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/

Canada immigration intake expected to fall by half due to COVID-19

RBC report is getting some well-deserved attention. Will have better sense of likely numbers once we have a few months data but estimates appear reasonable, as well as regions and programs more affected:

Canada’s annual immigration intake is expected to decline in 2020 by half from last year’s levels as a result of the global pandemic, raising concerns over the impact on the country’s newcomer-fuelled economy.

Canada welcomed 341,000 permanent residents in 2019 and was set to usher in another 370,000 this year, but that number is forecast to be down by as many as 170,000, according to a RBC report released Friday.

First-quarter immigration data on arrivals all indicated drastic decreases in the number of permanent residents, migrant workers and international students.

“The disruption will reverberate across the economy, given our reliance on immigration for labour-force growth and to offset Canada’s aging demographic,” warned the analysis by RBC senior economist Andrew Agopsowicz.

“Among the potential casualties: industries with labour shortages, urban rental and housing markets, and university budgets. Canada will need a younger and growing population to maintain growth and support the unprecedented expansion of the fiscal deficit that came in response to the crisis.”

In March, Ottawa had set a target to bring in 370,000 new permanent residents this year, up from 341,000 in 2019. Just days after the announcement, concerns about the spread of COVID-19 prompted the federal government to impose travel restrictions.

Although these health and safety measures only started in Canada in mid-March, the impacts of the pandemic on immigration had already been felt in other parts of the world, resulting in the disruption of visa services and travels.

These early immigration numbers may be an indication of what is to come as the global pandemic is expected to last through at least this fall, if not longer:

  • Permanent resident entries were down 30 per cent in March versus a year earlier.
  • Temporary foreign worker admission in the agricultural sector fell 45 per cent in March from a year earlier.
  • The number of students entering on study visas fell 45 per cent in March from a year earlier.

“If these restrictions last all summer, we expect to see 170,000 fewer permanent residents entering the country in 2020 than planned — all in a year in which Canada was supposed to welcome a record number of newcomers,” said the report.

“While temporary foreign workers are exempt from entry restrictions, fewer are coming. The overall number of TFWs entering Canada in March was down 35 per cent versus the same month last year. In the agriculture sector — where they represent a key source of labour — the drop was an even sharper 45 per cent.”

Agopsowicz cautioned that Canada’s international education sector is also taking a huge hit, with fall enrolments expected to be down sharply amid travel restrictions and a broad, possibly permanent shift to remote learning.

In 2018 alone, international students pumped $21.6 billion into schools, communities and the broader Canadian economy.

At University of Toronto, for instance, international enrolments has doubled since 2010 to 25 per cent of the student body. If just one-fifth of its foreign students opt not to study in Canada this year, said the report, it could mean a shortfall of around $200 million on a $3 billion budget.

“That reduction could also hurt the small businesses and landlords who depend on these students for revenue,” it said. “A decline in foreign students could also affect what’s been an important source of new permanent residents.”

Canada’s immigration selection system has increasingly favoured international students, with their Canadian academic credentials and work experience. In 2019, some 11,000 new permanent residents had previously studied in Canada.

Last year, Canada’s population grew by 1.6 per cent or 580,000 people, with immigrants accounting for more than 80 per cent of the growth, said the report. While 30 per cent of the overall population is at least 55, only 8 per cent of immigrants are.

“Even before the pandemic, Canada relied on immigration to offset the fiscal challenge posed by an aging population,” the report noted. “With the tab of fighting COVID-19 already nearing $160 billion, Canada needs a growing labour force more than ever.”

Source: Canada immigration intake expected to fall by half due to COVID-19

Feds hint at scaling back immigration due to pandemic fallout

Preliminary signals but we will only know when. the immigration plan is released in the fall:

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting unemployment could lead to immigration to Canada being cut for the first time in a decade.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino hinted as much in testimony to the Commons human resources committee, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.

Mendicino said cabinet will be “taking a look at our levels and what is our operational capacity.”

The review “is of course going to be driven by the context,” he said. “As we all know, we are in the midst of a pandemic,” he said.

In an Immigration Levels Plan tabled in the Commons on March 12, cabinet proposed raising immigration by about 1% of the population a year, from 331,000 immigrants in 2019 to 341,000 in 2020 and 351,000 in 2021.

But since then, Canada’s unemployment rate has risen to 13%.

“Given Canada’s massive unemployment for the foreseeable future, what is the government’s scale-back planning for economic migrants and refugees for the next two years?” asked Conservative MP Peter Kent.

