Statistics are great unless they measure the wrong things: Don Pittis

Always a risk, particularly in today’s economy:

If prices are rising by about two per cent, as inflation data is likely to show this week, why did one of my newspaper subscriptions just go up by 17 per cent?

And if wages are rising at about four per cent, as recent jobs data has shown, why are some provincial governments insisting that wage increases be held below one per cent?

As house prices go through the roof, the fact that the price of the biggest purchase Canadians make in their lives is not included in our inflation statistics makes it easy to see why many young people have expressed doubts about the accuracy of those figures.

It is a struggle that Statistics Canada faces every day as it tries to sketch out with numbers an authentic picture of the reality Canadians experience. But Oxford fellow and bestselling author of Age of Discovery Chris Kutarna says the task is far more complicated than many statisticians like to admit.

Kutarna worries that Statistics Canada’s plan to plunge into the ocean of “Big Data” so beloved of retailers and credit card companies — described last week by chief statistician Anil Arora — will inevitably create bias in the results simply because we are measuring the wrong things.

“One of the terrifying and most fundamental sources of risk is that we only consider what we’re now measuring as real,” said Kutarna, on the phone from London, England.

For example, long-standing data sets built on debt, spending, prices and gross domestic product simply close the door on values such as family, respect, happiness and species extinction.

“There is far more that is real and not being measured than there is that is real and we are measuring it,” said Kutarna.

One practical example from his book is the failure of modern statistics to measure the value of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia which, despite providing value to billions, adds less to GDP figures than the old Encyclopedia Britannica which reached far fewer people.

In a recent speech, Stephen Poloz, governor of the Bank of Canada, described an economy changing so fast that our statistical models fail to grasp it.

Poloz paraphrased the Solow Paradox, the observation by economist Robert Solow that computers had led to an increase in productivity everywhere but in the statistics. Poloz suggested GDP is being understated by as much as two per cent.

One example he offered was the way so many companies are distributing computer services to the cloud, turning whole computer divisions into a budget line item.

“How does StatCan deal with that?” asked Poloz.

Last week, Arora boasted to a gathering of the Empire Club that Statistics Canada was respected everywhere as a global leader, but he acknowledges it is constantly struggling to keep up with changing technology and the shifting understanding of how the world works.

“Look, that’s what statistics is, right? To take what are evolving concepts, nebulous concepts, things that haven’t even taken a lot of shape and then quickly try to turn them into numerics,” said Arora in an interview.

The statistics chief calls it a “team sport” where governments and individuals need to decide which of the millions and millions of things that could possibly be measured should be addressed by the some 5,000 employees at Statistics Canada. Their job, he says, is to bring scientific rigour to the process, so that the numbers are as accurate as possible.

“This is always going to be a journey,” said Arora, adding that finding and incorporating into our figures what have so far been labelled intangibles may be a never-ending task.

Part of that journey that those employees are now undertaking is the attempt to mine the immense bodies of information embedded in Big Data, those traces of activity we leave behind when we do almost anything on the internet from buying to searching. Not only are they readily available for quick analysis but they reduce the employee hours required in traditional surveys.

“Alternate sources of data are increasing exponentially and we have the technologies and the mechanisms to convert them to public good with high quality statistics,” said Arora in his speech.

When it comes to the inadequacies of GDP, a big part of the problem has less to do with Statistics Canada than how we continue to use familiar indicators that may be out of date.

Arora says the University of Waterloo’s Canadian Index of Wellbeing includes 200 indicators — from crime and safety to sustainable growth — most of which come from Statistics Canada data. But it’s GDP that gets the attention.

Statisticians are always groping to find the data sets that matter. But even in areas we think we know and understand, statistics are merely an indicator — an estimate, of reality. Things we don’t understand are, by definition, even harder to measure.

“We live in this culture where what is real is what we measure,” said Kutarna, “That the things we measure are reality.”

In which case, a certain amount of healthy skepticism, whether about this week’s inflation numbers, about GDP, productivity or the many other financial statistics that are often offered as solid immutable facts, may well be in order.

Source: Statistics are great unless they measure the wrong things: Don Pittis

Big Brother, Big Data and Statistics Canada

The ongoing challenge of better and more timely data that can be best achieved through linking data, and the privacy and consent concerns, where government is held to a much higher standard:

On December 9, 2019, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada published the results of an investigation into complaints that Statistics Canada had requested from a credit institution and Canadian banks the personal information on financial transactions of banking customers without notifying those customers. This clearly raises the issue of big-data mining by public authorities – the marriage of Big Brother and Big Data – with regard to the protection of privacy.

Let us recall the facts: Seeking to measure household debt more precisely, Statistics Canada reached an agreement with TransUnion, which agreed to forward files covering close to 24 million Canadians. The files included personal credit ratings along with identifying elements (name, address, date of birth, social insurance number, etc.). Statistics Canada was then able to link this data (600 pieces of information) with data from its own surveys, such as the census. In addition, Statistics Canada asked Canadian banks to provide it with information on all transactions carried out by a sample of 500,000 households.

