Posted on March 18, 2010
by Andrés T. Tapia; research by Susan Welch–
Canada faces an unprecedented labor shortage. In Calgary, Alberta McDonald’s is paying $15/hr and bookstores are forced to close at 3:30 pm because there are not enough workers to keep the stores open. A Globe and Mail report announced in 2008, that due to its aging population, the growth of Canada’s workforce is slowing down considerably each year, and by 2016 its workforce growth will be zero. This spells economic and societal trouble for Canada in the years ahead, which according to demographers and economists will lead to lower living standards as the ratio between workers contributing to state pensions through payroll taxes and retirees gets increasingly unbalanced.
The bright spot in this demographic shift is the youth and vitality new immigrants continually bring to Canada. And it’s Canada’s Open Arms policy to newcomers that keeps this labor pipeline flowing. In fact, in the developed world, Canada has the highest rate of immigration. This in turn is dramatically transforming the face of Canada.
Check out these eye-popping stats. While, by 2001 the census had already crowned Toronto the world’s’ most diverse city, with half its population born outside Canada, here’s what the picture is going to look like by 2031 as reported in The Globe and Mail:
* one-third of Canada’s residents will be visible minorities (what Americans refer to racial/ethnic minorities)
* one-fourth of Canada’s residents will be foreign-born
* 63% of Toronto will be visible minorities
* 60% of Vancouver will be visible minorities, with a majority from China
* 30%+ of Montreal will be visible minorities, most will be Blacks and Arabs
* 28% of visible minorities will be South Asians from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka; 21% will be Chinese.
Canada’s foreign-born boom is rooted in an immigration policy change enacted in the 1960s. Following World War II, Canada opened its doors to European immigrants (later closing them to Eastern European immigrants as the Cold War began). Eventually, as racial and ethnic discrimination increasingly was discouraged, Canada eliminated racial, ethnic, and religious barriers to immigration. By 1971, a majority of immigrants to Canada were non-European.
Today, Canadian leaders such as John Barrett, Ambassador to Austria and whom I heard speak at the World Diversity Leadership Summit held in Vienna in early March 2010, believe their country is poised to reap the benefits of its open immigration policies: “Immigrants are welcomed to Canada,” Barrett said. But listen to how he then captures Canada’s open-arms policy in an extraordinary and simple statement: “We see immigrants as future citizens.” He then goes on to explain the rationale: “We believe that bestowing the honor of full citizenship on them begets full participation from them. We say to the new arrivals, ‘Welcome to Canada. Make it better.’”
Canada’s welcome provides a dramatic contrast to current attitudes toward immigrants elsewhere in the U.S. and Europe, where the presence of the foreign-born elicit for many a spectrum of negative feelings anywhere from discomfort with their different looks and ways to fears that lead to outright hostility. The US and countries throughout Western Europe face contentious and controversial debates around immigration policy that, unlike Canada’s stance, reveal a lack of social consensus as to whether immigrants are welcome or not, or whether or not they are good for the economy.
In the meantime, Canada has made up its mind: immigration is good for us. It has bet its future on it.