“Given that the economic crisis will linger after the health crisis has passed, can Canada accommodate an additional 1% of immigrants and refugees added to our population in the foreseeable future?”

Mendicino said the feds will continue to look “at the circumstances including the surrounding context of Canada’s response to COVID-19 as we plan for the future,” and will provide an update in the fall.

Source: Feds hint at scaling back immigration due to pandemic fallout

Fisher: The Liberals promised more immigration by 2021. Can that still happen?

Starting to see more articles like this although Fisher isobviously not familiar with the available data or with the immigration program in general although his call for a discussion is a reasonable one.

However, his suggestion that the COVID-19 aftermath may lead to a 90 percent drop is fanciful as no major Canadian political party, federally or provincially, would support such major drop.

(IRCC has been releasing monthly data for a number of years now so we should start to see emerging trends in a few months, the monthly data is typically released after two months):

Justin Trudeau‘s government has not yet told Canadians whether or how it intends to keep its long list of pre-COVID-19 promises.

One signature pledge was to take in 350,000 immigrants a year by 2021, or about one per cent of the population annually. That commitment was made in October 2018. At that time Canada was welcoming 310,000 newcomers a year.

Where does that major undertaking on immigration stand now, given that virtually nobody who is not already a citizen or resident of Canada has been allowed into the country for nearly two months? Or that Canadian embassies and immigration offices have almost all been closed or placed on greatly-reduced hours with much smaller staffs since sometime in February with little likelihood of much about that changing soon?

Official figures about immigration don’t tend to be released until one or two years after the fact, so it is guesswork trying to figure out how many newcomers Canada has welcomed this year or how many are in the pipeline. Surely, though, given that there are far fewer flights from overseas and that the required interviews and medical and security checks are clearly not taking place with most of the world shut down, there will be far fewer of these folks arriving this year. Because the immigration process is chronically slow and a maze for most potential immigrants, it is possible that there will be even fewer of them next year, too.

There is little public information available to help puzzle out the future of immigration to Canada during and after troubling times. But charts showing historical immigration numbers that were published by Statistics Canada five years ago may be instructive.

Whatever the boasts of the Harper and Trudeau governments about their openness to immigration, the fact is that immigration to Canada reached a peak of just over 400,000 people a year more than a century ago under then prime minister Sir Robert Borden. It then dropped to less than 40,000 a year for 15 years from the beginning of the Depression until the end of the Second World War under the Conservative and Liberal prime ministers, R.B. Bennett and Mackenzie King.

Considering this data and the grave current economic and logistical complications, if the current pattern mirrors the experience of the Depression, it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that what looms is a drastic drop — as much as 90 per cent — in immigration for several years.

There is no argument here about the merits of immigration, which I strongly support. It is about how many newcomers Ottawa now envisages Canada accepting and whether the public, faced with serious personal economic distress caused by unemployment and savings that have been wiped out, will be as supportive of immigration today or in, say, 2022 or 2023, as it was before the coronavirus pandemic disrupted lives and created so much uncertainty about the future.

It was the Mulroney government that decided to greatly increase the number of foreigners let into Canada. The policy was subsequently embraced by the Martin, Chrétien and Harper governments and expanded a bit further by the Trudeau government.

Recent immigrants, like generations of immigrants before them, have almost always been good for Canada. It is a generalization, but most of these settlers — if I may use a not so fashionable 19th and 20th-century term — have a reputation for working hard, often at jobs that those already lucky enough to be Canadians won’t do.

The newcomers help the economy by paying federal, provincial and municipal taxes. Their need for housing has pushed up the value of real estate, especially in the immigrant-magnet cities of Vancouver and Toronto (although a case can be made that this has sometimes been a mixed blessing).

The presence of so many immigrants can only be good for a country where the spectre of depopulation has become real since many couples who can trace their Canadian roots back decades or centuries have become famously uninterested in having more than one or two kids.

Besides, the points system used to decide who qualifies to come to Canada has attracted many highly educated, highly motivated immigrants. The longstanding family sponsorship program has been a boon to, well, families. The legal refugees that Canada has taken in have helped people otherwise trapped in hellish situations. It has also given a little relief to poor countries such as Jordan and Lebanon that have unfairly had to bear far too much of the refugee burden.

But as during the Depression, Canada’s economic landscape has shifted dramatically in the past couple of months. The federal deficit for this year alone could be $252 billion. Similarly, big deficits are a prospect for 2021 and 2022. And the books of several provinces are worse than those of Ottawa.