The Canadian Bankers Association (CBA), which Statistics Canada first approached, said that it was reluctant to respond to such a request because of the burden it placed on banks, but mostly because complying meant that they would violate their privacy standards. A Global News report on October 26, 2018, blew the whistle. The chief statistician was called up before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, and an investigation was launched by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. The Financial Transactions project, for which no data had yet been transferred, was immediately suspended. TransUnion also stopped forwarding information.

According to the results of the investigation, those whose information had been shared had not been notified. In the first case, TransUnion put a note in people’s files, but nobody told them it was there. (Only if they asked to see their file for some other reason could they discover it.) In the case of the project with the banks, Statistics Canada had not planned to notify the selected households. In both projects, Statistics Canada claims to have complied with the Privacy Act. The organization also claims to have relied on section 13 of the Statistics Act, which requires any person responsible for documents or archives, public or private, to transmit them to Statistics Canada if such a request is made. The Commissioner concluded from his investigation that the Credit Information Project did comply with existing law and that the complaint on this subject was thus “not well founded.” In the case of the Financial Transactions Project, he concluded – against the opinion of Statistics Canada – that what was asked for went beyond the transmission of pre-existing documents or archives and involved the creation of new files. However, since no data had yet been transmitted, the Commissioner did not see fit to accept the complaint. That said, he expressed several concerns and made six recommendations, two of which call on Statistics Canada to refrain from going ahead with both projects as designed.

These two projects offer an example of linkage between big data as a by-product of transactions and interactions carried out for private purposes and information obtained through surveys to which citizens are obliged to answer. The scale of Statistics Canada’s projects is impressive and suggests that the revolution associated with Big Data is now affecting national statistical offices, hitherto hesitant to join it due to methodological scruples and ethical constraints. Section 13 of the Statistics Act, conceived of at a time when statistical treatment of documents and archives was limited by their physical nature, presents unforeseen potential. It is also clear from the results of the investigation that Statistics Canada’s requests rested upon a particularly broad interpretation of this section of the law. The Privacy Commissioner therefore considers that the legal framework applying to the collection of “big-data administrative data” from the private sector is outdated and suggests that the legislator review the Statistics Act respecting this matter.

On the other hand, the problems that the Statistics Act could pose would no doubt be lesser, according to the Commissioner, “if the Privacy Act were not so out of date.” In 2016, he proposed that it be amended “to explicitly require compliance with the criteria of necessity and proportionality in the context of any collection of personal information.” In fact, even if Statistics Canada agreed to demonstrate the “necessity” of the information sought in these and other projects and the “proportionality” of the means used to obtain these data, the agency is not legally required to do so.

Finally, beyond legal amendments, the Commissioner’s report presents recommendations that are inspired by European practices aimed at ensuring the consent of individuals or even at circumventing this problem. They include “civic data sharing,” which is based on prior consent, “algorithm-to-the-data,” which means only anonymized results are transferred by the private enterprise to public authorities, and “privacy-preserving computation,” which also amounts to anonymizing information at the source. The first method resembles in all respects the position of the Harper government with regard to the long-form census. The other two would interfere with the type of data linkage that Statistics Canada envisioned.

Much has been made in recent years of the necessary independence of Statistics Canada from government. If the Office of the Commissioner’s report presents a less-than-sympathetic and somewhat authoritarian image of the agency, it is at least reassuring that Statistics Canada is accountable to a parliamentary committee, that it had to collaborate with the Office of the Commissioner to improve its practices and that a report was made public. The whole affair illustrates how big-data mining poses new challenges for official statistics when it comes to the trade-off between privacy rights and evidence-based policy-making.

Source: Big Brother, Big Data and Statistics Canada

StatsCan Study: The long-term economic outcomes of refugee private sponsorship

Of note how the economic outcomes of privately and government-sponsored refugees become similar over time after an initially wide gap:

Canada was the first country to introduce private sponsorship for refugee resettlement. The program has played a key role in the country’s responses to international refugee crises over the last four decades. Private sponsors are responsible for providing financial, material and personal support to refugees during their first year in Canada.

A new Statistics Canada study compares the employment rate and earnings between privately sponsored refugees and government-assisted refugees who were admitted to Canada from 1980 to 2009.

This study is based on the Longitudinal Immigration Database and focuses on refugees who arrived between the ages of 20 and 54 under the two programs (privately sponsored refugees and government-assisted refugees). The analysis follows refugees up to 15 years after they first arrived in Canada.

Refugees are a diverse population with varying degrees of human capital and pre-migration circumstances. Privately sponsored refugees and government-assisted refugees differ in some key socio-demographic characteristics. Over the study period, privately sponsored refugees came more predominantly from Eastern Europe, whereas government-assisted refugees came more often from South and Central America and the Caribbean. Privately sponsored refugees had a higher level of education and tended to be more concentrated in Toronto than government-assisted refugees.

