Immigration applications from victims of typhoon Haiyan in Philippines to be fast-tracked

A satellite shot of hurricane Haiyan

Canada’s immigration department says it is giving special consideration to Filipinos affected by typhoon Haiyan.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s office says it will give priority to applications from Filipinos who are “significantly and personally affected” by the typhoon that left thousands dead last weekend.

The note also says that Filipino citizens temporarily in Canada who want to remain will be assessed in a “compassionate and flexible manner.”

The announcement comes as the Canadian military’s Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART, heads for the hard-hit Philippine city of Iloilo.

The Canadian Forces are also helping with the deployment of a separate 12-member Canadian Red Cross field hospital.

Philippine authorities say Iloilo, one of two major cities on the island of Panay, was in the direct path of the typhoon and suffered 162 deaths and the destruction of 68,543 houses as a result.

Canada’s skills gap continues to widen, according to study

According to a new study from global recruiting firm Hays PLC, which surveyed the skills gap in 30 developed countries around the world, Canada ranks ninth for the severity of its skills shortage, and its score deteriorated in the past year.

Countries such as Japan, the United States, Germany and Sweden top the list in skilled worker shortage.

Study shows that Canada ranks 9th in the developed world in shortage of skilled workers

The report highlights two key findings

First, the state and the efficiency of a labour market in any particular country is not necessarily driven by the state of the economy in that point in time. Rather, the data suggests through the index that the efficiency of the labour market is driven by more structural factors. That said, the governments can introduce reforms to improve those structural factors, regardless of where they are in the economic cycle.

The second key finding that the index illustrates is that there is a very strong link between the efficiency of an educational system and the ability of that economy to produce the talent that the nation’s industries require both today and in the future. Making sure that business and the educational systems are in sync to produce sufficient numbers of the right quality graduates in the right areas for future talent. That’s the fundamental part of what drives the efficiency in any particular market.

As the global economy recovers and as the Canadian work force continues to age, without a change in policy, the situation in Canada and other developed countries will likely get worse. Canada is falling behind in implementing enough changes to meet the demand for highly skilled migration.

How to improve the skilled worker shortage and avoid disaster in the future

As according to Alistair Cox, the chief executive of Hays PLC, there are three areas where business and the governments can work together to strengthen these labour markets and reduce these inefficiencies that we see in some of these economies:

The first is for the government to foster a business environment of flexibilities, where businesses can build the work force they need for the future. This can be achieved through flexible working arrangements and skilled immigration.

The second method is to make sure that the educational system in an economy are really tuned into what businesses are going to need in the future in terms of the number of right skills.

The third is for businesses to look at their own policy in terms of attracting and retaining staff. Not just younger staff but also retaining and retraining older staff within their own work force.

Immigration Canada making changes

It’s not yet known how effective it will be, however, Canada is working on some changes in the system that are expected to be implemented in late 2014. Last year, Immigration Canada and the provinces, reached an agreement on the future of Canadian immigration system. The system will give the provinces a central role in immigrant selection. This new system will be based on a model called Expression of Interest (EOI).

The EOI model is an immigrant selection process which requires those seeking to immigrate to first file a simplified application, with immigration authorities. From that pool of applicants, the most promising candidates, based on the immigration department’s selection criteria, are then selected, and invited to submit a full application which includes documentation to prove their claimed qualifications.

Canadian Economist Calls for Employment-Based Immigration Selection Process

A new report by SFU Professor of Economics (Emeritus) and Fraser Institute senior fellow Herbert Grubel calls for a total overhaul of Canada’s immigration selection process (Simon Fraser University)

A new report by Canadian economist and former Member of Parliament Herbert Grubel calls for Canada’s point-based immigration selection process to be completely replaced with one based on employment.

Grubel, who is a Fraser Institute senior fellow and a professor emeritus of economics with Simon Fraser University has been a longtime proponent of placing more limits on immigration, a position which he views as an extension of his fiscal conservatism.

The report contends that immigration costs Canadians $20 billion annually, as a result of immigrants paying less in taxes while using up just as much in government services as the native-born population.

