According to John McCallum, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Canada needs to substantially increase the number of new immigrants it takes in every year in order to compensate for an aging population and shrinking labour force.
McCallum made the comments while speaking to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines while visiting there in August.
In 2014, the last year there are statistics for, Canada welcomed 260,000 new permanent residents. The Philippines was the top source country, with over 40,000 immigrating to Canada in that year.
Historically, the Canadian government has attempted to bring in about 1% of the population in new immigrants each year. Canada’s population is currently about 35 million, so a target of 350,000 new immigrants each year going forward would not set a new precedent.
However, economists have warned that even this number of new immigrants may not be enough to offset the effect of the aging population going into retirement and shrinking number of youth available to take up vacant positions. Even greater numbers of new immigrants than the 1% benchmark may be necessary to ensure economic growth into the future.
Minister McCallum is a former university professor in economics at McGill University, where he was dean of the faculty of arts, and he was at one time Chief Economist at the Royal Bank of Canada. There is no doubting his in-depth understanding of the dynamics between immigration and economic growth.
Reforms the Minister intends to make to Canada’s immigration system include making it easier for foreign students to obtain permanent status in Canada, and reforming the work permit system so that LMIA’s are not always needed.
The previous Harper government shut down many of Canada’s immigration programs and put up barriers for the rest. Canada still lacks a federal business immigration and investment program that leads to permanent residence, and the Express Entry system set up by the Conservatives has been a failure at permitting foreign skilled workers and many domestic work permit holders to obtain permanent residence.