This study compares labour market outcomes of these two groups of refugees, while taking these socio-economic characteristics into account and recognizing that other possible unmeasured differences between the two groups of refugees—such as exposure to violence, duration of displacement, physical and mental health, and ethnic and family networks—could impact their economic outcomes.

This study found that privately sponsored refugees had much higher employment rates and earnings than government-assisted refugees in the initial years after arrival, but this difference diminished over time with government-assisted refugees steadily catching up.

In the first full year after arrival, privately sponsored refugees had higher employment rates than government-assisted refugees, by about 17 percentage points among men and 24 percentage points among women. Fifteen years after arrival, these differences decreased to 3 percentage points among men and 2 percentage points among women.

Similarly, privately sponsored refugees earned 28% more than government-assisted refugees among men and 34% more among women in the first full year after arrival. This gap narrowed to about 5% for both men and women 15 years after arrival.

Furthermore, the employment and earnings advantage of privately sponsored refugees over government-assisted refugees was greater among refugees with less than a high school education than among refugees with higher educational levels. Over half of refugees in the study had less than a high school education.

Source: PDF

Changes in outcomes of immigrants and non-permanent residents, 2017 Text – Selected

The latest. Some encouraging trends:

Immigrants admitted to Canada in 2016 reported a median entry wage of $25,900 in 2017, the highest recorded among immigrants admitted since 1981. Although the entry wages of recent immigrants have increased over the past few years, their income remains lower than that of the overall Canadian population. The Canadian Income Survey estimated the Canadian population’s median wage at $36,100 in 2017.

When immigrants arrive in Canada, they face a number of challenges, such as getting their credentials recognized, being able to speak one of the official languages and acquiring Canadian work experience. However, the longer immigrants live in Canada, the more their income increases and, for some, their income reaches the level of the overall Canadian population.

This analysis uses new data from the Longitudinal Immigration Database (IMDB), which comprises information on permanent and non-permanent (temporary) residents, including asylum claimants. It presents the type of information that can be extracted from the IMDB and its outputs to better understand how the socioeconomic situation of these individuals has evolved.

Recent immigrants have higher entry wages and more work experience prior to admission than before

Over the past 10 years, the median entry wage of immigrants, one year after admission, in 2017 constant dollars, has increased from $20,400 for the 2007 admission year to $25,900 for the 2016 admission year (+27%).

Not all immigrants face the same challenges after admission. Those who had work experience in Canada upon admission reported the highest median entry wages. For the 2016 admission year, income one year after arrival was $39,800 for study and work permit holders, and $38,100 for work permit holders only. These wages are comparable with those of the entire Canadian population. For immigrants who had no experience prior to admission, or who had a study permit only, incomes were $19,900 and $12,500, respectively.

In recent years, an increasing number of non-permanent resident permit holders are transitioning to permanent residence. The observed growth in entry wages can be partly accounted for by differences in income between immigrants with pre-admission work experience in Canada and immigrants without such work experience. From the 2007 admission year to the 2016 admission year, the number of immigrant taxfilers one year after arrival who had work experience in Canada increased by 166%, while the number of immigrants without work experience rose 2%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Number of immigrant taxfilers one year after admission, by admission year and work experience in Canada prior to admission
Number of immigrant taxfilers one year after admission, by admission year and work experience in Canada prior to admission

Chart 1: Number of immigrant taxfilers one year after admission, by admission year and work experience in Canada prior to admission

Immigrants who hold at least a pre-admission study permit have stronger wage catch-up in the 10 years after admission

Overall, immigrants’ wages increase with the number of years since admission and, for some, their wages eventually reach that of the overall Canadian population ($36,100). For example, the median wage for immigrants admitted in 2007 increased from $20,400 in 2008 to $33,500 in 2017, an increase of 64%.

Wage catch-up factors include pre-admission work experience, which facilitates integration through increased knowledge of official languages and the development of professional networks in Canada, among other things. In 2017, immigrants admitted in 2007 who had held both a study permit and a work permit prior to admission had the highest median wage (up 81% to $63,800), and their wage exceeded that of immigrants who held only a work permit (up 36% to $48,100) and that of Canadians as a whole. The median wage of immigrants admitted in 2007 who held only a pre-admission study permit increased significantly over 10 years (up 163% to $37,600) and now exceeds the median wage of immigrants without pre-admission experience (up 72% to $30,700).

Chart 2  Chart 2: Median wage of immigrants admitted in 2007, 1 year and 10 years after admission, by pre-admission experience
Median wage of immigrants admitted in 2007, 1 year and 10 years after admission, by pre-admission experience

Chart 2: Median wage of immigrants admitted in 2007, 1 year and 10 years after admission, by pre-admission experience

The median wage for asylum claimants increases with length of residence in country

Asylum claimants are individuals who request refugee protection in Canada. Because of their situation, they face many challenges in terms of economic integration. Even after their refugee claim is accepted, asylum claimants have lower median wages than other immigrants with pre-admission experience.

