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 fwd.us, 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.

Source: https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/may-2021/increasing-immigration-to-boost-population-not-so-fast/

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.

QUEBEC MUST DO A CATCH-UP

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.

$24 MILLION TO GREET NEWCOMERS IN MONTREAL

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”

Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2021/04/14/we-want-you-to-stay-canada-opens-door-to-permanent-residence-for-90000-international-graduates-and-temporary-workers-with-one-time-program.html

IRCC requirements and eligible occupation list: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/mandate/policies-operational-instructions-agreements/public-policies/trpr-canadian-work-experience.html#annex-b

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

Ottawa is right to attract more immigrants

The Conference Board pro-immigration level opinion. Money quote: “It’s prioritizing its immigration targets and devaluing the very high social-capital standards that underpin Canada’s system of economic immigration.”

As I have indicated a few times, I disagree with this approach as I think it understates, if not ignores, some of the inequality aspects of this policy:

In the short term, spending by immigrants can help fuel economic recovery, while the availability of immigrant labour will be essential in restoring the restaurant and hospitality sectors.

The federal government’s latest efforts to make it easier for immigrants with Canadian work experience to become permanent residents is another sign it’s committed to attracting more immigrants. 

Clearly, federal officials are convinced of the social, economic, and labour-market benefits of high immigration levels.

But what does their approach mean for the immigrants who will arrive at this challenging time? And what might this period teach us about our immigration system?

Earlier this month, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada invited 27,322 people to apply for permanent residency as part of the Express Entry program’s “Canadian experience” class. This draw from the pool of registered candidates was five to 10 times greater than the usual number of invitations made in a single draw.

The increase was made possible by significantly lowering the points threshold to qualify for an invitation to become a permanent resident. These points are awarded for a variety of social and human-capital reasons that align with long-term integration and economic resiliency, such as: education, age, knowledge of an official language, and experience living in Canada as a temporary resident.

This is the second major step by the federal government to ensure we continue to attract immigrants in large numbers, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Last October, Ottawa updated its three-year immigration planwith record targets culminating in 421,000 arrivals in 2023.

The new targets were warmly received by immigration advocates who hoped the federal government wouldn’t follow the lead of many other countries by restricting immigration because of the pandemic and the recessions caused by its associated public-health measures.

However, even advocates are skeptical that Ottawa can attract 401,000 immigrants in 2021 — not because of a lack of demand, as Canada’s appeal as a destination for emigrants has only increased during the pandemic. Rather, they fear that continued travel restrictions, and the news that mass vaccinations won’t arrive in Canada until this fall at the earliest, will have a dampening effect on immigration.

Even in 2020, the government relied heavily on those already in Canada to boost invitations for permanent residency. Research by the Conference Board of Canada shows that 60 per cent more permanent-resident “arrivals” were already in Canada than in the previous two years.

The latest move is a doubling-down on this strategy, and leans heavily on temporary workers and students who are already in the country.

In this way, Ottawa is making a clear trade-off. It’s prioritizing its immigration targets and devaluing the very high social-capital standards that underpin Canada’s system of economic immigration.
So how do we assess this trade-off?

The long- and short-term benefits of maintaining high immigration levels are clear. In the long term, immigration fuels economic growth, improves our ratio of working-age Canadians to retirees, creates more tax revenue, and supplies skilled labour to key sectors. Economic and population modelling by the Conference Board of Canada demonstrates that more immigration benefits the economy.

In the short term, spending by immigrants can help fuel economic recovery, while the availability of immigrant labour will be essential in restoring the restaurant and hospitality sectors, for instance.

Therefore, the government has good reasons to want to get as close to its immigration targets as possible, despite the challenges of COVID. The pattern of relying on immigrants who have Canadian experience, but lower social capital, might continue as long as significant travel restrictions remain.

But this doesn’t mean immigrants who arrive during this period won’t be successful or contribute as much to the Canadian economy. Our economic modelling indicates that even immigrants with comparatively lower social-capital attributes — for instance, refugee and family-class immigrants — still make significant contributions to the economy, especially over time.