The federal government has been very busy with the coronavirus. It is, after all, an epochal event.

But increased immigration was a strong theme as well as a firm promise of Trudeau’s government. The current pandemic should not prevent the immigration minister and senior department officials — who have lots of time on their hands since few new immigration applicants are being processed — from sharing their thoughts with Parliament and Canadians about how the COVID-19 shock has informed and affected their thinking and planning.

It is not too soon to start a national discussion about how many immigrants Canadians, their elected leaders and various business and ethnic communities think the economy and job market can digest.

Source: COMMENTARY: The Liberals promised more immigration by 2021: Can that still happen?

Coronavirus has halted immigration to Australia and that could have dire consequences for our economic recovery

Will be interesting to watch Canadian numbers and plans over the coming few years, although Canada, unlike Australia, had been planning annual increases:

Australia’s migration intake this year is expected to plummet due to coronavirus-induced travel restrictions and shutdowns, creating a raft of economic and social headaches set to prolong its recovery from the pandemic.

Australia’s immigration program has played a key role in nearly three decades of essentially uninterrupted economic growth.

Due to border closures around the world, the total number of migrants who will make Australia home this financial year, both temporary and permanent, will be far lower than it has been in a long time.

Nearly 300,000 temporary visa holders have left Australia since the start of the year according to the federal government and there are predictions the country will miss out on another 240,000 would-be migrants by the end of the year.

Researchers say that could cause a “demographic ripple effect” to last for some time because Australia will be relying heavily on migrants to rebuild once the pandemic has passed.

“We need immigration to survive this next stage of our future,” Australian National University demographer Liz Allen told SBS News.

“We have an ageing population with more people retiring from the workforce than people entering the workforce. That means we have fewer people contributing to our tax base, which pays for our vital services: our roads, our infrastructure, our hospitals, our schools – everything.

“Our migrant intake will help fill the gaps.”

Intake ‘lower than envisaged’

Australia’s 2019-20 permanent migration program will now fall well short of the cap of 160,000 places set by the federal government.

Projections by sharemarket broker CommSec suggest around 240,000 fewer people could migrate to Australia over the next 12 months.

A spokesperson for acting immigration minister Alan Tudge said while COVID-19 will clearly have an impact on the 2019-20 program, it was still too early to say what the final outcome would be.

“It will be lower than we envisaged given our borders are closed to all but Australian citizens and permanent residents,” the spokesperson said.

Permanent residency visa invitations have fallen dramatically in the past month, Department of Home Affairs data shows.

Just 50 invitations for skilled independent subclass 189 visas – which allow holders to live anywhere in Australia – were issued in April, compared to 1,750 in March.

Invitations for the subclass 491 visa, which requires migrants to live in regional Australia, fell from 300 to 50.

There were 2.43 million temporary migrants in Australia in December 2019, a number which according to the federal government fell to 2.17 million – a drop of 260,000 – in early April.

That number is expected to fall even further, with many temporary visa holders excluded from the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told them to instead return to their home countries if they were not able to support themselves in Australia.

With chief medical officer Brendan Murphy flagging last week that restrictions on international travel would not be lifted for at least three to four months, it could be at least that long until Australia starts welcoming migrants again.

University of Sydney migration expert Anna Boucher said the coronavirus crisis has laid bare how reliant Australia is on migrants, noting the 2019 federal budget papers showed the government’s much-touted surplus was predicated upon higher levels of net overseas migration.

“Without very high net overseas migration we would not have had a budget surplus,” associate professor Boucher said.

“There’s no way achieve that sort of net overseas migration this year with border closures and COVID-19.”

The pandemic-induced freeze on immigration comes after a record 298,200 migrants left Australia in the year to 30 June 2019 – seven months before Australia recorded its first coronavirus case on 25 January 2020.

Associate professor Boucher said the pandemic could trigger a rethink of how heavily Australia relies on its migrants to fill gaps in the workforce.

“We have caps on permanent migration, and they’ve become more stringent in recent years, but we don’t have caps on temporary migration. It’s possible in future years the government will look at that. A lot of it depends on how we redeploy Australians.”

“We are in competition with other countries for migration, so if other countries have closures for as long as we do and we are still seen as providing opportunities, we might be able to bounce back to pre-COVID-19 levels.”

Economy to bounce back slower

Economists say the drop in migration will have significant economic consequences for Australia’s coronavirus recovery.

