Why Canada Needs Immigrants

If you are thinking about immigrating to Canada, you have probably already researched job prospects, living costs, housing and even the weather (so much to talk about!).  You have also likely looked up how to become a permanent resident, language requirements, and which application type is right for you. These are all important questions, for sure. But – have you ever wondered if Canada needs more immigrants or, dare we say it, if Canadians really want you here?  Happily, the answers are Yes and Yes – let us show you. 

Below is an infographic that shows four areas where immigration brings value to Canada: increased population, improved economy, community, and diversity. Let’s dive into the details of how immigration supports Canada’s growth and prosperity.

Population Growth

Canada welcomes about 300,000 permanent residents every year, which equals about 0.85% of its total population (1).  This makes Canada one of the most immigrant-friendly countries in the world (5).  But why does Canada want or need so many immigrants? One of the reasons Canada keeps high levels of immigration is simply population related: Canadians are having fewer babies and its population is getting older. 

Low Birth Rate

Canada needs a fertility rate of 2.1 (average number of babies a woman will have in her lifetime) just to keep the population from shrinking (5).  In 2020, the total fertility rate was about 1.5, which is not enough to grow or even maintain its current population (6). Canada’s population would drop noticeably if immigration stopped and fertility rates stayed low (7). The good news is that immigration helps with both.

Every immigrant that comes to live in Canada increases the population. But, equally important is the fact that immigrants help raise the fertility rate.  Most immigrants are less than 45 years old, and that means many decide to have children in Canada (8).  Even though immigrant parents make up just 21% of the population, they are parents to 37% of the children born in Canada.

Aging Population

The Canadian population is getting older, which also affects the need for immigrants. About 20 years after World War 2, Canada’s fertility rate peaked at 3.9, causing a ‘baby boom’ that led to a big population spike (10).  Now, most of the people born during this ‘baby boom’ are senior citizens.  Having a large segment of the population become seniors all at one time means many Canadians have retired and left the workforce.  This makes it more challenging for businesses to find workers. As the infographic shows, in 2020 there were about 3.5 people working for every 1 retired person. By 2040, that will drop to about 2.5 workers per retired person. If Canada takes fewer immigrants, it will be lower still (1).  An older population means fewer workers, less tax revenue and higher healthcare expenses. 

Immigration plays a big part in helping Canada grow and prosper. But population growth is not the only factor in the country’s future success.  Better use of technology and improved productivity are also expected to help drive growth and prosperity even if the population does not grow as expected (1)

For over a century, immigration has been a means to support population, economic, and cultural growth in Canada . . . newcomers to Canada have been a major source of ongoing growth and prosperity.

2020 Annual report to parliament on immigration (9)

Economic Benefits

Immigration does much more than just increase the population – it helps Canada’s economy grow.  Most immigrants come to Canada seeking opportunities for a better life. That means immigrants are highly motivated to succeed – whether starting and growing a business, getting a university degree, saving to buy a house, or giving money to help others –immigration ultimately benefits all Canadians.  In fact, by 2040 immigrants will contribute almost half the growth of Canada’s GDP (gross domestic product) (1).  

Two major factors make immigration essential to Canada’s economic growth:

  1. Immigration leads to increased job creation and job fulfillment 
    • Immigrant-owned businesses create more jobs and hire at a faster rate than those run by Canadian-born (2,11)  
    • Immigrants and temporary foreign workers help fill gaps in Canada’s labour force. Temporary foreign workers ease short-term labour shortages – particularly in farming, healthcare and technology (12)
    • Most of the immigrants admitted to Canada are chosen for the skills and knowledge they offer Canadian industries (1)
    • International students add over $21 billion to the Canadian economy every year through tuition and spending (13) 
    • Because they are younger, immigrants tend to spend more on goods and services (14)
  2. Immigration leads to increased imports and exports and expands our list of trading partners
    • Immigrants often arrive in large groups over a short period of time because of political or environmental insecurity in their country of origin.  History shows us that with each of these ‘waves’ of immigrants, there is a corresponding increase in imports and exports from their country of origin (15).  Because Canada exports over $40 billion of goods per year, a 1% increase in exports from immigrant businesses brings in $400 million extra dollars to the Canadian economy every year. 
    • The connections immigrants maintain with their birth country help them find more efficient and low-cost ways of importing and exporting products. This makes it possible for many smaller businesses to import and export and generate profitable trade (16). 
    • Leaders of immigrant-owned businesses tend to be better educated and more likely to adopt technology than Canadian business owners (17).  

