International workers drawn to Canada

 Dec 28, 2011 – 5:36 PM ET



CALGARY – Workers from all over the world are increasingly targeting Canada to find jobs in the wake of sluggish economies elsewhere, according to some recruiters who report noticing a recent spike in the number of workers coming to Canada from struggling countries with high unemployment rates.
“We started noticing it in 2010 [and] what was really noticeable was the number of people coming from Ireland,” says Sandra Miles, president of Vancouver-based Miles Employment Group. “I have never seen so many people from other parts of the world – from all over.”
Since January, an “unprecedented” 6,500 applicants from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand have applied to Ms. Miles.
Mohammad Sarker targeted Canada as a place to live and work because the Bangladeshi, who is trained in mechanical engineering with a master’s degree in materials engineering, saw good job opportunities in the energy sector.
“Canada is the most stable compared to the U.S. and some other countries,” says Mr. Sarker, an intermediate transmission line engineer with SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.
“This is the first world, so that’s the reason [for immigrating] because life is very secure here and you can get a better job with better opportunities,” says Mr. Sarker, who immigrated to Calgary in May 2009.
Part of the reason for the rise in the number of international workers coming to Canada is recent changes to the working holiday visa program, which makes it easier for people from Commonwealth countries to come and work in Canada while travelling or studying.
The B.C. provincial government will take steps to increase the number of international students allowed to study in the province by 50% in the next four years as countries and provinces compete for a larger pool of foreign students and foreigntrained, skilled workers.
Even Americans, who face higher unemployment levels than Canadians, are contacting agencies in Canada in the hope of finding a job. Based on last year’s trend, Ms. Miles expects numbers to increase at the beginning of the year. “There is generally a spike from January to March,” she says.
Amid global uncertainty about the eurozone and a continued sluggish U.S. economy, Canada is emerging as a bright spot for employment prospects – at least for now. A protracted downward trend elsewhere would inevitably affect Canada, but it has fared the best when measured against many developed nations.
For highly skilled, global workers such as Mr. Sarker, it makes sense to choose Canada over other countries.
Mr. Sarker said he knew it wasn’t going to be a free ride. After arriving, he took a job working at a grocery store to pay his family’s bills before finding a higher-paying job that allowed him to save money while getting his engineering credentials recognized.
He contacted the International Qualification Assessment Service in Alberta and did some education upgrading to get equivalent certification in Canada.
He later applied to the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta for professional accreditation and was hired by SNC-Lavalin in June.
Shahid Ahmad also saw the value of Canada’s “booming” economy. He trained as an electronics engineer in his native Pakistan, and immigrated to Canada in 2004 when he landed in Mississauga, Ont., but had to go back to Pakistan for family reasons. In 2008, he moved to Calgary from Pakistan because of the city’s vibrant job market and economy.
“I saw a number of other countries offering immigration, but Canada is one of the safest countries in the world,” says Mr. Ahmad, who also works for SNC-Lavalin. “I know Calgary is one of the most booming cities in the world due to this oil exploration and the immense resources Alberta has.”
He found it difficult to acclimatize at first, but eventually overcame the barriers of lack of Canadian experience, a network or a full understanding of cultural nuances.

Calgary Oil Transforms Canada to Energy Superpower of Immigrants


Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Alberta Premier Alison Redford says oil is opening Canada's fastest-growing province to the world for the first time.
The population of Canada's main oil-producing region has soared by 37 percent to about 3.7 million in the past decade as companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Statoil ASA attracted workers from China, Venezuela and the Philippines to develop the largest oil reserves outside the Middle East.
"Most people around the world believe that it has been a fairly parochial jurisdiction," Redford, 46, said during an interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. "We are now going through a generational change in politics and in business. We have an ability to embrace the world in a way that we've never done."
Alberta, one of only two land-locked Canadian provinces, is turning a farming and cowboy image on its head as the booming energy sector attracts global attention to its oil sands and welcomes newcomers to fill jobs.
The immigrant population of Calgary is growing faster than any Canadian city as oil companies fill as many as 100,000 jobs over the next eight years, according to a study by Deloitte and Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada.
"I came here because it's easy to get a job," said Hong Wei Pei, a 36-year-old accounting clerk from China who arrived in Calgary with her husband and two children in 2009. "Most people here are immigrants and the locals are friendly and welcoming. If you work hard you'll be successful."
Alberta has led economic growth in Canada in recent years and per-capita gross domestic product, at C$70,824 ($69,462) last year, is 75 percent higher than Quebec's and tops among Canadian provinces.