Migrants are workers, taxpayers, consumers and big players in the housing market. Many economists believe they also play a role in driving long-term innovation and productivity.

Population growth and economic growth exist side-by-side and migrants have “historically played quite a big role” in both, Grattan Institute CEO John Daley said.

“Real economic growth in Australia over the last couple of years has been around 2 to 2.5 per cent. Of that, almost one per cent has simply been the effect of migration,” he said.

“Every year on average there’s one per cent more people born overseas living in Australia than there were last year, [causing] a one per cent increase in the total Australian population. When you have a one per cent increase in the population, you get a one per cent increase in GDP, more or less.

“In many quarters over the past couple of years Australia has had almost no economic growth apart from the growth in population, and of that growth, about two-thirds have been migrants.”

Mr Daley said economic recoveries were always slow and a shock “of this kind” means it’s likely to take the economy “several years” to completely bounce back.

“Absolutely that will be accentuated in Australia by the fact there will be fewer migrants,” he said.

Commsec senior economist Ryan Felsman said even just a 10 per cent reduction in overall migration numbers would remove a “significant tailwind” from the Australian economy.

“The longer our borders are closed, the more likely it is Australia will have a slower economic rebound than other countries,” Mr Felsman said.

Source: Coronavirus has halted immigration to Australia and that could have dire consequences for our economic recovery

Quebec considers lower immigration levels to offset rise in joblessness

While Quebec is distinct in its approach to immigration and selects its own economic class immigrants, wonder whether this questioning of immigration levels post-pandemic will also occur at the federal level and with provincial nominations:

Quebec Premier François Legault says everything is on the table as the province looks to mitigate the damage from the coronavirus pandemic – including reducing immigration levels to counter a rise in domestic unemployment.

“It’s something we will look at. I think we have to review everything,” Mr. Legault said on Tuesday. “The number of immigrants, with the high rate of joblessness we’ll have in the coming months, we could reduce the number.”

The province has some autonomy over its immigration levels. Some 40,500 immigrants were admitted into Quebec last year, a 20-per-cent decline from the year before.

The provincial government is also preparing to pump billions of dollars more into its economy and rescue distressed companies in the months ahead, Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said in an interview this week.

“There will be more money put into the rebound of the economy than [spent for] the shutdown,” he said. “We have to be very selective and think about the strategic sectors of the economy. We can’t let a very strategic sector fall.”

Mr. Legault’s government is conducting an analysis of Quebec’s economy and businesses as it tries to work out its funding priorities. And it has also begun an analysis of its trade balance with a view to producing more of its own goods.

The province has already unveiled a $2.5-billion emergency loan program for businesses in need of immediate liquidity, and it is now pledging more as the crisis stretches out.

“The word ‘bailout’ might be strong, but some will be bailouts,” Mr. Fitzgibbon said, adding the government could also take equity in certain companies and offer some aid that is forgiven. “I’ve got companies in my mind that may need a break for a couple of months and that’s it – they’re going to be as profitable as they were before. But others, you know, will have a long path to recovery. And the path could be 12 to 18 months.”

Quebec has been slowly working towards reopening its economy after enacting some of the continent’s most severe emergency measures.

On Monday, it announced that mining, residential construction and all auto repair and maintenance services would restart under strict conditions limiting human contact. The next logical sectors to reopen would be general construction and manufacturing, Mr. Fitzgibbon said.

The province is also working with public health officials towards allowing smaller retailers to reopen, particularly those who compete against big chains that have remained in operation, such as Walmart and Costco, Mr. Legault said on Wednesday.

Business groups, unions and social groups in Quebec are weighing in on how the province can recast its economic and fiscal policy in a more permanent way. On Wednesday, several organizations including employer group Conseil du patronat du Québec, the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec union and environmental group Équiterre released a letter they sent to Mr. Legault spelling out measures they believe will help reboot the economy while building a resilient, low-carbon future.

Among the suggestions: Accelerate spending on $44-billion worth of planned public transit and high-speed internet projects, expand support for energy-efficient building renovation, and fund initiatives to increase consumption of locally grown food.

The groups suggest financing the measures in part by redirecting deposits currently earmarked for the province’s debt-repayment fund.

“We not only have to deal with this humanitarian and economic crisis, we also have to prepare what comes after that,” said Yves-Thomas Dorval, president of the Conseil du patronat, which represents major employers such as Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. and Royal Bank of Canada.

