 2016 et 2020. Or, on devrait plutôt faire remonter l’analyse à 2006, puisque les données publiées à cet égard par Statistique Canada remontent à cette année. Il en ressort un portrait plus complet et on évite ainsi la comparaison avec 2020, une année atypique en raison de la pandémie.

Entre 2006 et 2019, le taux de chômage des immigrants reçus âgés de 15 ans et plus a diminué de 45 % au Québec, passant de 12,8 % à 7 %. Cette diminution s’est observée chez toutes les catégories d’immigrants, des plus récemment arrivés aux plus anciennement établis. Le taux de chômage de la population née au pays a pour sa part diminué de 38 % durant cette période, passant de 7,4 % à 4,6 %.

La raison de cette embellie est fort simple : depuis la crise de 2008, la croissance de l’économie a été soutenue, les baby-boomers ont quitté par milliers la population active après avoir atteint l’âge de la retraite, et le nombre de postes vacants dans les entreprises du Québec s’est multiplié, dont une majorité pour des emplois requérant peu de formation ou d’expérience. Cette situation a profité aux personnes récemment entrées sur le marché du travail, dont les personnes immigrantes.

Dans ce contexte, pourquoi se priverait-on de la contribution de celles et ceux qui ont le projet de s’installer au Québec, notamment pour pouvoir y vivre en français ? Selon un argument souvent mis en avant, plus le nombre de personnes immigrantes augmente dans un pays, plus il deviendrait difficile de les intégrer. Dans une étude parue en 2019, l’IRIS montrait au contraire que les États qui affichent les proportions les plus grandes d’immigrants sont aussi ceux qui les intègrent le mieux sur le plan économique. On le voit d’ailleurs en Ontario où, comme le souligne M. Oyono lui-même, le taux de chômage des immigrants reçus est plus bas qu’au Québec, alors que la province de Doug Ford accueille, toutes proportions gardées, plus d’immigrants que celle de François Legault.

Quant à l’argument voulant que les personnes immigrantes représentent une charge pour les finances publiques, mentionnons au contraire qu’à mesure que les années passent et que leur participation au marché du travail s’accroît, leur contribution au Trésor public (et donc au financement des services publics) augmente elle aussi.

Certes, les inégalités persistantes entre travailleurs immigrants et natifs exigent, comme le souligne là encore M. Oyono, que l’on se donne les moyens d’y remédier. Augmenter le nombre de cours de francisation et faciliter la reconnaissance des diplômes et des expériences acquis à l’étranger sont bien entendu des mesures qui font partie de la solution, mais lutter contre la discrimination en emploi, qui touche particulièrement les personnes racisées, l’est tout autant.

L’immigration ne pourra à elle seule remédier au manque de main-d’œuvre que connaît le Québec et qui s’accentuera dans les années à venir, étant donné le vieillissement de la population. Par contre, réduire les flux migratoires en provenance de l’étranger ne fera qu’aggraver le problème. Inversement, il faut éviter de voir les personnes qui souhaitent s’installer au Québec comme une simple force de travail au service des entreprises et plutôt les considérer comme des citoyennes et des citoyens à part entière qui apportent beaucoup plus qu’ils ne coûtent à la société d’accueil. C’est là une des clés de leur intégration.

Peut-être y a-t-il des raisons politiques qui en poussent certains, à l’instar de M. Oyono, à rejeter l’idée d’une hausse des seuils d’immigration. Cependant, les raisons sociales et économiques le plus souvent invoquées pour défendre une telle position reposent sur une analyse inexacte de la situation des personnes immigrantes au Québec.

Source: Faut-il vraiment réduire les seuils d’immigration?

Douglas Todd: Slow vaccine rollout threatens Trudeau’s lofty immigration target

Of note:

Canada’s vaccine rollout, which is slower than 41 other countries, threatens Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chances of reaching his record target for immigration this year. But that could benefit young Canadians and recent migrants struggling to find work during the pandemic.

University of B.C. geographer Daniel Hiebert has found COVID-19 has elevated the number of “underutilized” workers in Canada to almost four million — many of whom will compete with the 401,000 immigrants Ottawa is welcoming in 2021, in addition to temporary workers.

Saying Canada is only about “halfway” through resolving the pandemic through vaccinations, Hiebert told the influential Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of B.C. (AMSSA) it will be a “really significant challenge” to “economically integrate 400,000 newcomers into a labour market with nearly four million looking for work — or more work. It’s completely unprecedented.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Slow vaccine rollout threatens Trudeau’s lofty immigration target