The Conference Board of Canada released a study this week titled, “Can’t Go It Alone: Immigration is Key to Canada’s Growth Strategy.” The report presents interesting numbers on the role that immigration will play in helping Canada’s economic growth and maintaining the high living standards we enjoy over the next two decades.
The report focuses on a variety of labour force scenarios over the course of the next two decades and concluded that Canada’s economic future can only be sustained with the arrival and participation of immigrants who will replace the significant number of Canadians retiring between now and 2040. Given Canada’s current population and birth rate, even if all those who enter the labour market between now and 2040 are taken into account (estimated to be approximately 11.8 million people), Canada will still not have enough workers to replace the 13.4 million that are retiring and leaving the work force in the same time period.
The combination of the aging Canadian population and low fertility rate are the main reasons and Canada must turn to immigration to bring in the necessary talent to maintain the economic growth of Canada. Under the current Liberal government’s immigration plan, Canada is set to see the arrival of 330,800 immigrants in 2019, 341,000 in 2020, and 350,000 by 2021. These numbers represent approximately 0.8% of the current population. While this is a good start, it is still below the 1% of the population that the Conference Board of Canada argues is required to meet the need as older Canadians leave the work force.
The Conference Board’s report also notes that Canada will need to make further efforts to bring underrepresented groups such as women, Indigenous people and those with disabilities into the labour force. This represents up to 2.2 million workers over the next two decades and can have an impact of more than $100 billion on the Canadian economy.
With the current social and political discussions around immigration, the issue of immigration is likely going to be a key issue in the upcoming federal elections in October. However, it is important to note that the problems Canada is facing with its shrinking work force are not unique. Countries in Europe, Australia, and even the U.S. are all on the same path to losing significant numbers of workers over the coming two decades. This has created a highly competitive market for international talent and immigrants. Adopting policies to bring in and integrate workers into the Canadian economy now will not only help Canada to maintain its economic growth and living standards, but as competition for workers increases in the future this will give Canada an advantage as the place where businesses are able to find the talent they need.
Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court.