According to a Statistics Canada article on asylum claimants published earlier this year, the number of claimants fluctuated from 2000 to 2018 and reached over 50,000 in 2017 and 2018. Asylum claimants are relatively young. Of those who arrived in 2017, 39% were younger than 25 years of age, while 14% were aged 45 or older.

The median entry wage for asylum claimant taxfilers refers to their income one year after they submitted their refugee claim. Among those who claimed refugee status from 2006 to 2016, the median wage fluctuated between $10,900 and $16,000. As with immigrants, the median wage of asylum claimants increases with each additional year spent in the country. Therefore, the median wage for those who submitted a refugee claim in 2006 was $14,100 in 2007 and $28,600 in 2017.

There are significant differences in income among the top 15 countries of origin for asylum claimants. Among asylum claimants in 2012 who filed taxes in 2017, the highest median wages were reported by claimants from Sri Lanka ($31,600), Somalia ($30,700) and Nigeria ($30,700). Claimants from Afghanistan ($18,200), Iraq ($17,300) and China ($14,300) reported the lowest median wages.

Economic immigrants and their dependants stay more frequently in their province of admission when they have pre-admission work experience

Reasons for immigrating to Canada can influence the likelihood of immigrants to remain in their province of admission over time. For example, family class immigrants come to Canada to be closer to their loved ones, while economic immigrants are selected based on their ability to contribute to the Canadian economy.

In 2017, 86% of immigrant taxfilers admitted in 2012 filed a tax return in their province of admission. The provincial retention rate was highest among family-sponsored immigrants (93%) and slightly lower among refugees (87%). For economic immigrants and their dependants, the retention rate was 82%. However, for these immigrants, the rate was higher among those with a pre-admission work permit only (90%) than among those with no pre-admission experience (81%).

Canadian immigrants more overeducated for jobs than U.S. counterparts: StatsCan

Good analysis of the data by StatsCan of both the comparatively large gap among recent immigrants and a minimal gap with respect to immigrants who have resided in Canada or USA for 10 years or more:

Recent immigrants in Canada with a university degree were more likely to be over-educated for their jobs compared to immigrants in the United States, a new study from Statistics Canada has found.

The Tuesday release from the federal agency found 35 per cent of working-age, university-educated immigrants who arrived in Canada within the last 10 years were over-educated for their jobs.

In comparison, only 21 per cent of their counterparts south of the border were deemed to be over-educated for their jobs.

Overeducation in the study refers to situations where workers with at least a bachelor’s degree hold a job that requires only a high school diploma or less.

Statistics Canada said the gap was little changed when difference in socio-demographic characteristics among recent immigrants in the two countries were factored in.

The findings raise questions about whether Canada’s immigration system can be better linked to its economic needs and is efficiently employing its highly-educated workforce.

While Canada’s economy in recent years has grown at a steady rate, much due to lockstep expansion of its labour force, the growth of productivity remains sluggish.

Labour productivity, which measures real GDP per hours worked, only increased 0.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2019 for Canadian businesses. The U.S., meanwhile, saw productivity grow by three times as much in the same period. Statistics Canada will release its third quarter figures on Wednesday.

“Overeducation leads to inefficient use of human capital and lost productivity,” Tuesday’s report reads.

While helping to sustain long-term economic growth, productivity gains can lead to wage increases that raise the standard of living.

Tuesday’s report noted that compared to the U.S., “Canada’s industrial structure is less knowledge-intensive and has a weaker demand for university-educated workers.”

As well, the study said up until the early 2010s, university-educated immigrants in Canada were mostly admitted through a points system that selected those based on their human capital characteristics, such as education, language, age and work experience.

Such factors have led to a large supply of university-educated immigrants “relative to labour market demand for skilled workers in Canada than in the United States.”

“The differences in supply–demand balance and how new immigrants are selected could affect immigrants’ relative performance in the labour market in the two countries,” the report read.

University-educated immigrants in the U.S. were generally selected and sponsored by employers.

Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, said better employing immigrants to their qualifications could improve Canada’s economic performance.

“What we’re talking about is bringing in qualified workers that aren’t being fully employed. So we certainly could improve our productivity if we fully utilise their skill sets and their credentials,” he said.

But Antunes said economic outcomes for highly-educated immigrants have improved in recent years, in part due to a tightening of the labour market. He said Canada has also done a better job in creating arrival streams that ensure there are opportunities for highly-skilled immigrants.

The report had observed that new immigrants admitted through the Canadian Experience Class had the lowest overeducation rate of 18 per cent among economic streams.

The entry stream introduced in 2008 allows immigrant to arrive as temporary foreign workers who can then apply for permanent residence after working for one year.

