Monday, May 26, 2008

Major changes to the Immigration System Desperately Needed

Major changes to the immigration system are desperately needed. Seven come immediately to mind. Canada needs to

1) limit family unification to spouses and dependents under 18

2) cap the number of refugees at no more than 5000 a year including dependents

3) allow people to apply for refugee status only in Canada and not abroad

4) stop allowing people in on humanitarian grounds and compassionate grounds

5) rework of the points system so that more emphasis is placed on youth, education and language skills and that bonus points are assigned if the applicant has his or her professional skills pre-recognized by the appropriate regulatory body and or the applicant has a university degree from Canadian university

6) grant citizenship to foreigners earning a graduate degree in Canada

7) lift the cap on the number of immigrants allowed in each year.

Why the changes. First off and most importantly, Canada has to get younger. The average Canadian in 2004 was 39.7; in other words Canada is one of the oldest nations on earth. However bad things are now things promise to get a lot worse. The percentage of Canadians over 65 is set to go from 14.7 now to 27.6 in 2050. If the situation was ever allowed to get this bad, the economy would be at best stagnet and likely in sharp decline, the federal government would surely be in deficit, and virtually ever public entitlement program would have collapsed or would be close to. Public health care system would surely have collapsed under the demands placed on it.

Part of the problem is that average immigrant to Canada (37.1) is not much younger than the average Canadian (39.7). The situation is akin to baling out a boat by moving water from one part of the boat to another. The average immigrant to Canada needs to be under 30 and Canada should aim to let in 500,000 economic class immigrants a year.

It is imperative that Canada undertake such a project now. After all, Canada is not alone in having to deal with aging population. Some Europe have an even worse problem.
"World Bank projections show that the working-age population of the present EU will drop from 230m now to 167m by 2050, a fall of 63m. Most of this is concentrated in the 12 current euroland countries, where working-age population is projected to drop from 186m to 131m. The worst-hit individual countries are Italy , with a 15m, or 42% fall, from 36m to 21m, followed by Spain and Germany. Britain is not immune but fares relatively well. The World Bank projects a 5m fall in working-age population, from 35.2m to 29.9m In general, though, Europe's position is dire. As Lombard Street Research writes: "The last demographic shock on a similar scale was the Black Death of the late 14th century. Even two world wars did not stop Europe 's population rising by nearly a fifth in the first half of the 20th century."
If Europe continues on as it is, the median age in Europe will go from 37.7 today to 52.3 by 2050!
As professor Charles Kupchan notes,
"today there are 35 pensioners for every 100 workers within the European Union. By 2050, current demographic trends would leave Europe with 75 pensioners for every 100 workers and in countries like Italy and Spain the ratio would be 1 to 1."

Another area of concern is that the ratio of principle skilled principle applicants as percentage of the over number of immigrants to Canada is way too small. Currently less than one in 5 immigrants is a skilled principle applicant. This is a huge concern for a whole host of reasons not the least of which is that it is only skilled principle applicants that earning anywhere close to what their Canadian peers are earning and skilled principle applicants are the only category of immigrants that are working in numbers that even approach the Canadian average.
"At 26 weeks after their arrival, 50% of all immigrants aged 25 to 44 were employed. This was 30 percentage points below the employment rate of about 80% among all individuals aged 25 to 44 in the Canadian population. ... At 52 weeks after arrival, the employment rate among prime working-age immigrants was 58%. This narrowed the gap to 23 percentage points. At 104 weeks, or two years after arrival, the employment rate among prime working-age immigrants was 63%, 18 percentage points below the national rate of 81%. ... Immigrants admitted as principal applicants in the skilled worker category had an even better record for employment. At 26 weeks after arrival, the gap in the employment rate between them and the Canadian population was 20 percentage points. By 52 weeks, this had narrowed to 12 points, and by two years, it was down to 8 points." If you tease out the numbers, 55% of non principal skilled applicants in the 25 to 44 age group are working after 2 years! Canada needs to do a better job of ensuring that immigrants are able to succeed and the natural to place to start is eliminate those categories of immigrants that are not likely to succeed economically. The earning power of immigrants is such now that the possibility of large urban immigrant underclass, a la Europe, exists. Canada needs to nip this situation in the bud. The low earning power of immigrants will eventually affect our ability to attract immigrants to Canada as well as the affect the general population’s willingness to accept them.

For similar reasons Canada must resist the siren song of business demanding that the government allow in guest workers to meet labour shortages. Never mind the fact that in many cases such demands amount to little more than a request from business that government assist them in quashing growing labour unrest, e.g., in the oil sands, such thinking is short sighted. There is ample evidence that armies of disenfranchised workers, whether they be illegal or guest, are a recipe of disaster. It is great way to, create an underclass, suppress wages, encourage black marketing, increase xenophobia and racism. Currently Alberta is hopping to fill the following positions through immigration: Front desk clerk, short order cook, baker, maid, assembly line worker, server, buser, bellhop, valet, and cafeteria worker, laundry attendant, pet groomer, general labourer, and hair dresser. All that is required of such would be immigrants is that they score 4 or 24 on the language assessment. In other words, they can still be functionally illiterate and still get it in. Great swaths of guest workers turn out to be anything but and as soon as the economy experiences a downturn they are trampled under foot and to add insult to injury are generally resented for being so unfortunate.

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