Recent events both South of the border and across Europe have brought immigration to the front pages as a hot button issue. Undoubtedly it has been a very polarizing social and often disturbing humanitarian issue. But what can we make of the economic and business ramifications for Canada in these changing times?
There is most definitely a labour problem in the entire Canadian economy and one that by all measure is about to get worse. The demographic headwind that we face is a potentially lethal combination of boomers retiring over the next 15 years and an overall aging population not supported by growing birth rates. Economic growth in Canada is inextricably linked to both labour growth and productivity, both of which can be addressed through strategic immigration.
This challenging future that could see more people leaving the workforce than entering in Canada and the structural problems that would entail can be alleviated to some degree by immigration. Canada is not alone in this; in fact, most major economies in the world are facing these kinds of issues. For example, Japan’s economy has stalled as the combination of a low birth rate and very low immigration intake resulted in one of the poorest GDP growth rates of the world’s largest economies.
Canada historically has and will likely always be a leader in helping the world’s most downtrodden and desperate refugees and for that most Canadians are proud. Additionally, how do we also compete to attract in our immigration policy the marketable skills, education and experience that will help boost an economy? These so called Economic immigrants have made up a larger proportion of the immigrant intake for the last decade or so in Canada and will likely remain a focus of immigration policy.
Today, though, with changes in the US landscape as a result of the election of Donald Trump has perhaps led to a very real opportunity for Canada, especially in the Tech sector. Many Silicon Valley based Tech companies have been vocal in their very real concern that the change in US Immigration policy will be very detrimental to them and what they already contend has been a tough struggle for top talent. Foreign workers have been a crucial piece of the Silicon Valley tech skills gap puzzle and with the changes in policy, and perhaps even the heated atmosphere in the US as a result, many skilled tech workers will look to Canada as an option. There are mechanisms in place already such as Canada’s Global Skills Strategy that allow companies to quickly acquire the skills they need on an initial short term basis.
It has always been very tough for Canada’s high tech companies to compete with the allure and frankly other worldly perks and compensation of Silicon Valley but these days perhaps they now have a leg up.