RADIA: Canada needs fewer immigrants and more babies
FACE TO FACE: Should Canada increase or decrease immigration?
Canada is one of the most immigrant-friendly countries in the world.
But maybe we shouldn’t be so friendly.
Last week, the federal government released its most recent immigration statistics: In 2012, Canada welcomed 257,515 immigrants to Canada.
To put that into perspective, the United States welcomes about a one million immigrants per year, or roughly 0.4% of its population; Canada, by comparison, welcomes approximately 0.8% of its population.
I understand that we need more people in this country to offset our looming labour shortages and to build a tax base to pay for rising health care costs due to an aging population. Immigration is part of the solution but not the whole solution.
Most Canadians agree with me. A January 2012 Angus Reid poll suggested that 41% of us believe immigration levels should decrease while only 15% of those surveyed said it should increase.
A lot of Canadians would rather have a made-in-Canada solution for our looming demographic crunch. By that I mean let’s make more babies in Canada. Let’s actually do something about slumping fertility rates with more generous maternity leave benefits and a national daycare program. Let’s make it easier for young couples to have children.
We also need to step back and realize that our current immigration system isn’t working very well.
Immigrants today are earning considerably less in comparison to newcomers in the 1970s, ’80s and even ’90s. The unemployment rate among recent immigrants is now four to five percentage points higher than general population, and under-employment in this group is between 25% and 35%.
So, essentially, we are importing more unemployment.
There are already between 750,000 and a million people without gainful employment in Canada. Why hasn’t any government put together a comprehensive strategy to train Canadians for those jobs that are supposedly going to be available in the next decade?
To be clear, I’m not against immigration. My family is the beneficiary of a liberal immigration regime; my parents came to Canada in 1972 as Ugandan refugees. But I think we need to be smarter about our immigration policies.
And that starts with reducing the numbers.
Andy Radia is a Coquitlam resident and political columnist who writes for Yahoo! Canada News and Vancouver View Magazine. He has been politically active in the Tri-Cities, having been involved with election campaigns at all three levels of government, including running for Coquitlam city council in 2005.