Also, most newcomers with experience living in Canada will already have Canadian work experience. This helps with future job searches, as employers tend to assess Canadian experience more favourably than foreign work experience. They will also arrive at jobs with a better understanding of Canadian culture and workplace norms, and greater facility with our official languages, neither of which may be their first.

There is great short- and long-term economic value in trying to reach Canada’s immigration targets. In closely observing the progress of immigrants who arrive during and just after the pandemic, we can learn a lot about the value of Canadian experience, compared to other social-capital factors.

The key is not to let individual immigrants suffer for the sake of Canada’s economy and our understanding of the integration process. They should be monitored closely, and both government and the immigration sector should be prepared to offer additional support if they struggle.

Source: https://go.conferenceboard.ca/MDk0LUVHRi02MzkAAAF71qV7cSskUNcrhiS4-30l_NQZjeNl-F2yhUwu_YEwPrJPoUe8DYze02tYZtddvE27AJPjm1k=

Mahboubi, Skuterud – An Economic Reality Check on Canadian Immigration (Part I), Part II link

Good and needed critical thinking regarding the limitations and weaknesses of the government’s immigration plan and approach:

COVID-19 travel restrictions hobbled Canada’s immigrant admissions in 2020. In response last fall, the federal government revised its 2021 targets upwards, saying it was necessary for our economic recovery.

Showing its commitment to the ambitious target, on February 13 the government issued invitations to a record-breaking 27,332 applicants in its Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program, which targets applicants with Canadian work experience, and are therefore more likely to be living in Canada.

But to issue so many invitations, it was forced to drop its Comprehensive Ranking System cut-off score in its Express Entry system to an all-time low of 75, far below the previous record of 413. This strategy is analogous to a university doing away with entry standards to significantly boost enrolment. If history is an indicator, there is good reason for concern.

The primary objective of Canada’s economic-class immigration programs is to leverage immigration policy to boost the economic well-being of Canadians. To do that, we need immigration inflows to raise GDP per capita, not simply increase the population.

To assess if we are achieving this objective, Canadian researchers examine earnings of new immigrants. Since workers’ earnings comprise roughly two-thirds of GDP, we need new immigrants to earn more than the national average if we are to raise GDP per capita.

Unfortunately, the evidence is that Canada has historically struggled to achieve this objective, and continues to struggle. The hard reality is that we saw a substantial deterioration in the earnings of subsequent cohorts of new immigrants and an increase in their relative poverty rates from the early 80s to the early 2000s.  

This prompted numerous reforms of skilled immigration policies since 2005, primarily directed at improving immigrant selection, including introducing pre-migration mandatory English/French language testing and education credential assessments. A key piece of the policy reform was the 2015 introduction of the Express Entry system.

Rather than admit applicants who have met the minimum requirements of one of Canada’s economic-class programs on a first-come, first-served basis, the Express Entry system skims the cream of the applicant pool on a regular basis using a tool known as the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The CRS assigns each applicant a score between zero and 1,200 using a set of criteria, including age, education, and work experience. The factors and their relative weightings were determined by a statistical analysis predicting immigrants’ earnings during their first 10 years in Canada.

While there is evidence that these reforms have helped curtail the deterioration in immigrants’ earnings, they continue to experience significant economic integration challenges. For example, a recent Statistics Canada study shows that international students who graduated in 2010-2012 earned considerably less than domestic graduates in their first five years after graduation.

Shortfalls of former international students are also evident when their earnings are compared to domestic graduates with similar degrees in similar fields of study.

The economic challenges of Canadian university-educated immigrants are, in fact, exceptional. Whereas university-educated immigrants from India who settle in the United States outperform their US-born counterparts with similar education, the average earnings of Indian-born university-educated immigrants in Canada fall significantly below their Canadian-born counterparts. This reflects the continuing truth that US universities and salary premiums attract the world’s best and brightest while Canada’s relatively generous welfare state attracts migrants less sure of their talents.

Examining the 2016 earnings of recent immigrants admitted under an economic-class program, we find that CEC principal applicants had higher average earnings than the non-immigrant population. When we also include their spouses and dependants, their combined average earnings were only slightly lower than prime-age non-immigrants (Figure 1). This small difference reveals both the success of Canada’s CEC program, but also the risk of forgoing CRS standards to reach immigration targets.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has held 170 Express Entry draws since January 2015. The median CRS cut-off score in past draws was 461 and has never dropped below 413. Lowering the standard to 75 means admitting immigrants who will experience more significant economic-integration challenges. Doing so during an economic crisis with high levels of joblessness seems ill advised.

