THE WINDSOR STAR NOVEMBER 14, 2011
With baby boomers aging and the birthrate dropping, Canada has no choice but to entice more immigrants to come to this country. It's the only way to fill the growing labour void and keep the economy stable.
But the government has to be judicious when it comes to accepting applicants, and that's why a plan to allow an additional 10,000 skilled workers into the country next year is a good one.
These are the people who already have the tools and training to get to work, which means they'll quickly fill the gap and start contributing to the economy, instead of requiring several years of schooling and public assistance.
"The government's No. 1 priority remains the economy," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said when he made the announcement. "We recognize the importance of immigration to our labour market and we value the contributions of skilled immigrants who add to our international competitiveness.
"We are committed to facilitating the arrival of the best and brightest to our country."
Even those who grumble about Canada's immigration target - many people think it's too high - have to admit that the Federal Skilled Worker Program is a success. About 47,000 people have been accepted so far, and 95 per cent of employers asked for feedback said those workers were meeting or exceeding expectations.
This isn't the only change Kenney is making. While immigration levels are expected to range from 240,000 to 265,000 for the sixth straight year, doctoral students will now be able to seek permanent residency through the skilled worker program.
Surprisingly, the government says the live-in caregiver program, which allows immigrants to come to Canada to work as nannies or provide home care support for seniors, will not meet expectations this year. The number of applicants seeking to take on that kind of work is dropping, even though the demand is growing.
Given the need, Kenney should seriously consider offering incentives to encourage more live-in caregivers to move to to Canada.
The aging population means this type of employment could potentially triple in the next few years.
The day after the announcement, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an Ottawa-based think-tank, came out with its own take on what's needed to right the country and solve its economic woes.
One suggestion - to increase the fertility rate - is a non-starter. Canadians just aren't having large families anymore. In 1950, the average live crude birthrate in this country was 3.73 per 1,000 population. By 2000, it had dropped to 1.58. Last year it was at 1.5. With people living almost 10 years longer than they did 60 years ago - and with the "replacement" birthrate pegged at 2.1 - it doesn't take a skilled mathematician to figure out we're short on young, able-bodied individuals to keep the markets moving forward.
Canada's immigration system has been plagued by backlogs so severe it can take anywhere from seven to 10 years for some immigrants to get here. In 2008 the government capped the skilled workers quota and successfully whittled down the wait list.
Now it's time to open the doors again and bring in those immigrants who can become productive members of Canadian society.
© Copyright (c) The Windsor Star