While welcoming some of the recent changes made to the immigration selection process by former Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, Grubel argues that they do not go far enough, and proposes two major changes to Canadian immigration to make it more economically beneficial to native-born Canadians:

  • Elimination of parent and grandparent (PGP) sponsorship for new immigrants. The report notes that following the initial 10-year period when sponsors are financially responsibility for the costs of the social benefits received by their sponsored PGP, the percentage within this cohort that receives social assistance immediately increased from 3 percent to 20 percent.

    While welcoming the new 20-year sponsorship period that is to come into effect for the PGP sponsorship program, Grubel says that the enforcement of the sponsor’s responsibilities will be difficult, and it would be simpler to simply eliminate PGP sponsorship as a permanent residency program.

    Grubel proposes a transition period whereby all immigrants who became permanent residents before his proposed rule change maintain their right to sponsor their PGPs for permanent residency, while immigrants who arrive after lose this privilege. In this way, Grubel argues the elimination of the program can be done fairly, by allowing those who immigrated to Canada under the assumption that they would be able to sponsor their PGPs to retain this ability.

  • Replace point-based assessment method of selection with employment-based selection. Grubel suggests only skilled workers with pre-arranged employment should be admitted under the skilled worker program. He argues that employer decisions on who to hire provide better information on who has the skills to succeed in Canada than a bureaucratic process created by civil servants.

    He proposes however to keep the federal government involved in setting minimum standards and wages, to prevent employers from using immigration to secure low wage labourers that cost taxpayers more in the provision of social services than they pay in taxes.

    An employment-driven skilled worker program, the report suggests, would adjust the number of immigrants admitted according to economic conditions, where immigration would decline when jobs are scarce, and increase when jobs are plentiful. The number admitted per year would therefore match the needs of the Canadian economy better than a number selected through the political process.

Critique of report by the Broadbent Institute

The report’s proposal to dramatically overhaul the Canadian immigration selection process has, predictably, found critics. A recent article from Broadbent Institute fellow Patti Tamara Lenard challenges several of its claims.

Lenard argues that the report’s conclusion that immigrants impose a fiscal burden on other Canadians, which it draws from statistics showing recent immigrants have a lower average income and pay less in taxes than the average native-born Canadian, neglects the fact that immigrants are younger than the average Canadian when they arrive in Canada, and therefore is faulty.

The report’s analysis of immigrant income does not include only immigrants who just arrived in Canada however. The immigrant cohort used by Grubel’s comparison is individuals who arrived in Canada between 1986 and 2004, and the length of time they were in Canada ranged from 1 to 18 years.

While Lenard’s suggestion that the analysis compares younger immigrants to older native-born Canadians is not supported by the composition of the dataset used by the report, it is true that Grubel does not make an effort to control for age in his analysis, and therefore it could be an unaccounted factor in the income gap.

Lenard also disputes the report’s assumption that immigrants are as likely to use social programs as the rest of the Canadian population, citing a Swedish study that finds that Canadian immigrants use fewer social services than the general population. The report’s estimation on the cost of the social services used by Canadian immigrants is therefore too high she argues.

Lenard’s article in places makes some hasty and inaccurate criticisms of Grubel’s report. She claims for instance that the report states that “in 2011 over 50,000 [Parent and Grandparent] immigrants entered Canada”, but that the actual number was 14,000.

In actuality, the report cites Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) own data projecting that over 50,000 PGPs will become permanent residents over 2012 AND 2013, a two year period, not in a single year, 2011.

Lenard also claims that the report “implies .. we should expect [PGP's] health care costs to mimic those of Canadians aged over 65″, and that this is misleading, due to the fact that PGPs’ health care costs are covered by their sponsors for the first 10 years after their arrival. The content of the report does not support Lenard’s claim, as it clearly conveys the same point Lenard claims it neglected, and instead focuses on indications of high social assistance costs for PGPs once they turn 75 and are no longer the financial responsibility of their sponsors.

Gaps in data

While the Broadbent Institute’s review of Grubel’s report falls short in providing an informed critique of the report’s proposals and arguments, it does touch on the gaps in the data on the economic impact of Canadian immigration, and the heavy reliance on conjecture – which is more subject to the influence of ideology – in discussions on the optimal immigration selection process for Canada.

As a result of the many unknowns surrounding immigration and its impact, it will likely remain a contentious issue in Canada for years to come, until more data on the economic outcomes of Canadian immigrants is generated, and Canadians have a clearer picture of what programs work and which ones don’t.

