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Census – numbers only tell half the story

CensusThe 2011 Census: Population and dwelling counts revealed that immigration “accounted for two-thirds of Canada’s population growth during the last 10 years.”
As expected, given previous reporting about settlement data and efforts by particular regions to attract immigrants, all growth was immigration related. Even Ontario grew, in spite of “lower immigration levels and increases in the number of migrants leaving for other parts of the country.”
According to Haroon Siddiqui, “Immigrants are our bread and butter and the census proves it.”
So, will population growth by immigrants lead Canada to prosperity? In general, the census reveals merely demographic numbers. The challenging realities of the labour market persist for newcomers to Canada, and most media stories about the census discuss both the immigration numbers and labour market challenges facing newcomers.

Where demographics and labour market intersect
  • “Immigrants are key drivers behind our country’s growth, according to 2011 census findings. Released last week by Statistics Canada, census figures indicate two-thirds of overall population growth is being fuelled by newcomers.
  • While immigration should continue to play a large role in boosting our economy, it is particularly important that we put an emphasis on accepting skilled immigrants. In setting immigration policy and targets, it is important to know how well immigrants in various admission categories have fared in their initial years of Canadian residence.
  • Immigrants who were admitted under the Federal Skilled Worker program had the highest median annual earnings among the four categories in all arrival groups. The median earnings of skilled workers exceed the earnings of other groups by as much as 56 per cent, in some cases.
  • But there is also a story to tell about refugees who arrived at the same time as the skilled workers. They initially had low earnings, but over their first 10 years in Canada, male and female refugees in all groups consistently had the highest earnings growth rates. That is, their earnings grew the fastest.”
The challenge:
“It is important that Canadian immigration policy adapt to increasing global competition for skilled workers. During the past decade, European countries have introduced programs specifically aimed at attracting skilled immigrants. Canada cannot afford to be complacent in seeking to attract and retain skilled workers.”
  • “Canada is well on its way toward becoming a nation of immigrants – figuratively and literally. While it’s no secret that immigrants have helped build this country and Canada has long celebrated its rich multicultural history, 2011 census figures released Wednesday by Statistics Canada indicate two-thirds of overall population growth is being fuelled by newcomers.
  • Population projections suggest the trend will continue as boomers die off and that by 2031, immigration will account for more than 80 per cent of Canada’s overall population growth.
  • While it’s not clear exactly how many of the 33,476,688 people enumerated in the 2011 census are landed immigrants, refugees or people here on study or work permits, all are included in Canada’s total population. All enjoy varying rights and privileges with respect to work, social programs such as health care and mobility, but none is eligible to vote in Canadian elections.”
The challenge:
“With an immigration system that’s placing a greater emphasis on temporary foreign workers and international students, combined with huge backlogs in applications for permanent residence and stricter citizenship requirements, it also raises questions about whether Canada may not just become a country of immigrants, but whether it may also become a country of non-Canadians.”
  • “It is immigrants who are fuelling population growth in every region of Canada. Even Atlantic Canada is attracting immigrants.
  • It is they who are primarily fuelling the boom in population and real estate in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, the three metropolitan areas that account for 35 per cent of our total population.
  • It is they who are also responsible for the growth of smaller cities — the 33 urban centres where more than 23 million Canadians now live.”
The challenge:
“Whereas Canada has always been dependant on immigrants, we are more dependent on them now than ever before. This is well understood by governments and businesses, even if not by a noisy anti-immigrant rump that keeps railing against immigrants. Yet we remain inept at managing immigration. The problems that have long plagued the system continue to.”
  • “Canadians have long taken for granted that a constant stream of skilled foreign workers dream of the opportunity to immigrate here. The country’s growth model is essentially built on that assumption.
  • ‘We’re one of the very few countries in the world where immigration is seen as a net plus when you poll the public,’ said Perrin Beatty, president of the Chamber of Commerce. That alone is a crucial competitive advantage, he explained. For workers of the world considering migration, Canadian cities are unusually welcoming. ‘We have a pluralistic, multicultural society,’ Mr. Beatty said. ‘There’s no more diverse region anywhere in the world than the GTA. It’s come as you are, and it works.’
  • The country, of course, needs top talent to fill vacancies in professions and trades. Canada draws most of its immigrants from China and India. But those countries are intensifying efforts to retain skilled workers.”
The challenge:
“Although Canada has much to offer migrant workers, those looking for a reason to avoid Canada have much to choose from. The long-identified problems of integrating immigrants into the labour force persist and have begun to spoil Canada’s international reputation, Mr. Woo said.”

What’s to come?
Toronto Star: “The corporate sector and the self-regulated professions also continue to be a hindrance. They still do not readily recognize foreign credentials and experience, despite repeated promises by politicians at both the federal and provincial levels. This has led to underemployment or unemployment for immigrants, whose skills we should be using to the fullest, for our mutual benefit.”
Ottawa Citizen: “Nationally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has identified immigration reform as a necessary prerequisite to building a stronger Canadian economy. He has signalled the government will put a greater emphasis on accepting immigrants into Canada who have a particular skill that is needed in the workforce. As new immigrants typically face disproportionately lower job participation, the hope is that newcomers will be able to hit the ground running and contribute more quickly to the country’s coffers which are facing mounting pressures related to things such as rising pension and old age security costs.”

We’re up to the challenge
Of course, we all know what needs to be done, and Maytree’s ALLIES project is on it.

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