Saturday, March 21, 2009


Aging Population

Forget globing warming, an aging population is the biggest problem facing the country. 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. People in their 60s cost the health care system more twice as much on a per capita basis than that of any the younger demographics. People in their 70s cost the health care system more twice that as people in their 60s on per capita basis. People in their 80s cost the system twice as much per capita basis and on it goes.

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.

It is imperative that Canada undertake such a project now. After all, Canada is not alone in having to deal with aging population. Some European countries 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."

The average immigrant to Canada needs to be under 30 and we need to bring in far more than 250,000 each year. More like 500,000 plus are needed.

Economic Plight of immigrants

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.

Guest Workers

For similar reasons Canada must resist the siren song of business and the provinces demanding that the government allow in guest workers under the pretext of meeting 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 gaining a leg up on labour 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. A quick look at the types of positions being advertised on the Alberta government website shows bad the situation is that the Conservatives are allowing what happened in Europe to happen here. Indeed, in the summer this was the kind of positions Alberta was hoping to fill through its guest worker programs: 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.
Needless to say, the use of guest workers hardly stimulates the economy in a down turn --- the money flows out of the country -- and yet there is talk in BC of allowing contractors to use guest workers to extend federally funded sky train extension.

Points System

The point system is mess. It is weighted, accidently I am sure, in such a way as to favour older applicants over younger ones. A premium is placed on experience, being married is advantageous and age is not penalized much at all. For example, a 49 year old is given the same number of points for age as a 21 year old! Not only is all this is completely at odds with the stated aim of using immigration to mediate some of the stresses of having a low birth rate, a shrinking supply of labour and a graying population, the very kind of skilled worker most likely to fail, viz., older workers is the one most likely to qualify.

Indeed, while everyone agrees that Canada needs to be a better job of recognizing foreign credentials, what has gotten less attention is just how hard it is establish oneself in a particular field without any contacts in that field and work contacts are what many new immigrants lack. For this reason alone, Canada needs to redo its point system such that it looks to attract younger skilled workers who are not at such a disadvantage contact wise as their peers.

Language proficiency portion is also a mess. Not only is not nearly enough emphasis placed on language proficiency, moderate proficiency across the board in both English and French is amounts to the same thing high proficiency in one! An average switch hitter is not the equal to all star who bats only right handed. Strangely moderate proficiency in a second language is also considered just as good as being highly proficient. Go figure.

All that being said, in order to get at appreciation for some of the short comings of the current points system consider this. Under the current formula, a single 26 year old who has just completed a PHD in Canada, and who speaks perfect English, but who lacks relevant work experience and is not proficient in French would likely not qualify. Indeed, assuming no family ties and no relevant work experience, they would score 56 out of 100. In other words, if they were not able to quickly secure a job in one of the relevant fields, they would be heading back to their country of origin in short order. Even, if that same applicant spoke perfect French and English they would still not qualify. They would score 64 out of 100.

By contrast a 49 year old who has never set foot in the country and speaks no French but has a BA, 3 years experience, moderate English skills a spouse with a 1 year diploma, and a cousin in distant Canadian city would score 67! This is absurd.

Family unification

Put simply Family unification is political boondoggle. Given that the express purpose of the immigration system is mediate some of the stresses of greying population, particularly the on the health care system, there is no cause to let someone sponsor yet their parents yet alone their grandparents. Family unification must be limited to spouses and dependents under 18.

Wait Times

Somehow the Conservatives have been able to perpetuate the myth that current system requires applications to be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. This is simply not true. As Guidy Mamann of the immigration law firm Mamann & Associates notes the immigration minister is not required by law to process applications as they come in.

“In an interview last week with CTV’s Mike Duffy, Finley confirmed that our backlog now stands at about 925,000 applications. The government maintains that the Minister needs these powers to cherry pick applicants who are needed here on a priority basis. She was asked by Duffy, if under the present system, the department was able to fast track, say a welder who was desperately needed in Fort McMurray . Finley answered “The way the law stands now we have to process the oldest application first. If that person is number 600,000 in line we’ve got a lot of applications to get through before that”.This is simply not true. Our current legislation states that the federal cabinet “may make any regulation ... relating to classes of permanent residents or foreign nationals” including “selection criteria, the weight, if any to be given to all or some of those criteria, the procedures to be followed in evaluating all or some of those criteria… the number of applications to be processed or approved in a year” etc. In fact, in the case of Vaziri v. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Federal Court held in September 2006 that our current legislation “authorize[s] the Minister to set target levels and to prioritize certain classes of PR applicants” without even aregulation being passed. Accordingly,
Finley has more than enough power under our current legislation to make virtually any changes that she wants subject to the Charter.”

Not only does the government have to cherry pick who it wants, saying that there is massive black long that is nearly a million long is also flat wrong.

There are is not one massive line, but many lines as there are embassies and consulates. How long someone takes to get processed does not depend upon how many people are applying to immigrant to Canada world wide but among other things how many are applying at a particular location. It may take someone in Warsaw 1.8 years to be processed, but someone in Bogotá over 16 years.