“I do think we’re doing some things right,” Antunes said. “I wouldn’t want to be too critical of the system.”

While new immigrants in Canada were more likely to be over-educated for their jobs compared to those in the U.S., the disparity for immigrants who arrived more than a decade ago was much smaller.

Twenty-one per cent of long-term immigrants in Canada were over-educated, compared to 18 per cent for similar immigrants in the U.S.

The report said this finding suggests immigrants to Canada are able to find jobs better aligned with their qualifications in the long run.

Among domestic-born workers, the overeducation rate for also slightly lower in Canada than in the U.S.

Antunes added that more could be done for highly-skilled immigants to support arriving spouses and by reducing employer bias.

Source: Canadian immigrants more overeducated for jobs than U.S. counterparts: StatsCan

Douglas Todd: Up to 1 in 3 study-visa holders in Canada not in school

More on international students and some of the abuses of the program:

One in three people who entered Canada on student visas do not appear to have been enrolled at educational institutions in the country, Statistics Canada reports.

A recent StatsCan analysis could not find indications that 30.5 per cent of people in the country on post-secondary study permits in 2015 were signed up that year at a Canadian college or university.

The StatsCan study, by Marc Frenette, Yuquian Lu and Winnie Chan, echoes the findings of an internal Immigration Department report that revealed 25 per cent of would-be foreign students in Canada in 2018 were likely not complying with the conditions of their visa or were just not being monitored by school administrators.

The high no-show rate comes as there is a rising trend toward “edu-immigration” to Canada. Many foreign nationals are being encouraged by immigration agents to use Canada’s study permits to gain a relatively easy foothold in the country to find work, through which they can try to obtain permanent resident status.

Canada has a reputation as an unusually open country for international students, especially in the way it allows newcomers to study part-time and hold down an almost unlimited range of jobs. Compared to Britain, the U.S. and Australia, Canada is known for having a poor record of tracking study-visa holders once they’re in the country.

Vancouver immigration consultant Laleh Sahba and immigration lawyer Sam Hyman say it’s an unfortunate reality that many international students are being told by dubious agents they can bypass school to work. But the immigration specialists say such misuses shouldn’t overshadow that most international students are using the system responsibly.

The number of study-visa holders in Canada has shot up by 73 per cent in four years, to 573,000 in 2018, with the highest concentration in Metro Vancouver.

Many officials welcome the hike in high-fee-paying offshore students. They maintain they enhance cultural diversity on campuses and boost the budgets of public educational institutions, which are not being funded by governments as well as in the past.

In addition to articles published by Postmedia on loopholes in Canada’s study-visa program, The Toronto Star reported in November that many would-be international students are routinely fail to pursue their studies, instead looking for work and applying for permanent residency.

Some get caught. Canadian officials revoked 5,502 study visas last year, an almost-four-fold increase from 2016.

The Globe and Mail also reported last month that many trucking companies, primarily in Surrey, are taking large illegal cash payments from foreign students in exchange for truck-driver jobs that might help them qualify for permanent residency. The trucking companies send many of the study-visa holders out on the road with no training, leading to deadly accidents.

Visa officials appear to be starting to respond to flaws in Canada’s burgeoning program: A growing number of study-visa applications, two out of five, are now being rejected, Postmedia reported this month.

Immigration department officials have acknowledged a tenth of all study-visa applications are fraudulent, often because they use faked acceptance letters from Canadian institutions.

One of the disquieting findings in the StatsCan report is that 2015’s rate was an improvement over previous years: In 2009, only half of study-permit holders were signed up with a school.

When Postmedia asked Statistics Canada why such a large proportion of would-be foreign students appear to be avoiding studying, officials said the authors of the report were not permitted to directly answer Postmedia’s questions.

Although the report said statistical “noise” made it hard to precisely determine the ratio of study-visa holders who were not enrolled at the time researchers did their calculations, a Statistics Canada official also acknowledged: “We did not ask respondents their motivation for coming to Canada on a student visa. We only observed their work patterns.”

The study concluded that about one in four study-visa holders in Canada eventually gain permanent resident status. But beyond such data, the authors said, “Little is known about international students in Canada.”

Hyman, the immigration lawyer, says there is no doubt many study-permit holders come to Canada essentially to work and not to study.

“Some work full-time in contravention of the terms of their study permit, which limits them to working no more than 20 hours a week when school is in session, plus full-time during scheduled school vacations.” Some, Hyman said, obtain work “off the books for cash.”

Ottawa has failed to hire staff dedicated to enforcing the evolving rules about what it requires to be a genuine international student, said Hyman. “Still, sometimes detection occurs when the student goes to renew the initial student permit and has to demonstrate academic progress, or try to explain the lack of it.”

An Ottawa immigration official said that up until 2014, a prospective international student did not have to enrol in an educational program. He or she only needed to demonstrate an “intent” to study. It took until this year for Immigration Canada to more clearly define what it really means to “actively pursue” an academic program.

