Image via WikipediaThe federal government wants to keep Canada's immigration levels steady next year but change the mix of newcomers, limiting economic immigrants and boosting the number of spouses and children.
In its annual report to Parliament on immigration, the Conservative government says it aims to take in between 240,000 and 265,000 new permanent residents next year. That's the same target as this year and last.
But Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is looking to cut the economic class of immigrants by about 5,000 people – despite highlighting the growing dependence of the Canadian workforce on immigrant labour.
“Canada's post-recession economy demands a high level of legal immigration to keep our workforce strong,” Mr. Kenney said in a news release.
Provinces are taking a growing role in selecting economic immigrants, the report notes. As the number of federally selected newcomers in the economic class drops back, the number of provincially selected workers is climbing.
Mr. Kenney is increasing the target range for spouses and children, to a high of 48,000 – up from 45,000 in 2010, and back to the historical norm.
He is also expecting the number of refugees to rise, partly because the government has committed to doubling the number it resettles from overseas refugee camps.
“These refugees are selected and screened by Canada, and come here legally,” Mr. Kenney said. “We look forward to giving them a safe, new beginning.”
By keeping immigration levels steady, Mr. Kenney is walking a fine line between those who want levels to rise steadily to deal with an expected worker shortage, and those who want to cut back dramatically on newcomers until well after the recession.
Glen Hodgson, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, argues that the recession prompted a temporary glut in workers. As the economy recovers, and as retirements soar, he figures Canada will require about 350,000 immigrants a year by 2030 in order to keep its workforce growing.
Plus, Ottawa needs to make sure those immigrants meet the labour market's needs, Mr. Hodgson says.
“A reinvigorated immigration policy, growing toward 350,000 by about 2030, will need to recognize the importance of skills-based immigration to address Canada's labour market needs and to unlock immigrants' potential for making a long-term economic contribution,” he writes in a recent article.
But a new, conservative group of immigration experts wants Mr. Kenney to go the other way.
“It makes no sense to maintain high levels of immigration when large numbers of Canadians are unemployed,” the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform says.
Canadians can confront the coming skills shortage by themselves, by improving their own training and working later in life, the centre's website states.
“There will be no such shortages if more Canadians acquire the needed skills, which can be accomplished if wages, government policies and other conditions encourage them to do so and the jobs are not filled by immigrants.”
For Mr. Kenney, the answer for now is to keep the immigration levels the same, but to focus on integrating newcomers more effectively so that the Canadian workforce can benefit fully from their training and expertise.
“Immigrants arrive in Canada with degrees and experience in skilled occupations such as medicine or engineering. Yet, many are unable to fill the critical positions our labour force desperately needs,” Mr. Kenney said in a speech on Monday.
“It isn't because they are unqualified or that they don't have the skills these positions demand, it's just that they are unable to transfer their international education and experience into Canadian workplaces in a timely manner.”
Source: The Globe and Mail