By Max Singh
The Canadian economy has experienced one of the fastest recoveries from COVID-19 among advanced economies. Still, it is facing critical labor market shortages causing uncertainty for Canadian businesses. Canadian governments and economists have warned unless the rate of immigration increases, Canada’s growth will be seriously curtailed in the next 50 years as the population ages and declines. Statscan Canada reveals immigration accounts for almost 100% of Canada’s labor force growth. By 2032, it’s projected to account for 100% of Canada’s population growth. Meanwhile, Canada’s aging population means that the worker-to-retiree ratio is expected to shift from 7 to 1 fifty years ago to 2 to 1 by 2035.
New Canadian immigration Policies
In November 2022, Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, released Canada’s 2023–2025 Immigration Levels Plan. The plan embraces immigration to help businesses find workers and attract the skills required in critical sectors. Canada must manage the social and economic challenges in the decades ahead, including health care, skilled trades, manufacturing, and technology. Minister Fraser said, “In 2021, Canada welcomed over 405,000 newcomers – the most we’ve ever welcomed in a single year. The government is setting targets in the new levels plan of 465,000 permanent residents in 2023, 485,000 in 2024, and 500,000 in 2025.
One of the critical problems in bringing immigrants to Canada is that they tend to settle in only a few cities. The Immigration Levels Plan will aim to redress this by increasing focus on attracting newcomers to different regions of the country, including small towns and rural communities.” A long-term focus on economic growth, with just over 60% of admissions in the economic class by 2025, is the aim. Minister Fraser said, ““Last year, we welcomed the most newcomers in a single year in our history. This year’s immigration levels plan will help businesses find their needed workers. It will set Canada on a path that will contribute to our long-term success. It will allow us to make good on key commitments to vulnerable people fleeing violence, war, and persecution.”
The government says new paths to further immigration can be eased by measures such as introducing new features in the Express Entry system to welcome newcomers with the required skills and qualifications in sectors facing acute labor shortages, in particular, health care, manufacturing, building trades and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)
There are also increases in regional programs to address targeted local labor market needs through the Provincial Nominee Program. There is also the Atlantic Immigration Program and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, ensuring that at least 4.4% of new permanent residents outside Quebec are Francophone.
The Challenges facing new immigrants
Most established and new immigrants know the path to assimilating and building a new life in Canada, let alone any other country. Although exciting is also fraught with difficulties.
Victoria Esses, director of NEST, Western’s Network for Economics and Social Trends, and Alina Sutter, a NEST postdoctoral fellow—have coauthored a report on the issues new migrants face.
“Factors contributing to the serious issues facing new immigrants include unfamiliarity with Canadian laws and individuals’ rights, and not knowing basic Canadian customs and norms, self-reported discrimination, inefficient communication from the government and government agencies.”
Sutter says, “The new migrants interviewed for the report often did not know where to go to obtain help. They reported having limited connections in Canada that could help them navigate the system to resolve their problems. “The report also found, according to Victoria Esses, “Challenges faced by these immigrants are multifaceted, and have consequences for their economic, social, psychological, and physical well-being.”
The report also revealed immigrants in the economic category were most likely to report difficulties trying to find housing (90%) compared with 41% of immigrants in the family category.
Similar to the concerns of Canadians, health care was the secondary issue. The long waiting lists and doctor availability is cited as the most severe problem for those who tried to access health care services (45%). Next comes the high cost of health care and language problems (19% and 15%, respectively).
Education and skills training was also an issue, with two-thirds of the immigrants indicating they had tried to access education or training since their arrival. The most severe problem reported by immigrants was language barriers (27%), followed by financial problems (25%) and courses being full or not enough courses (11%).
Regarding employment for new immigrants, the most crucial problems were a lack of Canadian job experience and/or references (28%) lack of recognition of foreign credentials and/or work experience (24%). A lack of recognition of foreign credentials was more common for skilled workers– 28% for principal applicants and 24% for spouses and dependents.
The report by NEST reveals that new immigrants often depend on relatives or friends for help with most of the problems identified.
In recognition of new immigrants’ needs and issues, the federal government of Canada and its provinces offer programs that support new immigrants. They include resettlement services, finding suitable jobs, and investing in skills training programs. Hence, newcomers have a solid foundation to build a new life in Canada.