Changing Face

The investment and immigration has changed the face of the province. Albertans elected Canada's first Muslim mayor to lead Calgary, the province's largest city, and in Redford has its first female premier, one of only three in Canada. That speaks to the opportunities for immigrants and minorities in the province, says Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, whose parents emigrated from Tanzania.
"There are very few places in the world where a kid from a minority ethnic community, a minority faith community, could be elected your mayor without anyone blinking an eye," said Nenshi, in a speech on Oct. 26. "It's up to us to model to the rest of the world a place where multiculturalism works."
Visible minorities make up about a quarter of the population of Calgary, which was ranked the world's fifth-most livable city by The Economist magazine this year.

Young Region

One reason why Alberta has been successful at integrating immigrants is because the region is so young, says David Liepert, a Calgary-based anesthesiologist who adopted the Islamic religion 16 years ago. Alberta, named after Queen Victoria's fourth daughter, became a province in 1905 with a population of about 100,000.
"Alberta is still building a society and that makes it open," said Liepert, 50. "It still has aspects of the frontier culture. It doesn't matter what your background is."
The original European settlers, who displaced nomadic native tribes including the Blackfoot and Sarcee nations, had to work together and cooperate in order to manage their farming businesses. They endured a harsh climate where winter temperatures often drop to -40 degrees Celsius (-40 Fahrenheit), said Murray Edwards, a Calgary-based billionaire and vice chairman of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., an oil sands producer.

Prairie Entrepreneurs

"There's a spirit here that I call 'prairie entrepreneurialism,'" said Edwards, in an interview. "The original homesteaders were fiercely independent, but open to new ideas based on their merits -- not where they come from. That value set has survived to this day."

Agriculture, including cattle farming, wheat and barley, was the foundation of the local economy a century ago and now accounts for only about 15 percent of the provincial economic output. Though Calgary still holds an annual cowboy fair, known as the Stampede, the main economic driver is now tied to the oil and natural gas sector, which generates about a third of government revenue and employs one in six workers, according to government statistics.
The price of oil, now hovering at $100 a barrel, has helped make the province Canada's third-largest economy, just behind Quebec, which has twice the population.
"Alberta has got a lot going for it," said Craig Alexander, chief economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank, the country's second largest. "It's very pro-business and continues to attract immigrants."


Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/12/28/bloomberg_articlesLWWA580YHQ0X.DTL&ao=2#ixzz1hsdNyYhN

Canada's Iran sanctions hit migrant investors


MONTREAL - Quebec could lose millions of dollars of investments due to the latest Canadian sanctions against Iran, which halts the flow of migrant investors, experts said Tuesday.
In November, Canada imposed its third round of sanctions against Tehran since July amid renewed suspicion over its nuclear program. The measures target "virtually all transactions" with Iran.
Although there are exemptions to the rule, it has effectively barred Iranians seeking to immigrate to Canada from sending funds here as they cannot open a Canadian bank account, Montreal lawyer Vincent Valai told Agence France-Presse.
But Iranians are the second-biggest group of immigrant investors after the Chinese in Canada. According to data in the French-speaking province of Quebec alone, they made 1,659 applications in 2010, compared to 5,999 for Chinese nationals.
Attorney Eiman Sadegh of Industrielle Alliance said that each immigrant entrepreneur brings capital allowing him to invest a total of $800,000 over five years with a bank loan as part of a government program.
But on Dec. 2, Quebec's Immigration Ministry said it would no longer receive applications from potential investor immigrants as it awaits more details on the federal government's response.


Read more: http://www.canada.com/Business+briefs/5916342/story.html#ixzz1hsaejDNq

Talent On the Move


'As a tool for spreading wealth, open borders make foreign aid look like a child's lemonade stand," writes Robert Guest, business editor of the Economist, in "Borderless Economics," a rapid-fire case for the free movement of labor from one country to another. Central to his case is a 2005 study by Lant Pritchett, a former economist at the World Bank, titled "Let Their People Come: Breaking the Gridlock on Global Labor Mobility." Mr. Pritchett found that if developed countries slightly liberalized their immigration laws and increased their work forces by a mere 3%, the gains in remittances and other benefits to developing countries would amount to more than $300 billion.
Put another way, a Salvadorean man with a high-school education needs only to come to the U.S. to increase his annual earning power more than eightfold, from $2,700 to $22,611—a figure, by the way, almost identical to the earning potential for Americans with the same level of education. Compare the $300 billion benefit with the $70 billion spent annually on foreign aid by developed countries, much of which ends up in the Swiss bank accounts of corrupt politicians.
Unlike graft-riddled foreign-aid programs, nearly 100% of the dollars sent back home by emigrants who have made good find their way to the intended destination. Mr. Guest quotes Philippe Legrain, the author of "Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them" (2007), explaining that "it is common for an engineer who earns $5,000 a year in a poor country to move to a rich one, earn $30,000 a year and send $5,000 of it back to the old country. His home economy does not even miss him." Recorded remittances to developing countries were $316 billion in 2009 (and that's just what shows up on the books).
Developing countries also benefit indirectly from sending their skilled workers abroad. More than a quarter of middle- and upper-class Indians made their money in America before returning home. In rural Pakistan, families with at least one migrant member who goes out into the wider world are 54% more likely to send their girls to school.