Another thing is that Canada puts a quota on the number of people taken in at each local. In other words, to present the problem as if Canada were processing people as fast as they could but we lack the right number of tellers is wrong. Those bottlenecks that do exist, exist because the government wants them to exist.

Conservative dishonesty does not stop there. While acknowledging that more visa officers would speed up the process at many locations, the Conservatives cut staffing levels and reduced the number of places where people can apply. To add insult to injury they and told reporters something that beggars belief, viz., that it costs $900,000 to $1 million to send a visa officer abroad.

There is no cutting corners. Canada has to greatly increasing the number of visa officers in second world countries with large pools of young educated English or French speakers. Brazil is good example. Currently interviews in Brazil are only held in Brasilia and Sao Paulo, but not in Rio.

The flip side of the coin of course is that Canada needs to limits to limit applications to skilled worker class immigrants and their immediate families. People to apply for refugee status only in Canada and not abroad

Needed Reforms

1) 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

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

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

4) limit family unification to spouses and dependents under 18

5) Insure that it takes no longer than a month for refugee claimants claim to be heard

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

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

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


WesternGrit said...

Excellent post. An older population tends to become a more conservative one... Immigration helps us all.

People talk about initial costs, if they have no job, etc., but they don't consider all the highly paid Canadians who become part of the immigration system. It's a profusion of youth which helps grow our tax base AND grow jobs...

Anonymous said...

Why don't we do 99% of countries in the world do.

Offer incentives to have children.

When you import massive ammounts of immigrants, you are watering down the countries values and morals.

Canada and the USA are the only two countries in the world where they allow massive amounts of different "cultured" people.

Harper should offer tax rebates or something in that order to encourange "Canadians" to have kids.

WesternGrit said...

Anon: WTF??? Was that comment for real? Canada's (and the US's) STRENGTH is because of our diversity. Our citizens of differing backgrounds give us the ties that allow the building of trade links to those old lands - like India and China - the futures of world trade.

Of course we can take the xenophobic route, pretend we have a particular specific culture that needs defending and transport ourselves back to the stone ages of progress...

Koby said...

Look, the choice is this. Either massively increase immigration or our society will affectively collapse.

The fertility rate (the average number of babies born to a woman in Canada over a life time) in Canada is not very high (1.57) and well below the rate of replacement (2.1), but even if the fertility rate was to double, something which is simply not going to happen, we would still be looking at a massive increase in the amount of seniors as percentage of the population. Canada is that old already. The number of women between 15 -44 is not large as percentage of the population enough to rapidly turn things around. The fertility rate of Canadian women in 1950 was more than double what it is now and the first of the baby boomers turns 65 in 2011.

As for your prescriptions for how to drive up the fertility rate, they will not work. There are two routes we can go get to replacement levels. We can go the US root. That is you can limit the poor’s access to contraception, abortion, and sexual education and encourage illegal immigration (the Hispanic fertility rate is 2.9). (The delicious irony of the abstinence only sex education programs in the States is that it leads to teen pregnancy rates that dwarf anything found in Europe and consequently the percentage of US teens having abortions is several times greater than the rate at which European teens are having kids. For example whereas the rate of teenage abortions in the US is 27.5 per thousand, in Holland it is 4.2.) Or we can go the French route and offer tax breaks in addition to having the state take on many of costs associated with having a child, most notably daycare.

By the way, Australia and New Zealand have high immigration rates.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Western Grit, but the people who made Canada and the USA was Eastern Europeans.

There were a few Chinese and Japanese, but very few.

Your point about business is bogus seeing the "Communist" Chinese government sells massive amounts of goods to Canada. No problem there. You really think that it's the Ex-Pats doing the dirty work. I doubt it.

Canada is going to a mix match of Eastern European, Middle Eastern, Asian. No doubt about that.

And it will also import all the problems from those countries.

Not being politically correct here, but are the gang shootings in B.C not 100 per cent Asian?

Correct me if i'm wrong.

Koby said...

"Not being politically correct here, but are the gang shootings in B.C not 100 per cent Asian?"

Seeing as how one of the gangs involved is the UN gang and the two people getting the most press are the Bacon brothers, I will let you figure it out.

WesternGrit said...

"Not being politically correct here, but are the gang shootings in B.C not 100 per cent Asian?"


Living here, I can tell you that the media loves to talk about "Asian gangs", or "South Asian" suspects, but the bottom line is that the majority of the drug trade here is control by "majority community" gangs - the type that also are most prevalent in our prisons. These folks actually often happen to come from the East (of Canada). The "Asian/South Asians" are typically the "foot soldiers", or low level dealers. The majority of the shootings here in the Lower Mainland during this recent - and most violent - "war" were European in descent.

Your racially motivated tone is quite telling... Very similar to the Conservative "inside" view on immigration. Don't worry - once your guys/gals are out on their keisters, we're bringing back the Team Canada trade missions, AND a healthier immigration system...

WesternGrit said...

"Sorry Western Grit, but the people who made Canada and the USA was Eastern Europeans."

Not a history buff, are you? Try telling that to the Chinese and Indian descendants of the people who did the biggest part of paving the West - the railways.

I don't expect it, but if you were to read a little history, you'd know that...