Why Canada Needs Immigrants
Canada welcomes high levels of immigration to keep its economy strong.
Canada has one of the world’s oldest populations and also one of the world’s lowest birth rates. This creates economic and fiscal pressures. Canada has a low rate of natural population growth which results in low rates of labour force and economic growth. Low economic growth makes it difficult for Canada to raise the taxes it needs to support social spending on services such as education, health care, and other important areas that provide high living standards in the country.
As a result, Canada has been increasing its immigration levels since the late 1980s to increase its rate of population, labour force, and economic growth. Canada now depends on immigration for the majority of its population and labour force growth and a larger share of its economic growth.
Consider that Canada will have 9 million baby boomers reach the retirement age of 65 by the year 2030. This means that Canada will have fewer workers at a time when its social spending on health care will rise. To alleviate this challenge, Canada has been proactive by gradually raising its immigration targets for over 30 years now.
As shown in the chart below, Canada has regularly welcomed over 200,000 immigrants per year since 1988. In recent years, it has decided to increase its levels to over 300,000 per year. Canada’s immigration rate now stands at around 0.9 per cent. In other words, Canada welcomes three times more immigrants on a per capita basis than then the United States of America.
Based on its demographic realities and its immigration trends, it appears likely that Canada will continue to gradually increase its immigration levels over the foreseeable future. Immigration will remain critical to supporting a healthy economy and fiscal situation in the country.
Moreover, a strong argument can be made that immigration’s importance has increased due to the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has weakened the Canadian economy in the short run and increased government spending on social services. In addition, Canada’s birth rate fell to its lowest level ever of 1.47 children per woman in 2019. Given the low birth rate prior to the pandemic, and the chance the pandemic will reduce the birth rate even further due to economic uncertainty, Canada will become even more dependent on immigration for its population growth in the coming years. If Canada’s birth rate remains low, then immigration will comprise an even larger share of labour force growth in the decades to come. Finally, Canada will need to strengthen its tax base through immigration to support government spending following COVID-19.
Canada has continued to operate its immigration system throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic, the Canadian government has communicated its desire to minimize disruptions to the immigration system so it can continue to welcome skilled workers, family class immigrants, refugees, temporary foreign workers, international students, and visitors. When Canada initially imposed COVID-19 travel restrictions, it announced that some new permanent residents would be allowed to enter the country.
COVID-19 has reduced the flow of new permanent resident arrivals into Canada. At the same time, the ongoing processing of immigration applications means that those who are not able to enter Canada in 2020 should expect to be able to move to the country once the pandemic situation has improved.
In the meantime, Canada is still issuing new immigration invitations to skilled workers under Express Entry, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), and through Quebec’s immigration programs. Spousal sponsorship applications are also being processed. The following Canada Visa page contains the latest updates on how COVID-19 is affecting Canadian immigration.
Economic immigration, which is a major driver of Canada’s economic growth, accounts for more than half of planned admissions through the multi-year levels plan.
Nearly half of projected economic admissions will be through the federal Express Entry system programs:
- the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program
- the Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC); and
- the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).
Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) also plays an important role in terms of economic immigration. This program allows participating Canadian provinces and territories to nominate eligible immigration candidates who match local workforce needs for permanent residence.
The following are immigration programs included in Canada’s Multi-Year Immigration Levels Plan:
- Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program:
This Express Entry-managed program is for immigrants with the requisite education, work experience, proficiency in English and/or French and other skills need to establish themselves economically in Canada.
- Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC):
The Express Entry-managed Federal Skilled Trades Class is for foreign workers with qualifications in a skilled trade.
- Canadian Experience Class (CEC):
The Canadian Experience Class is managed by the Express Entry system and welcomes expressions of interest from foreign workers with Canadian work experience or recent graduates of Canadian educational institutions working in Canada.
- Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (AIPP):
The Atlantic Immigration Pilot allows designated Atlantic employers to recruit and hire foreign skilled workers or international graduates in the Atlantic Canada region (Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick).
- Caregivers Program:
Canada allows eligible foreigners caring for children and people with high medical needs the opportunity to apply for Canadian permanent residence.
- Federal Business (Start-Up Visa Program and Self-Employed Person):
Federal business class programs allow foreigners who meet eligibility requirements the chance to run new or pre-existing businesses in Canada.
- Provincial Nominee Program (PNP):
This program allows participating provinces and territories to nominate eligible economic immigration candidates for Canadian permanent residence.
- Quebec Skilled Worker Program and Quebec Business:
The province of Quebec runs its own immigration system outside the federal system. The Government of Quebec’s planned levels for 2019 to 2021 have yet to be determined.
Family Class Programs
- Spousal/Common-law Partner Sponsorship and Dependent Child
- Parent and Grandparents Program
Refugees and Protected Persons, Humanitarian and other
- Protected Persons in Canada and Dependents Abroad
- Privately-Sponsored Refugees
- Blended Visa Office Referred
- Government-Assisted Refugees