In the government’s defence, all 27,332 CEC applicants who received invitations in February’s draw have at least one year of Canadian experience, and it is likely that a high percentage are currently employed, and in all likelihood many close to the front line during the pandemic. There are unquestionably compelling ethical reasons for providing these workers and their families with pathways to permanent residency.

But there is a risk in using economic-class programs to achieve humanitarian objectives; it compromises the ability of the Express Entry system to achieve its economic objectives.

The Tinbergen Rule says that for every policy target there should be at least one policy instrument. When there are fewer instruments than targets, the ability of policy to achieve its targets is compromised. Let us make sure that all our immigration programs do at least one thing well, instead of everything badly.

Tomorrow, we examine the potential consequences of increasing immigration during the crisis.

Source: https://www.cdhowe.org/intelligence-memos/mahboubi-skuterud-–-economic-reality-check-canadian-immigration-part-i

Part II: https://www.cdhowe.org/intelligence-memos/mahboubi-skuterud-–-economic-reality-check-canadian-immigration-part-ii

Yalnizyan: Our temporary residents provide a resource we can’t ignore

Armine’s piece coming out of Ryerson’s CERC panel a few months ago.

I remain sceptical regarding maintaining current target levels during a recession and lowering the CRS minimum points to 75 (essentially, anyone 25-34 with one years Canadian work experience) as a good immigration strategy in terms of economic and social outcomes.

And, as StatsCan helpfully remained us, not all temporary workers will necessarily want to transition to permanent status:

Over the last decade or two, about one third of temporary foreign workers and one quarter of international students became landed immigrants within 15 years after their first arrival. TFWs who had low earnings tended to have low earnings after becoming landed immigrants.— feng hou (@fenghou9) March 7, 2021

Worried about immigration during the pandemic? You may be shocked to learn that for every new permanent resident admitted to Canada in 2019, almost three temporary residents were admitted to work or study. Immigration refers only to permanent residents, so any conversation about immigration is only talking about 28 per cent of all the people entering Canada.

This little-known statistic directly informs a recent conversationabout Canada’s Immigration Plan at Ryerson University, the core theme of which is that we could miss a remarkable opportunity if we don’t see the whole chessboard.

In particular, the surest path to an equitable post-COVID-19 recovery involves increasing the number of immigrants Canada accepts by expanding the paths to permanent residency for people already studying and working here, Canada’s temporary residents. That single reform could bolster Canada’s future in both the short and long run. Here’s why:

It comes as no surprise that Canada’s immigration intake was almost cut in half as a result of COVID-19, bringing us back to levels last seen in the late 1990s. Those levels are not good enough for the post-pandemic future, which will be marked by population aging and a shrinking working-age cohort.

The pandemic accelerated a process already in play, with more people over 55 exiting the workforce than entrants aged 25 and younger. This dynamic hastens that moment when Canada’s net labour-force growth goes negative if not for the addition of workers born outside Canada. A shrinking Canadian labour force, with little or no productivity growth since 2015, is a recipe for economic decline. That’s not a future anyone wants.

Nonetheless, some experts are worried about Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino’s pledge to make up for the shortfall in the 2020 target of 341,000 new immigrants by increasing targets over the next three years: 401,000 new immigrants in 2021, rising to 421,000 by 2023.

For critics, it’s too soon for such ambitious plans. COVID-19-related job losses and foregone hours of paid work mean the current labour underutilization rate is over 18 per cent. Given that the pandemic hit low-income workers the hardest, and that low-income workers are disproportionately women, youth, racialized minorities and recent immigrants, it could seem counterproductive to add more people to the mix as the nation’s hardest-hit citizens struggle to find their feet again in the post-pandemic world. Indeed, the Conservative immigration critic, Raquel Dancho, describes the goal of accepting 1.2 million new immigrants by 2023 as “pure fantasy.”