And the economic benefit immigrants bring to Canada is understood and valued. A 2020 survey of Canadians asked if the following statement was true or false: “Overall, immigration has a positive impact on the economy of Canada”.  The survey found 84% of Canadians agreed the statement was True. (18) (Environics2020]

Community

Immigration also benefits culture and community In Canada.  Immigrants bring new cultures and ideas and broaden our view of the world.  Each wave of immigrants to Canada increases diversity and improves our communities (11).

Immigrants also become involved in communities. Participation in volunteer activities varies somewhat depending on the number of years an immigrant has been in Canada.  Newcomers find it more challenging to know how and where to volunteer and may be less confident in their English language skills.  Despite those challenges, 40% of immigrants volunteer (compared to 49% of Canadian-born).  Immigrants tend to slightly donate more volunteer hours than the Canadian born (4). 

Slightly fewer immigrants donate to charity than Canadian-born, but the immigrants who donate tend to give more money.  Both immigrants and Canadian-born are most likely to donate to health, religious and social service agencies, although immigrants donated more to religious organizations than Canadian-born (4). 

Most immigrants stay connected to their country of origin and still engage with Canadian communities, often through festivals, restaurants, literature, and the arts. Canada is a multicultural country, and that means immigrants integrate into Canadian communities and maintain connection to the culture and customs of their birth country. Multiculturalism supports immigrants keeping and celebrating the culture of their birth country as Canadians.  Support for multiculturalism is increasing, with over half of Canadians saying multiculturalism is the main reason they support immigration (18).

Diversity

By bringing in people from different cultures and languages, immigration makes a population more diverse.  But what is the benefit of diversity? Diverse businesses employ people from different cultures, genders, social groups and sexual orientations. Having employees from different backgrounds brings a variety of life experiences and opinions that help businesses find better solutions to problems. Since 40% of Canadians are either immigrants or have an immigrant parent, companies that employ only one ethnic group do not reflect the diversity of Canadian culture. Having employees that can speak another language and who understand the wants and needs of other cultures appeals to a broader population of Canadians (19).

Diverse businesses also tend to have better access to global markets and strong community relationships. Employees from diverse cultural and country perspectives help companies understand foreign markets and establish trading relationships. And this helps diverse companies achieve better financial results.  Canadian data shows that a 1% increase in diversity increases both revenue and productivity: revenue by 2.4% and productivity by 0.5% (20,21).  Not only do diverse companies deliver better financial results, they tend to hire more employees, compete in larger markets (national or international), are more appreciative of entrepreneurship, and consider themselves better prepared to deal with business challenges (22).  In other words, having diversity in the workplace makes businesses better.  

Support for Immigration

Immigration clearly makes Canada better, but do Canadians generally understand and appreciate that fact?  A 2020 survey found that 84% of Canadians believe immigrants benefit the economy and only 27% think Canada accepts too many immigrants, which is the highest level of support for immigration seen since surveys began in the 1970’s (18).  However, history shows us that when unemployment rises, support for immigration tends to go down because of concerns about increased competition for jobs (7) (Edmonston, 2016).  Canada is an immigrant friendly country and places great importance on welcoming and supporting all cultures and religions in the spirit of multiculturalism.  Evidence of Canada’s support of immigrants is found in their first place rank the 2020 Migrant Acceptance Index, an index that ranks support for immigrants worldwide (23) (Esipova).  Also, the fact that 4/10 Canadians are either immigrants themselves or have an immigrant parent means the Canadian tradition of welcoming immigrants and enjoying the benefits of multiculturalism will undoubtedly continue.   

