A complete analysis of Quebec’s immigration strategy and policies
Four years after reducing immigration by 20%, the province has returned to its original goal of receiving over 50,000 immigrants by 2022. This is still insufficient as per the Canada immigration plans. Quebec is attempting to expand immigration once more.
The province stated this morning that it will accept up to 52,500 new permanent residents in 2022. Regrettably, the province continues to fall short of the benchmarks necessary to promote higher economic growth.
Quebec now has one of Canada's lowest unemployment rates. In September, its unemployment rate was 5.9 percent, compared to 7.1 percent countrywide. Quebec has one of the oldest populations in Canada, which contributes to its low unemployment rate.
Moreover, 20% of Quebec's population is 65 and older, compared to 18.5 percent nationally. Quebec also has a birth rate that is comparable to the national average and one of the lowest immigration rates per capita in the country. When all of this is considered, the province faces major labour shortages.
According to Statistics Canada, Quebec is seeing one of the country's largest increases in employment openings. Labour shortages are a concern for a variety of reasons. They make it difficult for employers to function at full capacity, making it harder for them to meet the demands of their customers. This, in turn, makes it difficult for businesses to invest thus creating worse situations for job development and economic growth.
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Throughout 2021, the subject of labour shortages has dominated Quebec media headlines, with stakeholders emphasizing the necessity for more immigration as part of the solution to better satisfy the province's labour market demands. It will further motivate international labours and students to migrate to Canada.
For example, in July, the President of the Quebec Employers' Council published an essay outlining 10 remedies to labour shortages, two of which were boosting immigration numbers and revising the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).
The Quebec Manufacturers and Exporters Association produced a study in September estimating that labour shortages cost the province $18 billion over the previous two years, and it also asked for additional immigration to help fix the problem.
To put Quebec's immigration stats into context, the province was aiming for 50,000 newcomers each year until it elected a new administration in the fall of 2018. The Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) party ran effectively on a vow to decrease immigration by 20% because it believed more could be done to promote newcomer integration in the province. CAQ established a goal of receiving a maximum of 41,800 immigrants in 2019 in its initial strategy.
Prior to 2019, welcoming 50,000 new immigrants per year was already low, therefore the CAQ's new policy put even more strain on the province's economy. Despite the fact that Quebec has the right to establish its own immigration objectives (something no other province or territory has), it continues to accept just 12% of all entrants to Canada, despite the fact that it is home to 23% of the country's population. On a per-capita basis, Quebec is currently aiming for a 0.6% immigration rate. This pales in comparison to the 1% immigration rate sought by the Canadian government under the Canada Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023.
It is critical to emphasize that more immigration will not fix all of Quebec's labour-market problems. Analysts and observers argue that a range of remedies are required, including increased skill training and assisting underprivileged segments of society in gaining access to work possibilities. At the same time, immigration is a critical component of the equation.
Given the province's substantial demographic and labour force issues, there is a compelling case to be made that Quebec should establish significantly higher goals. Setting Quebec's immigrant rate at the same level as the objectives now pursued by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) would be a solid starting point.
Given its population of 8.4 million people, Quebec may be smart to seek an immigration target of 84,000 immigrants each year. This amount may appear to be excessive, but it would be in line with the national average and would allow Quebec's immigration rate to catch up after years of falling behind the rest of the country. It would be impossible to substantially boost immigration in such a short amount of time, but the province may devise a multi-year strategy to gradually attain this level within five years or so.
However, at the end of the day, the CAQ was legitimately elected and given a mandate by people to reduce immigration in the province to a minimum. Nonetheless, the CAQ has a mission to boost the province's wealth, and increasing immigrant numbers without sacrificing integration is a fundamental component of a thriving Quebec.
We cannot anticipate Quebec's immigration objectives to be changed within the next year, now that the province's 2022 strategy has been established. However, by this time next year, Quebec voters will be heading to the polls to determine who will lead the province's next administration. At that moment, the CAQ and opposition parties will have the opportunity to express their vision of Quebec's future, including what each party believes is a suitable amount of immigration to sustain the province's economy.
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