Borderless Economics

By Robert Guest
(Palgrave Macmillan, 250 pages, $27)
But what good does it do to educate those girls if globalization will simply drain poor countries of skilled workers? Mr. Guest says that the concern is misplaced. Consider the Philippines, the world's largest exporter of nurses. It still has more nurses per capita than Austria, despite such losses. Drawn by the prospect of relatively high-paying jobs in developed countries, the aspiring Florence Nightingales of the Philippines enroll in the country's many nursing schools. Inevitably, some of those who planned to leave end up staying—and putting their skills to work.
"Borderless Economics," a clear, witty and relatively short book, doesn't consider in much depth the passionate debates concerning the costs and benefits of immigration for developed nations. Its snappy pace allows for Mr. Guest to do little more than point to a couple of studies showing that immigrants in America (unlike their European counterparts) probably contribute more in taxes than they consume in benefits. Such assertions are unlikely to persuade a well-informed skeptic of open borders, although the studies seem sound. For a more leisurely historical and philosophical treatment of the many virtues of open-border societies, readers may want to pick up Matt Ridley's "The Rational Optimist."
Mr. Guest concludes with the argument that, thanks to America's immigrants, the U.S. is likely to remain for decades the richest and most powerful nation in the world. America has the largest foreign-born population by far—an astonishing 43 million people, 10 million more than the entire population of Canada. China, by contrast, has a foreign-born population of less than one million.
And yet the path to citizenship is still a daunting one for immigrants. In 2009, the Gallup organization reported that when people across the globe are asked where they would most like to live, the U.S. beat other desirable destinations 4 to 1. Getting permission to come legally to America, though, can be next to impossible: Chinese citizens frequently move to Australia and go through the entire citizenship process there first, an absurdly circuitous route that they hope will eventually win them legitimate status in the United States.
Mr. Guest notes that the U.S. annually awards only 85,000 H-1B visas for highly skilled workers; more than that number have been known to apply on the first day that applications can be submitted. America is strong because it has long been the nation richest in the resource that matters most: talent. Yet the U.S. government every year turns away tens of thousands of the most talented, motivated people in the world.
It is galling to Mr. Guest that many well-meaning people are more invested in promoting ideas like Third World microcredit than in clamoring for easier immigration. Lant Pritchett, the former World Bank economist, shares Mr. Guest's skepticism about the importance of the much ballyhooed microloans that help the world's poorest people to buy livestock or open a small business. The concept was pioneered by Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Mr. Pritchett tells the author that the average gain for a Bangladeshi from a lifetime of these loans is about the same as the earnings from working just eight weeks in America. "If I get 3,000 Bangladeshi workers into the U.S.," Mr. Pritchett wonders, "do I get the Nobel Peace Prize?" No, but with luck Mr. Guest's argument in "Borderless Economics" will be rewarded with serious attention in the places that count.
Ms. Mangu-Ward is the managing editor of Reason magazine.