REFERENCES

  1. El-Assal, Kareem and Daniel Fields. Canada 2040: No Immigration Versus More Immigration. Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada, 2018.
  2. Statistics Canada, Picot, G., & Rollin, A.-M., Immigrant Entrepreneurs as Job Creators: The Case of Canadian Private Incorporated Companies (2019). Ottawa, ON; Minister of Industry. 
  3. Uddin, S. K. (2020). Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace for Small Business. www.canadiansme.ca. https://www.canadiansme.ca/benefits-of-diversity-in-the-workplace-for-small-business/.
  4. Statistics Canada, Hall, M., Lasby, D., Ayer, S., & Gibbons, W. D., Caring Canadians Involved Canadians: Highlights from the 2007 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (2009). Ottawa, ON; Minister of Industry. 
  5. Friedman, G. (2019, October 04). All the reasons why Canada needs immigration – and more of it. Retrieved July 30, 2021, from https://financialpost.com/news/economy/all-the-reasons-why-canada-needs-immigration-and-more-of-it 
  6. Thevenot, S. (2020, November 2). Canada sees record-low fertility rates same year as record-breaking immigration levels. Retrieved July 30, 2021, from https://www.cicnews.com/2020/11/canada-sees-record-low-fertility-rates-same-year-as-record-breaking-immigration-levels-1116180.html#gs.7r9crr 
  7. Houle, R., Maheux, H., Vézina, M., & Corbeil, J. (2017, October 25). Children with an immigrant background: Bridging cultures. Retrieved July 30, 2021, from https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/as-sa/98-200-x/2016015/98-200-x2016015-eng.cfm 
  8. Edmonston, B. (2016). Canada’s immigration trends and patterns. Canadian Studies in Population, 43(1-2), 78-116.
  9. Report to Parliament
  10. StatsCan-a https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/84f0210x/2007000/part-partie1-eng.htm
  11. O’Brien, C. Immigrant-owned firms create more jobs than those with Canadian-born owners: StatCan | CTV News
  12. Government of Canada. (2020, December 31). #ImmigrationMatters: Canada’s immigration track record. Retrieved July 30, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/campaigns/immigration-matters/track-record.html 
  13. Carr, J. G., Hajdu, P. A., & Hussen, A. (2020, October 19). Building on Success: International Education Strategy (2019-2024). Retrieved July 30, 2021, from https://www.international.gc.ca/education/strategy-2019-2024-strategie.aspx?lang=eng 
  14. eMarketer. (October 2014). Immigrants in Canada: Just How Big Is Their Spending Power? Retrieved October 30, 2021 from https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Immigrants-Canada-Just-How-Big-Their-Spending-Power/1011356
  15. Partridge, J., & Furtan, H. (2008). Immigration Waves Effects on Canada’s Trade Flows (2nd ed., Vol. 34, pp. 193-214, Rep.). Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Pres. doi:https://doi.org/10.3138/cpp.34.2.193 
  16. Fung, L., Grekau The Impact of Immigrant Business Ownership on International Trade (statcan.gc.ca) www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11f0019m/11f0019m2019014-eng.htm
  17. Blanchet
  18. Environics. (2020, October 7). Focus Canada Fall 2020 – Public opinion on immigration … www.environicsinstitute.org. Retrieved October 30, 2021, from https://www.environicsinstitute.org/docs/default-source/project-documents/fc-fall-2020—immigration/focus-canada-fall-2020—public-opinion-on-immigration-refugees—final-report.pdf?sfvrsn=bd51588f_2. 
  19. Kokemuller, N. (2016, October 26). The Advantages of Diverse Culture in the Work Force. Retrieved July 30, 2021, from https://smallbusiness.chron.com/advantages-diverse-culture-work-force-18441.html 
  20. University Relations. (2019, February 21). Diversity is good for business. Retrieved July 30, 2021, from https://uwaterloo.ca/news/global-impact/diversity-good-business 
  21. CanadianSME. (2021, February 21). Benefits Of Diversity In The Workplace For Small Business. Retrieved July 30, 2021, from https://canadiansme.ca/benefits-of-diversity-in-the-workplace-for-small-business/ 
  22. Deloitte Study Explores the “Diversity Advantage” of Canada’s Workforce. (2018, January 23). Retrieved July 30, 2021, from http://www.argentus.com/deloitte-study-explores-the-diversity-advantage-of-canadas-workforce/ 
  23. Esipova, N., Ray, J., & Tsabutashvili, D. (2020, September 23). Canada No. 1 for Migrants, U.S. in Sixth Place. Retrieved July 30, 2021, from https://news.gallup.com/poll/320669/canada-migrants-sixth-place.aspx

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