Amidst the turmoil and confusion created by Donald Trump’s travel ban of people entering the U.S.A. from seven Muslim-majority countries (the ban is now temporarily blocked), there are many who argue that immigration will actually help the U.S. economically and, therefore, make America greater!
According to The New York Times, the report on immigration, released last fall by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, concluded that immigration to the U.S. from 1990 to 2010, both legal and illegal, produced net benefits worth US$50 billion a year to the native population. Immigrants are, in general, younger and are, therefore, slowing the aging of the work force. Low-skilled immigrants may increase the labour supply of high-skilled natives, for example, by providing cheap child care and releasing mothers to work.
The National Academies report also indicated that 26 million foreigners in the American labour market added some US$2 trillion to the American economy last year. Some economists have also estimated that allowing free-border movement of labour could more than double the world’s gross domestic product. The New York Times further reported that it’s been estimated that the newcomers who arrived in the U.S. from 1990 to 2010 reduced the wages of American-born high school dropouts over the long term by 3.1 percent – or some US$900 a year.
Canada recognized the benefits of immigration a long time ago. A Statistics Canada study estimates that nearly half of the population will likely be immigrants or children of immigrants by 2036, up from 38.2 percent in 2011. Unlike our neighbour south of the border, Canada has maintained or increased its immigration levels throughout the years. In the year to last July, the nation received the highest number of newcomers since comparable record-keeping began. The Globe and Mail reported that newcomers have accounted for a growing share of Canada’s population since the 1990’s, and analysts predict that the only growth in the country’s labour force will be from immigration. Statscan said that the share of immigrants in the population in 2036 could be almost twice as high as in 1871.
More people will belong to a visible minority group. In the next two decades, the share of the working-age population (aged 15 to 64) who are members of a visible minority will reach up to 40 percent, from 19.6 percent in 2011. The report said that this share will grow in all parts of the country, with South Asians being the largest group followed by Chinese. In some cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg, visible minorities could become the majority. The total share of immigrants in Canada’s population is expected to reach up to 30 percent, which would be the highest share since 1871. Our country already has one of the highest shares of foreign-born people in the developed world.
The latest Census numbers released by Statscan earlier this week showed a total of 35,151,728 people living in Canada on the day of the Census, May 10, 2016. Over the five years since the previous Census, the population grew at a rate of one percent a year, or five percent over all since 2011. In spite of the oil patch’s economic downturn, the Prairie region and British Columbia are continuing to add people – mostly immigrants – faster than the rest of the country, while eastern regions are slipping behind.
Canada is the fastest-growing country in the G7 group of industrialized nations, as it has been for the past 15 years, a rate of annual growth of one percent, which exceeds the growth rates in the U.S. and Britain, among others. We rank eighth in the G20, behind countries such as Turkey, South Africa, Mexico and Australia. The main reason for our country’s steady growth is our commitment to relatively high levels of immigration. Statscan said that roughly two-thirds of Canada’s population increase is due to international migration, the amount by which the number of new immigrants exceeds the number of people who leave Canada. The other third stems from “natural growth,” the difference between the rates of deaths and births. Projections show that Canada could reach the point at which migration accounts for nearly all population growth some time after 2050. In other words, by then, the annual number of deaths would exceed births – just like what Germany, Italy and Japan are currently experiencing!
There are too many myths floating around in Canada about immigrants, ranging from them being low-skilled workers to them having difficulty integrating into the labour force. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s 2013 International Migration Outlook, these myths were all debunked. The OECD found that employment for foreign-born Canadian citizens had gone up since 2008, while it has stalled for native-born citizens. The employment rate for Canadian immigrants in 2012 was the third highest in the OECD. This shows that immigrants are quickly integrating into the labour force and contributing to the country’s economy.
More than 50 percent of Canadian immigrants are also highly educated, putting Canada at the top among OECD countries. Also, a significant number of the almost 100,000 foreign students visiting Canada each year decide to stay after getting a degree from one of our renowned universities. Many other immigrants are also drawn to Canada attracted by job prospects and the openness and inclusiveness for which this country is known.
According to Clement Gignac, Vice-Chairman of the World Economic Forum Council on Competitiveness, who wrote in The Globe and Mail, “Canada has gone to great lengths to liberalize its labour market, and it is paying off. Canada’s labour market now offers a great deal of mobility to its workers – it is quite easy to move from Montreal to Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver (and vice versa).”
He also noted that a large percentage of every province’s immigrants are in the 20-44 age group, meaning that the benefits of household formation are spread all across Canada. This also helps explain why the housing market in Canada has been so resilient during the past five years.
Immigration has been, and will continue to be, the key to Canada’s prosperity. Let’s hope President Trump can eventually learn a few lessons from us!