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Making Canada’s immigrant selection policies work

11_vancouver_airport_totems_flickr_swbmarshallWithout reform, immigration imposes a heavy fiscal burden on Canadians

by Herbert Grubel

Canada’s immigrant selection policies are admired around the world as an example of how to select immigrants who benefit the host country economically while meeting its international humanitarian obligations. The successful use of this selection process is of special importance for Canada because as a proportion of the country’s population, the politically determined annual number of immigrants of about 250,000 is the highest among all Western democracies: about 0.75 per cent of the population.

These selection policies have now been in effect for about three decades and data are available to assess their success. As it turns out, the average economic success of immigrants in recent years has been below expectations and has resulted in the imposition of a large fiscal burden on Canadian taxpayers. This burden will continue to grow unless the existing selection policies are reformed to reduce the number of immigrants who do not meet economic criteria and tie immigration more closely to Canada’s economic needs.

The selection process: Basic facts and rationale

In 2011 the largest class of immigrants, 49 per cent of the total, were “economic immigrants.” “Family class” immigrants represented 34.6 per cent and “refugees” 11.2 per cent (5.1 per cent were “others”).

Economic immigrants: Skilled workers, selected on the basis of an objective points system, are counted as economic immigrants and in 2011 represented 28.0 per cent of all immigrants. Workers with Canadian experience, entrepreneurs, self-employed people and investors, also part of the economic immigrant total, made up 5.5 per cent. The remaining skilled workers were live-in caregivers (3.8 per cent) and workers nominated by provincial governments (11.7 per cent).

The relatively small numbers of entrepreneurs, self-employed people and investors in the class of economic immigrants are admitted on the basis of evidence that their personal skills, experience and financial resources will make them economically successful in Canada. Those who fit into the somewhat larger class of workers with Canadian experience have provided direct evidence that they can succeed in the labour market and therefore their applications are exempt from the evaluation process applied to all other potential immigrants.

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About the Author

Herbert Grubel
Herbert Grubel is Professor of Economics (Emeritus) at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., and author of the recent study Canada’s Immigrant Selection Policies: Recent Record, Marginal Changes and Needed Reforms, published by the Fraser Institute.


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