Two Occupations in Canadian Immigration Program Reach Sub-Cap

CIC’s most recent update shows 1,103 of the 5,000 spots in the quota have been filled for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (Government of Canada)

The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the mainstay of Canadian economic class immigration, has reached the maximum allowable applications in two of the 24 eligible occupations.

The FSWP has a cap of 5,000 total applications, and a sub-cap of 300 applications per occupation, for the period between May 4, 2013, and April 30, 2014. Applications exceed either the total cap, or the sub-cap per occupation, will be disregarded.

In a recent update from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), financial and investment analysts and computer programmers and interactive media developers are shown as having reached their respective caps.

The total number of applications received in all occupation is currently at 1,103, leaving 3,897 spots left in the FSWP for the one year quota period.

Of the occupations still accepting applications, computer engineers (except software engineers/designers) is currently closest to its cap, with CIC reporting 116 applications received.

On the other end of the spectrum, CIC reports zero audiologists and speech-language pathologists applications received and only one application received for each of the mining engineers and petroleum engineers occupations.

Montreal Tops List of Best Cities for International Students

Cultural attractions like the iconic Montreal Museum of Fine Arts helped give Montreal the top spot in the ‘social experience’ sub-index of the Sea Turtle Index

An index commissioned by the Bank of Communications (BoCom), one of the largest banks in China, places Montreal, Canada as the best city in the world for international students.

Other Canadian cities that ranked well include Toronto (4th) and Vancouver (15th).

Created by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with design input from BoCom management, the Sea Turtle Index (a name referring to Chinese students who study abroad only to return, like sea turtles, to their country of origin) ranks foreign student destinations according to five sub-indices:

  • Educational returns: the international value of the education provided in the city relative to its cost
  • Financial returns: the openness of the investment environment to foreign nationals and the amount of volatility risk that could effect investment returns
  • Real estate returns: the return on investment in the local real estate market
  • Work experience: the local job market for foreign students and graduates in terms of availability of jobs, wages and low-taxes
  • Social experience: the city’s level of culture, worldliness and multi-culturalism

Of the 80 cities included in the index, Montreal came in 6th place in the ‘educational returns’ sub-index, behind only Cambridge (1st), Oxford (2nd), London (3rd), Seoul (4th), and Beijing (5th).

Montreal benefited from having comparatively affordable universities and cost of living while providing high quality tertiary education. Vancouver and Toronto also had their score helped by their low cost of living, although not as much as Montreal which was found to be a more affordable place to live.

None of the American cities included in the study made the top 10 in the educational returns category, despite several being home to some of the best educational institutions in the world. The poor showing was largely due to the high cost of tuition for their undergraduate programs.

Some cities, including Singapore, Hong Kong and New York, saw their educational returns ranking pushed down due to a high cost of living.

The EIU included a ‘financial returns’ sub-index owing to the fact that the parents of international students and often international students themselves like to make investments in the city where the students live.

None of the North American cities included in the study made the top 30 in this sub-index, due in Canada to relatively high taxes and in the United States to excessive “money laundering regulations and terrorism legislation” stifling financial freedom.

Hong Kong placed first in this ranking, followed by Auckland, New Zealand (2nd) and Santiago, Chile (3rd), which benefited from having comparatively few regulations on finance and banking that restrict international capital flows.

Three Canadian cities made the top 30 in the ‘real-estate returns’ sub-index: Toronto (4th), Montreal (12th), and Vancouver (13th), while Hong Kong took the top spot thanks to its hot real estate market.

Canadian cities did well due to a combination of well-performing real-estate markets and avoidance of the boom-busts that affected many other world cities in the period leading up to and following the global mortgage crisis.

Canada’s openness to foreign investment also helped push its cities above those in countries with real-estate markets that have seen substantial gains in recent years but which have more restrictions on foreign property ownership, like Shanghai, Bangkok, Mumbai and Seoul.

Immigration rules benefit Canada

Canadian cities took the top five spots in the work experience sub-index due to immigration laws that allow foreign students, upon completion of their study programs, to obtain post-graduate work permits that are valid for durations equaling the length of their study in Canada.

This contrasts with the U.S. where international students have few options to stay and work in the United States upon completing their studies.