Canada’s more than 650 institutes of higher education are allowed to follow the honour system in informing authorities about study-visa infractions. And even though Canadian schools have been required since 2016 to report on their total international-student enrolment, 68 schools failed to do even that last year.

There can be legitimate reasons for not complying with study-visa requirements, including illness, running out of money or switching schools, says Sahba, the immigration consultant. But she’s convinced Canada’s institutes of higher learning should make it a higher priority to report on absent foreign students.

Sahba is disturbed by the dubious migration agents in Canada and abroad who increasingly tell young would-be migrants the easiest way to get permanent resident status in Canada is by obtaining a study visa, largely avoiding school and getting access to employers, some of whom exploit the workers in exchange for providing a crucial sponsorship letter.

While this is an “unfortunate reality” for some study-permit holders, Sahba said “there are also many responsible, ambitious and self-motivated international students currently studying in Canada. And many more waiting in the queue for their visas.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Up to 1 in 3 study-visa holders in Canada not in school

For the StatCan study: The Postsecondary Experience and Early Labour Market Outcomes of International Study Permit Holders

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

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

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

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

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

Citizenship acquisition is down

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

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

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

Why has naturalization fallen among recent immigrants?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citizenship rates should increase

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

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

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

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

Set better performance standards

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

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

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

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

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

40 per cent increase by 2024?

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

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

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


Number of immigrants becoming Canadian citizens drops

CBC’s take on the StatsCan report, largely based on my interview (All in a Day):

Fewer Canadian immigrants became citizens in 2016 than 1996, according to a new study released by Statistics Canada this week, though more recent developments  may be addressing some of the issues at play.

The citizenship rate among recent immigrants was just over 75 per cent in 1996, but declined to 60 per cent in 2016.

“There are a number of factors that created the decline,” said Andrew Griffith, a former director-general with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, on CBC Radio’s All in a Day Thursday.

Griffith said that part of the reason may be financial.

The processing fee for citizenship used to be $200, but the amount was increased to $630 under the previous Conservative government, Griffith said.

“If you look at a family of four, you’re talking about $1,500 or so,” he said. “That’s a significant burden.”

The Liberals were re-elected to a minority government last month with a platform that included eliminating this application fee.

There was a spike in citizenship applications late in 2017, after the period covered by the study, when the federal government relaxed some of the residency and language rules.

Complicated language

Another issue, according to Griffith, is that more complex language is used in the new citizenship study guide.

In order to obtain citizenship, people must take a written test on Canada and the government.

The guide was revised about a decade ago, and Griffith said it includes more sophisticated language.

As a result, people with lower levels of education can have a harder time.

“You’re creating an additional barrier that doesn’t need to be there,” he said.

He added that it’s possible to simplify the language in the study guide without simplifying the content.

Big decline in East Asian immigrants

The study also revealed the decline in citizenship rates was most pronounced among East Asian immigrants.

In 1996 the citizenship rate among East Asian immigrants was at 83 per cent, but that was down to 45 per cent by 2016.

Chinese immigrants drove the majority of this decline, according to Statistics Canada, which may demonstrate their changing preference for keeping Chinese citizenship while the country experiences significant economic growth.

In comparison, the rate among immigrants from western Europe, South America and the United States remained stable or slightly declined.

The percentage of recent immigrants obtaining Canadian citizenship is seeing a noticeable decline especially among those with lower family incomes, levels of education, and knowledge of English or French. In this hour…a former director with Citizenship and Immigration tells us why this is the case. 10:23

Being a citizen gives new Canadians the ability to enter or leave Canada freely, the right to a Canadian passport, as well as the right to vote in Canadian elections.

But Griffith also emphasized how the broader Canadian public benefits from having new citizens.

“Immigrants who choose to become Canadians tend to be more involved in Canadian society, more engaged in Canadian society, contribute more to Canadian society,” he said.

“So there’s a mix of that private benefit to the individual and public benefits to society.”

Source: Nov. 14, 2019: New study shows decline in percentage of recent immigrants obtaining Canadian citizenship10:24

Latest StatsCan Citizenship Study: Declining naturalization

This latest study by Statistics Canada on the naturalization rate is both humbling and gratifying.

Humbling in its methodological rigour and thoroughness, compared to my more rudimentary analysis. 

Gratifying, in that it confirms my earlier sounding the alarm that the recent naturalization rate has been declining, for lower income, lower educated and less official language fluent immigrants.

The paper also strengthens the case for IRCC to adopt a meaningful performance standard for the citizenship program, one based upon the naturalization rate for those immigrants who have been in Canada between five and nine years (previous census period) rather than the current meaningless performance measure related to all immigrants, whether recent or many years ago.