“It made sense to us to work with our civil-society partners to offer suggestions based on the broad social, environmental and economic consensus we have forged in Quebec over the last 10 years. Our widely shared goals are to make our society more resilient to shocks such as this pandemic, better equipped to deal with ongoing crises like climate change, more prosperous and socially strong and united.”

In trying to determine where best to direct aid for companies, Quebec is using models to look at data such as employment, salaries and business clusters where it sees strength, Mr. Fitzgibbon said. The province has in the past identified aerospace and engineering as two industries with the financial weight and profile crucial to its economy but “it’s not obvious” now which companies might be saved, the minister said.

Quebec has no shortage of companies in difficulty, but their ability to weather the storm varies wildly. Some, like Bombardier Inc., have significant debt and shrinking prospects for repaying it, while others with more tenable capital structures face cash-flow trouble as demand for their products evaporates.

Source: Quebec considers lower immigration levels to offset rise in joblessness

Québec prévoit des délais dans le processus d’admission des immigrants

Not surprising. Like elsewhere:

Les organismes d’aide aux immigrants sont à pied d’œuvre pour les aider à combattre la détresse psychologique, rapporte la directrice générale d’Accueil liaison pour arrivants (ALPA), Alia Hassan-Cournol.

En entrevue avec La Presse canadienne, elle affirme aider notamment des étudiants internationaux qui craignent de ne pas pouvoir graduer et postuler au Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ).

Preuve que la COVID-19 touche toutes les sphères de la société : le cabinet du ministre de l’Immigration, Simon Jolin-Barrette, reconnaît désormais qu’il y aura « une incidence sur les délais de traitement des demandes » dans le cadre de ses programmes d’immigration permanente.

« On travaille comme des fous depuis la COVID-19, s’est exclamée Mme Hassan-Cournol, qui est bien au fait de la situation. On est déjà par le fait même d’immigrer dans une situation d’instabilité. Vous venez ajouter des couches et des couches et des couches d’instabilité, de questionnements, et ça crée de l’angoisse. »

L’immigration est une responsabilité partagée entre Québec et Ottawa. Les personnes qui souhaitent postuler au PEQ, renouveler un permis d’études ou de travail, obtenir une résidence permanente ou un certificat de sélection du Québec peinent à obtenir des réponses des gouvernements, selon Mme Hassan-Cournol.

Ces personnes vivent avec « une épée de Damoclès au-dessus de la tête et surtout un gros gros point d’interrogation », insiste-t-elle.

La directrice générale de l’ALPA souligne par ailleurs que des groupes ont récemment demandé au gouvernement fédéral de prolonger automatiquement de 90 jours les visas qui viennent à échéance.

« On est dans le flou, affirme-t-elle. On ne sait pas quand on va obtenir des réponses de la part des ministères concernés quant aux délais et aux incidences de cette mise sur pause.

« C’est sûr qu’il y a un moment donné où il va falloir donner des réponses plus claires. »

L’ALPA, qui emploie des travailleurs sociaux, offre des services gratuits dans 15 langues. Débordé, l’organisme songe à gonfler ses rangs, en embauchant des psychologues spécialisés en approche clinique interculturelle.

De son côté, le directeur général de la Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes, Stephan Reichold, déplore les délais en immigration, « surtout qu’ils étaient déjà longs auparavant, mais on comprend qu’avec le télétravail, tous les processus administratifs sont au ralenti ».

Les travailleurs agricoles priorisés ?

Par ailleurs, concernant les travailleurs étrangers temporaires, Québec dit travailler pour que la priorité soit accordée aux travailleurs agricoles.

L’émission des permis de travail dans cette catégorie est la responsabilité unique du gouvernement du Canada. L’an dernier au Québec, 15 525 permis ont été délivrés à des travailleurs agricoles saisonniers.

Le 18 mars dernier, la Fédération canadienne de l’entreprise indépendante (FCEI) a exigé l’assouplissement de l’interdiction d’entrée au pays pour les travailleurs étrangers temporaires, dont le travail est nécessaire à la culture et à l’approvisionnement des fruits et légumes du Québec.

« Quant aux travailleurs étrangers temporaires, toutes les mesures sont mises en place pour traiter rapidement les demandes des travailleurs agricoles, soutient l’attachée de presse du ministre Jolin-Barrette, Élisabeth Gosselin-Bienvenue. Nous […] sommes en discussion avec le gouvernement fédéral sur le dossier. »

Quebec’s immigration numbers drop while rest of Canada is on the rise

No surprise and agree with Jedwab’s comments:

Quebec Premier François Legault fulfilled his promise to cut the number of immigrants to the province by 20 per cent in 2019, in stark contrast to the rest of Canada. Included in the reductions were workers from specialized fields like nursing, computer engineering and computer programming — positions the province is struggling to fill in the midst of a labour shortage.

