A Bloomberg article analyzing Canadian governmental data reports that 2018 was a banner year for immigration to Canada. Canada welcomed over 321,000 immigrants and refugees in 2018, the largest influx since 1913.
As we’ve written previously, Canada faces the same demographic challenges as the U.S., with an aging workforce and low birthrates. But Canada is tackling those challenges in part by aggressively modernizing its immigration laws, at the same time that the U.S. is making it harder for talent to come or stay legally in the U.S. Immigrants now make up more than 20% of Canada’s population.
As the Bloomberg article notes:
The increase in international migration…. has helped fuel a surge in employment — even amid sluggish indicators in other parts of the economy — since immigrants tend to be of working age.
The strong immigration numbers also make up for slower natural population growth. Canada’s natural population increase, or the number of births less deaths, fell to 103,176 in 2018, the lowest level since at least the late 1940s.
Canada has taken particular steps to welcome international students into its higher education and graduate programs, and reformed its laws to make it easier for them to remain permanently following graduation. In a 2018 survey of international post-secondary students in Canada by the Canadian Bureau of International education, 75% of respondents stated that the ability to work in Canada after finishing their educations was essential or very important to their decision to choose to study in Canada, and 60% stated that they hoped to stay in Canada permanently. Canada’s reputation as a tolerant and largely non-discriminatory country also was cited by 79% of respondents as a reason for choosing to study in Canada, and impressions that it is a safe country influenced 78% of them.
While the ranks of international students in Canada are increasing, the number of international student F-1 visas issued by the U.S. decreased 23% in FY 2018 compared to FY 2016. The impact of this decrease for the future of the U.S. economy, particularly because of international students’ high concentration in STEM fields, cannot be understated, as discussed here.
The U.S. government’s immigration rhetoric and practices are increasingly nationalistic and unwelcoming to immigrants. For a strong economy, we should change course and emulate our neighbor to the north.