Conclusion excerpted below:

This paper uses census data from 1991 to 2016 to examine changes in the citizenship rate among recent immigrants who meet the residency requirement to become citizens. The results show that the citizenship rate among recent immigrants peaked in 1996 and declined considerably since then. This decline primarily occurred after 2006. Furthermore, the decline in the citizenship rate varied across socio-demographic characteristics, and the timing of the decline varied across immigrant groups as well.

Immigrants with lower family incomes experienced a much larger decline in citizenship rates than did those with higher family incomes. The decline among lower income immigrant families largely occurred between 2006 and 2011. The citizenship rate also declined much more among immigrants with poorer official language skills than it did among immigrants whose mother tongue was English or French. The citizenship rate among immigrants with poorer official language skills has been declining since 2001 and was observed over all intercensal periods. Education was also a factor, with citizenship rates declining much more among immigrants with lower than higher levels of educational attainment. This was primary observed between 2011 and 2016.

When all three of these factors—family income, knowledge of official languages, and educational attainment—are combined, the citizenship rate was more or less constant between 1996 and 2016 for the most advantaged group of recent immigrants (i.e., with a high income, university education, and English or French as a mother tongue). In contrast, it declined significantly among the more disadvantaged group (i.e., with a low income, high school or less education and mother tongue not English or French).

There was also significant variation in the extent to which citizenship rates declined among immigrants from different source regions. Most striking was the large decline in citizenship take-up among immigrants from East Asia—mainly China. Indeed, by 2016 the citizenship rate among recent Chinese immigrants more closely resembled the rate among immigrants from developed rather than from developing countries.

Source: Trends in the Citizenship Rate Among New Immigrants to Canada (11-626-X2019015)

The CP story on the study:

Fewer newcomers from disadvantaged groups became Canadian citizens during a 10-year period that coincided with the previous Conservative government’s changes to the citizenship program, new Statistics Canada research shows.

The decrease was part an overall trend in declining citizenship rates among those who have been in Canada less than 10 years, despite the fact the actual citizenship rate in Canada is among the highest in the Western world, Statistics Canada said in the study released Wednesday.

The researchers found that between 1991 and 2016, the citizenship rate in Canada – the percentage of immigrants who become citizens – rose about five percentage points, but the increase was largely driven by people who had been in Canada for over a decade.

But beginning in 1996 and until 2016, the citizenship rate for those who’d been in the country for less than 10 years began to fall.

Using adjusted income measurements, Statistics Canada found that for those with incomes below $10,000, the drop was 23.5 percentage points, compared to just three percentage points for those with incomes over $100,000.

In the same decade, the citizenship rate fell 22.5 percentage points among people with less than a high school education, compared with 13.8 percentage points among those with university degrees.

In the case of both income levels and education, the gaps widened between 2011 and 2016.

Between 2011 and 2015, the Conservative government of the day overhauled the citizenship program, hiking citizenship fees from $100 to $630 and implementing stricter language, residency and knowledge requirements.

The Statistics Canada research does not provide specific reasons for the decline in citizenship rates.

“Multiple policy changes were made throughout the 2006 to 2016 period,” Laurence Beaudoin-Corriveau, an agency spokesperson, said in an email. “It is difficult to pinpoint the effect of a particular policy change with the census data, which are collected every five years.”

The Conservatives defended the decision to raise citizenship fees – they had not increased since 1995 – by arguing that the fee didn’t come close to covering the cost of actually processing the applications. They had foreseen that the rise could impact applications, noting at the time it might mean people wait longer in order to save the money required.

In their platform during the recent federal election, the Liberals took the opposite approach, promising to eliminate the fee beginning next year.

“The process of granting citizenship is a government service, not something that should be paid for with a user fee,” the platform said.

The Liberals pegged the cost of removing the fee at $391 million over four years.

In 2017, they also eased other citizenship requirements, including residency obligations and the age range for being required to pass language and knowledge tests.

According to the latest numbers from Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada, 176,473 people became Canadian citizens in 2018, up from 106,373 the year before.

Source: New Statistics Canada study suggests decline in citizenship rate tied to income

Population projections: Canada, provinces and territories, 2018 to 2068

The immigration effect, largely based upon assumptions that the current rate of about .83 percent of the population would continue (for the detailed paper on their immigration expert consultations and analysis, see Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories : Technical Report on Methodology and Assumptions, 2018 to 2068):

Today, Statistics Canada looks to the future with the release of a new edition of population projections for Canada, the provinces and the territories.

Population projections investigate how the Canadian population might evolve in the years ahead. Statistics Canada publishes several scenarios to highlight the uncertain nature of population projections, making it clear that the future is not yet defined.

Readers can now access the publications Population Projections for Canada (2018 to 2068), Provinces and Territories (2018 to 2043), Population Projections for Canada (2018 to 2068), Provinces and Territories (2018 to 2043): Technical Report on Methodology and Assumptions, as well as the new infographic “What will the population of Canada look like in 2068?”

55 million Canadians by 2068?