The number of immigrants admitted to Quebec dropped from 51,125 in 2018 to 40,545 last year, a decrease of 20.7 per cent.

Ontario, meanwhile, saw the number of newcomers rise by 11.5 per cent, to 153,340. Manitoba’s immigration rate rose by 24 per cent, New Brunswick’s by 30 per cent and Nova Scotia’s by 33 per cent.

The majority of Quebec’s cuts were felt in Montreal, which saw nearly 9,000 fewer immigrants flow into the census metropolitan region last year. By comparison, Toronto welcomed 117,720 immigrants, an increase of more than 11,000 over 2018.

Even Vancouver has surpassed Montreal for number of immigrants admitted, said Jack Jedwab, president of the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migration, who compiled the figures using data from the federal Immigration Department.

“We are definitely diminishing our demographic weight within the federation by reducing ourselves to 12 per cent of the overall immigration rate for Canada, when we have 22 per cent of the population,” Jedwab said.

Immigration figures for smaller municipalities in Quebec remained mostly stable, and low. Shawinigan saw 25 immigrants in 2019; Rouyn-Noranda and Sept-Îles — with populations of 42,000 and 28,500, respectively — had 40 immigrants join their ranks. Baie-Comeau and Thetford Mines saw 10 newcomers each.

Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government maintains the province needs to reduce immigration because it was doing a poor job of integrating newcomers or choosing skilled workers who best fulfil its labour needs. Legault has pledged to bring the numbers back up to 52,500 in 2022.

The reduction comes as Quebec grapples with the worst labour shortage in Canada. A rapidly aging population and economic boom have caused the number of jobs sitting vacant to double in the last three years, to 137,000.

The analysis shows a significant drop in the number of immigrants with degrees in specialized professions that the province is struggling to fill. In 2018, Quebec admitted 2,120 registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses. In 2019, that figure dropped to 1,440, a decrease of 32 per cent.

Unionized nurses in Quebec have been fighting forced overtime and have organized strikes to protest being forced to work long hours, and are calling for more nurses in order to ease the pressure.

Similar reductions were seen in 2019 in the number of information systems analysts and consultants (36 per cent), computer engineers (not including software engineers and designers; 33 per cent), computer programmers and interactive media developers (45 per cent), electrical and electronics engineers (41 per cent), university professors and lecturers (17 per cent) and civil engineers (28 per cent).

“I think the principal objective of all of this was to meet the objective of the cuts, so the government could say it was living up to its commitments,” Jedwab said.

The reductions were relatively even across the three categories of immigrants admitted to Canada: economic, family sponsorship and refugees. In the family class, there were increases in the number of parents and grandparents admitted, but a proportional decrease in the number of sponsored children, spouses or partners who gained entry.

“As we committed to doing, in 2019 we lowered the immigration thresholds by 23 per cent in all categories. We met our admission targets,” said Élisabeth Gosselin, press attaché for Immigration, Francization and Integration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette. “Our government … has made the success of immigration a priority.”

Because of delays between the federal and provincial selection processes, many of the admission selections for 2019 were made before the CAQ came into power, Gosselin said. Meanwhile, the CAQ has invested in improving French lessons and facilitating integration for immigrants, launched the Arrima system designed to improve the selection process based on Quebec’s labour needs, and increased the immigration ministry’s budget by 42 per cent, Gosselin said.

Quebec’s largest employers’ group, the Conseil du patronat du Québec, released a statement in reaction to government figures that show the number of professions in Quebec experiencing deficits surged from 25 in 2018 to 165 last year.

“We can see the immediate effect of an overly strict immigration policy,” Conseil president Yves-Thomas Dorval said. “The government needs to rectify this quickly, because for a long time now our businesses have been suffering from the labour shortage effects, and are asking the government to help them by raising the immigration thresholds.”

Quebec’s drop in permanent immigrants was offset by the largest increase among any province in the number of temporary workers in 2019. The province admitted 5,635 more temporary workers than it did the year before — a 32 per cent jump. The majority of temporary workers are employed in the agricultural and agri-food business industries, but they are also being used in hard-hit fields like food services, hotels and manufacturing. The use of temporary workers has been criticized as a short-term fix that fails to address the underlying demographic issues, and leaves vulnerable foreign workers who are desperate for employment open to abuse.