Alberta poised to lead Canadian economy

BY TAMARA GIGNAC, CALGARY HERALD



CALGARY - Albertans know all about the B-word: boom.
For much of the past decade the economic pace was blistering, led by massive projects in the oilsands. The result was scores of high-paying jobs, a red hot real estate market and an influx of thousands of new migrants.
The party was good while it lasted.
But in 2008, Albertans were blindsided by another B-word: bust.
A collapse in energy prices, the result of the U.S. financial crisis, took the steam out of Alberta’s once-buoyant economy.
The oilpatch shelved or cancelled billions of dollars worth of projects, jobs evaporated virtually overnight and ordinary Albertans struggled to pay their mortgages.
But after sputtering for much of the last three years, Alberta appears poised to regain its position as Canada’s economic juggernaut.
All signs suggest prosperity is sweeping the province. Unemployment is low, cash registers are ringing and the energy sector is once again on a hiring spree.
It begs the question: is Alberta headed for another overheated economy?
Economists are certainly bullish when it comes to the province’s prospects.
The Royal Bank of Canada predicts that Alberta’s rate of growth — four per cent this year and 3.9 per cent in 2012 — will outpace all provinces except Saskatchewan.
“Oilsands megaprojects will continue to generate tremendous economic activity and will be a boon to Alberta’s economy for years to come,” says RBC chief economist Craig Wright.
“The boom entirely emanates from the private sector — the source of an astounding 116,000 new jobs this year,” Wright said.
Improved employment prospects have translated into a record quarter for Sharlene Massie’s local recruiting firm, About Staffing.
Alberta is bucking the national trend, a welcome relief from the hiring freezes of recent years.
As long as there’s continued growth in oilsands production and Alberta’s unemployment rate holds steady at about five per cent, the good times should continue, Massie says.
But she admits the spectre of an overheated economy could spoil the party and usher in a labour shortage similar to that of 2006.
In the worst-case scenario for employers, Alberta’s jobless rate would return to levels seen in the last boom, driving skilled and unskilled wages to unprecedented levels.
“We’re not there right now. We’re comfortable,” Massie says. “There’s enough jobs out there and everybody’s happy. Let’s hope we can stay this way.”
A report this year warned that a looming labour shortage is the Achilles heel of the provincial economy and that industry should brace for a chronic scarcity of workers in the years ahead.
It comes as Calgary’s oilpatch, and the rest of the natural resources sector, is set to lead the nation with the highest projected salary increases in the year ahead.
But boom or bust, Alberta’s shifting demographics will probably require a new approach to labour issues in the coming years, suggests Calgary Chamber of Commerce CEO Adam Legge.
The province has repeatedly looked to the federal government to change immigration policies so Alberta can hire the workers it needs.
There’s expected to be a shortage of everything from tradespeople and health-care workers to financial service employees, retail staff and public service jobs.
“We’re going to face a labour shortage whether we have a strong economy or not because there aren’t enough workers to backfill the retiring baby boomers,” says Legge.
He says he believes inflation pressure associated with rising labour costs could prove troublesome for Alberta.
“As soon as you see wages being driven up — as they are right now — people have more spending power and are able to bid up prices on everything from houses to goods and services,” Legge says.
“The Bank of Canada will want to keep an eye on Alberta because we will have stronger inflation in our economy than the rest of Canada.”
A heated labour market is only one indicator of Alberta’s changing economic fortunes.
Figures from Statistics Canada show a three per cent increase in retail sales in October compared with the month before — the largest increase in Canada.
It comes as more Albertans purchase new vehicles, electronics and clothing — a welcome prospect for local retailers, who saw cash register receipts dwindle during the recession.
Discretionary spending is on the rise in the province.
Recent reports suggest people are choosing to dine in restaurants more frequently, purchase a morning latte or even fly away on a holiday.
Alberta’s housing industry also got a much-needed boost in 2011.
“The strength in our economy, combined with affordability levels that outperform most major centres, will continue to attract migrants to the city and spur further growth,” says Sano Stante, president of the Calgary Real Estate Board.
But along with an economic boom comes social challenges, as cities and smaller communities struggle to meet infrastructure pressures caused by an influx of new workers.
Todd Hirsch, senior economist with ATB Financial, says he doesn’t expect to see a repeat of 2006, when “people lived in tents by the river” due to lack of affordable housing.
“I think you can call this a ‘mini-boom,’ at least relative to everywhere else in the country and even the industrialized world,” Hirsch said.
“(But) if we did see a major collapse in Europe or a real calamity, that could knock the stuffing out of oil prices pretty quickly.”
Hirsch is keeping an eye on developments with the Keystone XL project. The $7-billion Alberta-to-Texas pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp. has been held up by a political battle in Washington.
The fate of Keystone XL could be a “harbinger of a more challenging environment” for Alberta’s energy industry, he says.
“My feeling is this is not just one project we’re talking about. It indicates we are in a whole new world in which putting pipelines in the ground is not going to be as easy or straightforward as it was in the past.”
So far, the province’s fortunes have been mostly insulated from global economic turmoil relative to other regions.
But some observers, like Leonard Waverman, wonder if sluggish growth for Alberta’s biggest trading partner —the United States — will eventually hit home.
The dean of the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business chooses a weather analogy to characterize Alberta’s economic prospects in 2012.
“I’d suggest we have an economic chinook,” Waverman says. “One must remember that chinooks are very capricious. They come in and move out very quickly.”
But even as Alberta prepares for a new round of prosperity and good times, some still struggle to make ends meet after the recession.
During the last three years Alberta recorded the country’s second-highest increase in food bank usage, according to a recent HungerCount survey.
Talk of an economic boom is probably meaningless for the many households still trying to find a way out of the last economic bust, says Kathryn Sim a spokeswoman for the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank.
“We’re seeing people bouncing back and they are coming to us as donors, which is lovely to see,” she says.
“But it’s hard to dig out of the hole. It’s taking a longer time for people to get out of the situation they found themselves in when the economy crashed.”
tgignac@calgaryherald.com


Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/Alberta+poised+lead+Canadian+economy/5912308/story.html#ixzz1hp5rGkCg

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