Reform overdue for Canada's skilled immigration system

Point system assessed in policy study by C.D. Howe

Canada's approach to immigration faces major challenges and requires reform if Canada is to meet the international competition for skilled immigrants, according to a new policy study from the C.D. Howe Institute.

The past two-and-a-half decades have seen a marked worsening in the adjustment process of new immigrants, as their earnings levels have dropped significantly relative to Canadian-born workers, said Toward Improving Canada's Skilled Immigration Policy: An Evaluation Approach.

The earnings gap between Canadian- and foreign-born workers has widened and the catch-up interval between the earnings of immigrants and Canadian-born workers has lengthened. These results have come at the cost of fewer human resources and skills available to the Canadian economy, a potential threat to social cohesion and the likely loss of skilled immigrants who choose to return home or move on to another country, said authors Charles Beach, professor of economics at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., Christopher Worswick, professor of economics at Carleton University in Ottawa, and the late Alan Green, adjunct emeritus professor of economics at Queen’s.

Canada needs to respond nimbly to growing international competition for skilled labour or risk falling behind, they said.

“Workers, particularly skilled workers, are becoming much more internationally mobile as economic opportunities change. The recent financial shock and severe economic recession in many developed economies offer a unique opportunity for Canada to attract skilled young immigrants from these areas. To do so, however, Canada needs to maintain its attractiveness and to replace the lengthy backlogs, complexity, and uncertainty in the current immigration process with a more effective, efficient, and transparent set of procedures.”

The study assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the current point system used to screen new arrivals and identifies the policy levers that affect the attributes and success rates of new arrivals. It also provides a tool to measure those impacts.

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