Higher targets do raise legitimate concerns about the well-known challenges of integration, given the current inadequacy of settlement services. But is the Liberals’ plan really so unattainable and undesirable?

Consider the numbers: Canada accepted more than 1.2 million newcomers in just one year, 2019, (see Chart 1) through permits for both permanent and temporary residency — a number that has increased steadily over the years, particularly among for those brought into Canada for economic reasons.

In 2019 (see Chart 2), about 30 per cent of those who entered Canada as permanent residents had made the transition from temporary-resident status. We can easily accommodate 1.2 million new immigrants over the next three years if we draw from the ranks of temporary residents who already work or study here. They have adjusted to life in Canada to some degree. Providing them with better settlement services like subsidized housing, English/French as a second language instruction and learning supports is a low-cost, high-yield return on public spending that also creates new jobs for Canadians.

Ironically, admitting more immigrants may be the surest path to a more equitable recovery, if one looks at the entire system of the intake of newcomers, including temporary residents. We don’t know for sure how many want to stay, but there’s plenty of demand for pathways to permanence among the more than 530,000 international students, 459,000 migrant workers (via the International Mobility Programs) and 77,000 temporary foreign workers who were in Canada as of December 31, 2020, and that’s in the middle of a pandemic. It is hard to believe that this deep well of human aspiration could not satisfy most, if not all, of the minister’s goal of adding 50,000 more immigrants this year. More generally, failing to integrate those who are already here studying and working and who want to stay is like leaving money on the table.

Though hard to imagine right now, we will soon be looking at widespread labour shortages. While population aging creates an unprecedented opportunity to increase skills and employment opportunities for whole groups of systemically underemployed Canadian residents, like the ones hardest hit by the pandemic, we’ll nonetheless need more newcomers to address temporary and permanent labour and skills shortages.

Historically, we have admitted more permanent residents than temporary ones to address labour shortages. But in 2006 the lines crossed. Ever since, we’ve admitted more migrant workers than economic immigrants. Take a hard look at the trajectory in Chart 2 and ask yourself: can you imagine living in a society where the vast majority of economic newcomers are migrants? Is this the future you envision for Canada?

The shift described in Chart 2 erodes workers’ rights in industries like accommodation, food service, personal services, elder care and child care, long-term care, and some types of manufacturing. These sectors, which have long relied on low-wage immigrants, reduce costs even further by turning to migrant workers with even less ability to exercise statutory labour protections. Exhibit A: seasonal agricultural workers, the essential workers who make sure we are fed, but may not be able to protect their own health and safety. Most come back, year after year; but this year some couldn’t even get tests or take time off when they fell ill with COVID-19. We can do better, for them and for us.

This process has begun. Small steps to create more pathways to permanence started in 2019, with a new pilot for personal care workers, joined by two others in 2020 for seasonal agricultural workers and live-in caregivers, and one for health-care workersin 2021. To these measures was added the recent federal invitation to basically everyone in Canada to put in an application to become a permanent resident. Last month the federal government drew 27,800 people from these applications. 

Canadian immigration is based on a point system, and the lowest score of applicants was 75. A normal draw features applicants with 400 points, sometimes more. Does this downgrade the “quality” of immigrants and hence their ability to integrate? No. They were already here, studying and working, but at risk of losing their status and deported during the pandemic. This was effectively a regularization program. (Note: Canada hasn’t had a major regularization program for residents without status since the 1970s, under Trudeau père. If not during a pandemic, when should such measures be taken? Never?)

We should celebrate, not be afraid of these measures. Permitting more migrant workers to transition to permanent status increases their ability to access labour protections and basic human rights. If we reduce exploitation of these workers, we improve working conditions for everyone in the workplaces where they are employed.

The de facto “two-step immigration process” that has emerged in recent years has been primarily driven by business demands for faster intake of newcomers, but could lead to better integration and lives for “low” and “high” skilled workers alike. If temporary foreign workers are good enough to work for us, they are good enough to live among us, permanently, if that is what they wish.

Let’s not look at the immigration story with our eyes wide shut. How we live with others will define the labour market, society, and future of Canada.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2021/03/06/our-temporary-residents-provide-a-resource-we-cant-ignore.html