Touting it as a central pillar of the country’s future economic success, the federal government unveiled its three-year immigration plan on Oct. 31.
Canada will look to welcome 330,800 new permanent residents next year, followed by 341,000 in 2020 and 350,000 in 2021 as the immigration rate edges closer to one per cent of the total population.
That compares to targets of 310,000 this year and 300,000 the two years before that.
The government is focused on attracting the best and brightest from around the world, said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.
“The new multi-year immigration levels plan supports Canadian employers and businesses by ensuring they have the skilled labour they need to spur innovation and help to keep our country at the forefront of the global economy,” he said.
The majority of new residents will enter the country through economic programming designed to address the labour market and skill shortages.
The increases come at a time when an aging population and low birth rate are placing growing pressure on the Canadian economy, said Hussen.
With the retirement rate rising sharply, economic growth is becoming a challenge, said Pedro Antunes, executive director of economic outlook and analysis at the Conference Board of Canada in Ottawa.
“It’s an opportune time to see immigration levels come up,” he said.
“It’s not just generating more economic growth for the sake of economic growth. It’s generating more economic growth because we have a challenge in terms of how the aging of the population is affecting dependency ratios.”
In the current global environment, Canada has an opportunity to leverage immigration and attract high-skilled workers to support its economy, according to Shannon Ker, spokesperson for the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
“Canada has benefitted tremendously from immigration,” she said.
“Wave upon wave of immigration has been part of building Canada into what it is today — a country that celebrates multiculturalism and diversity, has a global reputation for being welcoming to people from around the world, and stands up for the most vulnerable.”
In the past decade, three-quarters of Canada’s population growth has come via immigration, said Ker.
The government is targeting an immigrant composition of 58 per cent in the economic class,
26 per cent in the family class, with the remaining percentage dedicated to refugees.
With five million workers expected to retire by 2036, immigrants will be a “major source” of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, she said.
“Economic immigration is vital to spurring innovation domestically and promoting Canada’s global competitiveness,” said Ker. “The new levels plan remains focused on attracting the best and brightest from around the world.”
“We will continue to work closely with provinces and territories to address regional labour market needs and ensure the benefits of immigration are felt across Canada.”
But perceptions about immigration are important, and more can be done to ward off anti-immigration movements, said Antunes.
“We need to be aware if we are bringing foreign workers in when people have been displaced; we need to understand and acknowledge that.”
And while immigration rates rise, so must the dedication of funds towards settlement services, language education, credential recognition and the like. Immigrants need to be assured of better labour market outcomes, or the entire strategy could be for naught, he said.
Advice for HR
As countries like the United States and United Kingdom crack down on immigration, Canada is developing policies that welcome these same workers, leading to a “brain gain,” said Stephanie Lewin, head of global immigration at Envoy, an immigration tech company in Chicago, Ill.
“Canadian employers should invest in making their companies attractive to skilled foreign nationals,” she said, citing benefits such as green card sponsorship, relocation support and spousal aid.
“Workplaces should also make inbound immigration easier on the teams that handle them — namely HR and global mobility — so that bringing in foreign national talent doesn’t take unreasonable amounts of time or resources,” said Lewin.
Using tech options and making compliance a company-wide effort can relieve some of the burden from HR, she said.
By 2034, Canada’s natural rate of population increase is expected to turn negative — save for immigration, said Antunes.
Employers would be wise to research immigration recruitment frameworks, such as the federal Express Entry program, he said.
“If they’re stretched to find skills that they need within the domestic workforce, (employers) should be looking abroad.”
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