“If you say your main problem is an integration problem, I’m not clear how the answer to an integration challenge is bringing in more temporary workers,” Jedwab said. “If anything, you want to bring in more permanent residents, so that you can integrate them.”

Source: https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/quebecs-immigration-numbers-drop-while-rest-of-canada-is-on-the-rise

Immigration: Québec appelé à se montrer «plus ambitieux»

Pressure from the business community:

Jusqu’à tout récemment, le président et chef de la direction de la CCMM, Michel Leblanc, réclamait une hausse du seuil d’immigration à 60 000 admissions par année. Mais ce chiffre est désormais pour lui « la base que l’on doit atteindre le plus rapidement possible ». Pour l’avenir, il faut se montrer « plus ambitieux », a-t-il dit en entrevue avec La Presse, rappelant les « 138 000 postes » à pourvoir dans le contexte de la pénurie de main-d’œuvre.

Le gouvernement Legault entreprend au cours des prochaines semaines une ronde de consultations pour réformer l’un de ses deux programmes destinés aux travailleurs qualifiés, le maintenant célèbre Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ). Il s’agit d’une voie rapide pour les étudiants étrangers et les travailleurs temporaires résidant déjà au Québec afin d’obtenir un certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ), nécessaire à l’obtention de la résidence permanente.

L’automne dernier, une première réforme du PEQ — qui ciblait des domaines d’études ou d’emplois restreints pour les travailleurs temporaires et les étudiants étrangers pouvant y présenter une demande — avait plongé Québec dans la controverse. Isolé, le premier ministre François Legault avait même accusé certains de ses détracteurs, dont Michel Leblanc, de vouloir plus d’immigrants afin de bénéficier d’une main-d’œuvre bon marché. Le gouvernement a depuis reculé.

Dans un document d’information publié vendredi, Québec dévoile que la popularité du PEQ dépasse toutes les attentes.

En 2010, lors de sa création, le gouvernement délivrait 5 % des CSQ aux demandeurs du PEQ. En 2019, cette proportion s’élevait à 86 %. De plus, en 2020, « le ministère [de l’Immigration] estime que les demandes du PEQ pourraient être suffisantes pour atteindre les objectifs annuels de sélection pour la catégorie des travailleurs qualifiés », là où il détient le pouvoir de sélection.

Michel Leblanc n’est pas surpris de ce succès. Mais plutôt que de « répartir la cible de sélection des travailleurs qualifiés entre le PRTQ et le PEQ [en prévoyant] un nombre maximal de demandes à recevoir », comme l’écrit Québec dans son document, il propose à nouveau de hausser son seuil d’immigration au niveau qui « correspondrait à la part que le Québec devrait accueillir pour maintenir son poids relatif face au reste du Canada ».

Le président-directeur général de la Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec, Charles Milliard, espère aussi que le gouvernement Legault saisira l’occasion pour revoir toute la notion du seuil d’immigration.

« Le synonyme de quota, c’est une barrière. Et parfois, on s’impose des limites dans l’esprit et on est pris avec ça », dit-il, rappelant que la Fédération prône quant à elle pour une hausse du seuil d’immigrants à 60 000 admissions par année.

« L’obsession » d’un chiffre

Robert Gagné, professeur à HEC Montréal et directeur du Centre sur la productivité et la prospérité, prévient de son côté le gouvernement Legault qu’il « se magasine du trouble » en ouvrant la porte des limites d’admission au PEQ ou au Programme régulier des travailleurs qualifiés (PRTQ).

[On impose un quota d’admission] selon quel critère ? Premier arrivé, premier servi ? Par ordre alphabétique croissant, décroissant ? […] Plutôt que de focaliser sur des nombres, focalisons sur des profils [d’immigration recherchés] et viendra le nombre qui viendra.

Robert Gagné, professeur à HEC Montréal et directeur du Centre sur la productivité et la prospérité

Pierre Cossette, recteur de l’Université de Sherbrooke et président du conseil d’administration du Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire, craint quant à lui que de limiter les admissions au PEQ restreigne le nombre d’étudiants étrangers et formés au Québec pouvant y poser leur candidature.

« Le PEQ est un bon programme qui amène de la richesse et de la perspective au Québec. […] C’est un investissement dans le futur, à long terme », dit-il.

