Canada more dependent than ever on immigrants

Here's what all those newcomers mean for employment and economic growth

Canada more dependent than ever on immigrants
Immigrants now account for three-quarters of Canada’s population growth, up from less than half in the early 1990s, according to National Bank of Canada.

Their contribution to economic development, however, remains mixed and has room for improvement.

Canada’s population last year grew 1.2 percent versus the 0.7 percent growth in the United States, with the strongest growth seen in Ontario and British Columbia at 1.6 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively, reported The Huffington Post.

Immigration minister Ahmed Hussen said he was “extremely proud of…Canadians welcoming others.”

“We’ve been the better for it,” he said. “The story of Canada is the story of immigration.”

In November the government will announce a new immigration target, with the economic advisory council suggesting 450,000 new immigrants a year.  For decades, new immigrants to Canada hovered at around 250,000 annually and for 2017 the Liberals estimated it at 300,000.

But the Conference Board of Canada said in a report that new target would only work if Canada does a better job of economically integrating migrants.

More new migrants would and solve the problems of an aging population and rising health care costs as well as improve economic growth, the Board said.

The new target would bring down the percentage of seniors to total population from 24 percent to 22.5 percent. "And since immigrants tend to be younger than the national average, health care costs as a share of provincial revenues would decrease by 2 percentage points to 40.5 per cent in 2040," the report said.

The higher number will also enable the economy to grow at 2.05 percent between now and 2040, higher than the 1.85 percent estimate with current immigration levels.

Then again, the report warned that higher immigration levels could actually shrink per-capita GDP. The amount of wealth created per person could come down because new migrants tended to earn below the average.

"Immigration makes an immense contribution to Canada's economy, but the employment barriers that newcomers experience are preventing Canada from fully reaping the economic benefits," said Kareem El-Assal, senior research associate for immigration at the Conference Board.

The report urged policymakers to focus on integrating migrants in the labour market.

Related stories:
What more immigrant workers could mean for Canada
Could these foreigners fill Ontario's labour gap?

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