By Martin Collacott, National Post
Why are today’s highly qualified immigrants doing so poorly? The answer is obvious: We simply don’t need the services of many of the skilled people coming to Canada. The jobs they hoped to find here do not exist.
According to the latest data presented by Statistics Canada, during their first year here, newcomers are, on average, 3.5 times more likely than native-born Canadians to fall into the low-income category. While their situation improves somewhat after the first year in Canada, a disproportionate share (2.5 times the share for those born in Canada) remain in a “chronic” state of low income.
Canadians may find this hard to understand, given that all we hear about the “shortage” of skilled labour in Canada. Yet immigration is an effective means of dealing with labour shortages only in rare cases.
Alan Green, emeritus professor of economics at Queen’s University and one of Canada’s most distinguished specialists on the economics of immigration, has pointed out that while Canada did not have the educational infrastructure in place to meet all of our skilled-labour needs back in the 1960s, when we launched programs to attract skilled immigrants (mostly Europeans) to Canada, these educational facilities now exist. We should, therefore, be able to meet our skills needs from within Canada‘s existing population.
What is unfortunate about the current situation is that tens of thousands of well-educated and experienced newcomers are being enticed to come to Canada in the expectation that they can improve their own lot, when in fact many of them have little chance of finding employment in their fields of specialization.
Nor are [current] Canadians benefiting from this situation. Cities such as Toronto and Vancouver are being burdened with increasing levels of congestion and pressure on their health and educational infrastructure.
While governments and immigration advocates continue to tell us about the economic benefits we get from the high influx of newcomers, some recent analyses tell a different story. In a September, 2005 study, for example, former economics professor Herbert Grubel calculated that, given the poor economic performance of immigrants in recent decades, the cost to Canadian taxpayers amounted to tens of billions of dollars per year. Our high immigration levels may have a negative economic impact in other ways as well.
Despite increasing evidence of just how badly current immigration policies are working, special interests that benefit from maintaining high intake attempt to justify such policies in one way or another. One tactic is to argue that without a continuously increasing population and growing workforce, Canada‘s economic growth would be jeopardized. Such predictions are unjustified, however.
What we urgently require is a fundamental review of immigration policy in order to build a better picture of just how many newcomers Canada really needs and can absorb.
Martin Collacott is a former Canadian ambassador in Asia and the Middle East and is currently a Senior Fellow with the Fraser Institute in Vancouver.