While the populations of many developed countries are expected to decrease, Canada’s population is projected to grow over the next 50 years, largely because of strong immigration.

Population growth, however, is likely to vary across the country, with the population of some provinces and territories increasing and others decreasing. As a result, the provinces and territories may experience diverse opportunities and challenges over the coming decades.

The Canadian population has grown substantially in recent years, increasing from 30.7 million people in 2000 to 37.1 million in 2018.

The projections show that growth would continue in Canada over the next 50 years, and that the population could reach between 44.4 million and 70.2 million inhabitants by 2068. In the medium-growth scenario, the Canadian population would grow from 37.1 million inhabitants in 2018 to 55.2 million by 2068.

According to the low- and medium-growth scenarios, the rate of population growth would slow in the coming years, owing mainly to an increasing number of deaths relative to births. The expected increase in the number of deaths is mainly related to population aging.

In all scenarios, immigration would remain the key driver of population growth over the next 50 years, as has been the case since the early 1990s.

Increasing share of people aged 65 and older, decreasing share of the working-age population

According to all scenarios, Canada’s population would continue to become older in the coming years at both the national and the provincial and territorial levels.

Over the next two decades in particular, the proportion of people aged 65 and older in the population would grow rapidly as the large baby-boom cohort (those born between 1946 and 1965) reaches age 65. This transition could affect Canadian society in various ways, placing additional pressure on pension and health care systems and decreasing the share of the working-age population.

By 2068, the proportion of the population aged 65 and older would reach between 21.4% and 29.5%, depending on the scenario. In comparison, 17.2% of Canadians were aged 65 and over in 2018.

During the same period, the share of the working-age population—that is, people aged 15 to 64, most of whom are in the labour force—would decrease according to all projection scenarios, from 66.7% in 2018 to between 57.9% and 61.4% in 2068.

Centenarians: The fastest-growing age group

By 2068, the number of Canadians aged 80 and older would reach 5.5 million according to the medium-growth scenario, compared with 1.6 million in 2018.

Driven by the baby boomers reaching age 100 and increasing life expectancy, the number of centenarians (people who are aged 100 or older) in Canada would peak at 90,200 people in 2065 according to the medium-growth scenario, compared with 10,000 people in 2018.

As a result, centenarians would be the fastest-growing age group between 2018 and 2068. However, they would remain a very small share of the total population (0.2% or less in all projection scenarios).

Ontario and Alberta would make up more than half of Canada’s projected population growth between 2018 and 2068

According to all projection scenarios, the population of Ontario would increase over the next 25 years, reaching between 16.5 million and 20.4 million inhabitants by 2043. Ontario would remain the most populous province according to all scenarios.

In all scenarios, the rate of population growth in Alberta would be the highest among Canadian provinces over the next 25 years. By 2043, Alberta’s population would number between 6.0 million and 7.3 million inhabitants depending on the scenario, compared with 4.3 million in 2018.

Together, Alberta and Ontario would account for more than half of Canada’s projected growth between 2018 and 2043 in all scenarios.

Alberta’s population could surpass that of British Columbia by 2043 according to almost all scenarios. The other Prairie provinces would also see considerable growth over the next 25 years: by 2043, the combined population of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta would be slightly larger than Quebec’s population in all projection scenarios.

The rate of population growth in Quebec would remain lower than that of Canada in most scenarios. As a result, Quebec’s share of the total Canadian population could decrease from 22.6% in 2018 to between 20.1% and 20.6% by 2043.

A similar phenomenon would occur in the Atlantic provinces. Low—and, in some scenarios, negative—growth rates would cause the populations of the Atlantic provinces to represent either a stable or a decreasing share of the Canadian population by 2043.

While the population of the three territories would increase in all projection scenarios, its share of the total Canadian population would remain stable, at 0.3% between 2018 and 2043.

Large regional differences in population aging

While population aging would continue to occur in all parts of the country, there would be considerable variation in the pace and degree of aging among the provinces and territories.

In 2043, the proportion of seniors aged 65 and older would be lower than the national average in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, varying between 16.5% and 21.8% depending on the scenario.

In contrast, the Atlantic provinces would have the largest proportion of those aged 65 and older in the country, with this proportion surpassing 30% for Newfoundland and Labrador in all scenarios.

In 2043, the populations of the territories are projected to remain the youngest populations in Canada according to all scenarios. The proportion of seniors aged 65 and older would not exceed 9.4% in Nunavut or 17.0% in the Northwest Territories.


Population projections provide an opportunity to think about changes that the country will probably experience in the future. According to these new projections, the Canadian population would continue to increase over the next 50 years. However, growth rates would vary considerably among the provinces and territories, and some could experience population decrease. Population aging is projected to remain a prominent and inevitable feature of population change in Canada in the coming years. These demographic changes will alter the composition and distribution of the Canadian population, and are therefore likely to have economic, political and social consequences.