Politics Analysis

Canada’s aggressive plans for immigration post-COVID-19

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau aims to increase immigraion into the country over the next few years (Screenshot via YouTube)

The Canadian Government has increased immigration targets to help its economy recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Abul Rizvi reports.

CANADA’S RESPONSE to the crisis in Afghanistan has been in the news lately.

As our approach to immigration is often compared to that of Canada, I thought it might be timely to look at Canada’s current immigration policy.

Canada proposes to make aggressive use of immigration post-COVID-19.

At over 341,000 per annum in 2019 and 2020 (planned) and planned to grow to 401,000 in 2021; 411,000 in 2022; and 421,000 in 2023 (see Table 1), Canada’s annual permanent migration (and humanitarian) program is planned to be over 1.1% of the population compared to Australia’s current migration and humanitarian programs combined of 173,500 per annum or 0.66%.

The Canadian Government says that:

‘Faced with an ageing population and declining fertility rates, as well as labour and economic challenges, the Canadian labour force and population growth will depend even more on immigration. In fact, immigration accounts for 100% of Canada's labour force growth and immigrants will represent up to 30% of Canada’s population by 2036, compared with 20.7% in 2011.’

In 2017 and 2018, net migration (net permanent and long-term movements) contributed over 80% of Canadian population growth compared to Australia whereas net migration contributed 63% of population growth in both 2017 and 2018. The planned immigration intakes of both countries suggest the net migration contribution to population growth will continue to rise as the contribution of natural increase falls.

In more aged nations such as Japan, Germany, Italy and Spain, net migration contributes well over 100 per of population growth (it offsets the impact of a growing level of natural decline or in some instances is not sufficient to do so giving an overall declining population).

Even with its larger immigration planning levels, Canada’s medium growth population projections indicate Canada’s natural increase will become negative from around mid-2040 — note immigration of younger people increases the number of annual births.

By comparison, natural increase in Australia is not expected to become negative until well into the second half of this century, assuming net migration of around 235,000 per annum as predicted in the 2021 Intergenerational Report. The main driver for this is Australia’s comparatively larger immigration intake for the past 20 years which has meant that Australia’s current fertility rate is slightly higher than that of Canada and Australia’s median age is around two to three years younger.

(Source: CIMM, Planning Levels in Canada. Admissions are broadly equivalent to permanent visas in Australia)

The top source countries for immigration to Canada in 2019 were India (25%); China (9%); the Philippines (8%); and Nigeria (4%). Of the Canadian intake in 2019, 44% settled in Ontario and 14.7% to British Columbia.

Canada’s planned immigration program is currently structured somewhat differently compared to Australia’s. Australia currently has a much larger allocation of places for partner visas (in both absolute and percentage terms) due to the build-up of a very large backlog over the past 6-7 years that is now being cleared. This means Canada can accommodate a much larger economic or skill stream (in both absolute and percentage terms) as well as a much larger humanitarian stream.

As in Australia, overseas students are a key driver of immigration levels. Consistent with the rapid increase in migration planned for Canada, it is also pursuing rapid growth in overseas students.

Canada also uses working holiday worker visas, temporary work visas (including for comparatively low skill jobs) as well as visas for farmworkers.

Dr Abul Rizvi is an Independent Australia columnist and a former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration. You can follow Abul on Twitter @RizviAbul.

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