« En 2026, 50 % du marché de l’emploi au Québec sera occupé par des emplois qui requièrent une formation collégiale ou universitaire », rappelle de son côté Bernard Tremblay, président-directeur général de la Fédération des cégeps.

« Nous recrutons des jeunes qui voudront rester ici, qui auront des diplômes québécois, sans enjeux de reconnaissance des diplômes, qui seront intégrés à notre culture, qui auront des amis, qui seront en région et qui voudront y rester », illustre-t-il, plaidant à son tour pour qu’on ne restreigne pas leur capacité à présenter une demande au PEQ.

Source: Immigration: Québec appelé à se montrer «plus ambitieux»

ICYMI: Montreal aims to break down barriers for immigrants in the workplace

Once again, contrast between Montreal and the regions:

Mayor Valérie Plante stood in front of 10 red doors inscribed with messages like: “Let’s open doors to employment for them,” “We hold all the keys” and “We can all play a role.”

The life-size doors on display at Complexe Desjardins aim to illustrate the barriers that still face immigrants in the job market and to urge employers to hire them.

“Sixty per cent of immigrants arriving in Quebec choose to settle in Montreal but unfortunately, even today, the doors to employment are still mostly shut rather than open for immigrants,” said Plante, as she launched a month-long public awareness campaign with Shahir Guindi, national co-chair of the Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt law firm and chair of the board of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.

While unemployment is at a historic low of five per cent, it is much higher among newcomers, despite the fact that 40 per cent of immigrants are university educated and 10 per cent hold graduate degrees, Plante said.

Montreal ranks fifth among the North American metropolitan regions that attract the most immigrants, according to Canadian and U.S. immigration numbers. However, it lags behind other Canadian cities in helping them integrate and find jobs.

The unemployment rate among newcomers to Montreal was 9.8 per cent in 2016, compared with 5.9 per cent for residents who were born in Canada, according to the Canadian Index for Measuring Integration (CIMI), coordinated by the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS).

More than 22 per cent of immigrants in Montreal live below the poverty line, compared with 12 per cent of Canadian-born citizens, it shows.

Overall, the city ranks 30th out of 35 among Canadian cities for immigrants’ economic performance compared to the rest of the population, according to CIMI.

Plante said she met with about 50 business leaders and officials with the provincial immigration department last year to chart a strategy to improve outcomes for newcomers.

The awareness campaign has support from 18 executives at the National Bank, Métro, Deloitte Canada, Mouvement Desjardins, as well as public or non-profit organizations like the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), Centraide and the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Its French-only website encourages employers to favour diversity in their workforces by making it a company value and requiring managers to implement inclusive policies. It also calls on average Montrealers in the workforce to become aware of their own prejudices and to reach out to immigrants in their work and social circles by sharing contacts and helping them with their CVs.

However, ACS president Jack Jedwab said that while the initiative was praiseworthy, it did not address the negative message the Quebec government has sent by reducing the number of immigrants to Montreal by 24 per cent in 2019 over the previous year.

“We should do what we need to do to encourage and help people to improve their skills, so that they are in line with the needs of the economy,” he said.

“But the bigger messaging from the government isn’t as positive,” Jedwab noted.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government’s rationale for slashing immigration despite the current labour shortage was that newcomers are not integrating sufficiently into Quebec society, he said.

“You are sending a message that suggests that there is a problem out there,” he said.

Greater Montreal received 28,900 immigrants in the first 10 months of 2019, the last period for which numbers are available, compared to 38,315 for the corresponding period in 2018, Jedwab said.

The city received a total of 43,795 newcomers in 2018 and 44,725 in 2017, he said.

In 2019, Vancouver surpassed Montreal for the first time as a destination for newcomers, with 34,095 immigrants from January to October 2019. It received 35,265 immigrants in 2018 and 29,830 immigrants in 2017.

Toronto received 102,965 immigrants in the first 10 months of 2019. The number of newcomers was 106,460 in 2018 and 86,580 in 2017.

“Toronto is reaping a lot of the benefits of immigration in terms of its economy,” Jedwab said, noting that immigration “is the single source of growth for our population.”

In Toronto, the unemployment rate among immigrants in 2016 was 7.5 per cent, compared with 7.7 per cent among the Canadian-born population. However, immigrants in Toronto had higher rates of poverty than the native-born population, with 19 per cent of newcomers living below the poverty line compared with 11 per cent of people born in Canada.

Source: Montreal aims to break down barriers for immigrants in the workplace