Edmonton’s combination of a hot labour market and low provincial taxes gave it an edge over its Canadian counterparts and earned it the top spot in the ranking, followed by Hamilton (2nd), Toronto (3rd), Vancouver (4th) and Montreal (5th).

Montreal managed to also share the top spot in the ‘social experience’ sub-index with London, England, thanks to its low rates of violent crime, high cultural diversity and its world renowned cultural attractions.

Canada’s high levels of multiculturalism and low crime rates helped three other Canadian cities: Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton, make the top 30 in this ranking.

As incomes in China rapidly grow, parents in the country’s large and education-minded population are increasingly able to afford a foreign university education for their children.

Therefore the good showing of Canadian cities in the Sea Turtle Index, which caters mostly to Chinese students seeking to study abroad, portends well for Canadian efforts to make the country a top destination for international students.

With the federal government having committed itself to making it easier for international students to stay and work in Canada and become permanent residents through programs like the Canadian Experience Class, Canada’s appeal to international students could increase even more in coming years.

Men Outnumber Women 2-1 Among Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada

Many temporary foreign workers are employed by immigrant-run businesses like the above, and data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada shows that the majority are men (CICS News)

The gender makeup of Canada’s foreign worker population is like that of foreign workers around the world, with men outnumbering women by a large margin.

The data, collected by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), shows that over 143,000 men entered the country in 2012 as temporary foreign workers (TFWs), over double the approximately 70,000 TFWs who were women.

Men, who are the primary breadwinner in most households around the world, are often driven to work abroad by pressure to provide for their families, when wages in their own country are inadequate.

A recent MacLean’s story on outgoing foreign remittance from individuals in Canada reports that the country has the highest foreign remittance rate in the world, at $667.57 per capita, suggesting that many of these TFWs are in fact sending the money they earn in Canada to family living in their country of origin.

Differences between genders in temporary foreign worker occupations

The CIC data also points to male and female TFWs tending to work in different types of occupations. While 75 percent of male TFWs worked in occupations that have well defined skill levels (e.g. managerial, professional, skilled and technical), only 40 percent of female TFWs did the same.

Six out of ten female TFWs were categorized as working in occupations where the skill level was not stated, which usually either means an individual is a family member of a foreign worker, or they are working in an unskilled occupation.

More women becoming permanent residents than men

Despite men outnumbering women in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), slightly more women become permanent residents in Canada than men every year.

TFWs with skilled work experience in Canada can qualify for permanent residence through economic class immigration programs like the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and Canadian Experience Class (CEC), however the number of men who become permanent residents through economic class programs is only slightly higher than the number of women.

This could suggest that more women apply for permanent residency from outside the country than men, making up for the larger number of men whose path to permanent residency was through the TFWP.

What puts women over the top in the total permanent residency numbers is the family class immigration programs, which grant 37 percent more women permanent residency than men, mostly as a result of more foreign women being sponsored for immigration by their Canadian spouse than foreign men.

New Statistics Canada Report Shows High Education Levels Among Immigrants

Canadian immigrants hold slightly over half of all STEM university degrees in the country according to a new Statistics Canada report (Chris Moncus, CC-BY-SA-2.0)

A new Statistics Canada report on the educational attainment of Canadians shows once again that the country’s immigrants tend to be highly educated and educated in demanding fields of study.

The report’s most striking finding is that immigrants hold about half (50.9 percent) of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) university degrees in Canada.

With adult immigrants making up about 25 percent of the adult population of Canada, this indicates that immigrants are about twice as likely to hold STEM degrees as members of the general population.

These findings are likely a result of Canadian immigration selection criteria, that over the last few decades, has favoured applicants with occupational skills and experience that are in demand in Canada, which, like doctors and engineers, tend to require a STEM education.

Consistent with this explanation and demonstrating the high standards applicants for Canadian immigration are held to, the report found that over two-fifths of doctorate degrees held by Canadians were earned outside of Canada.

Despite these impressive figures, new Canadian immigrants earn substantially less than the average Canadian, with the gap growing since 1980 despite immigrants gaining on the general population in average level of educational attainment.

One possible cause of this discrepancy is a shift, that started in the 1970s, in immigration source countries, away from English-speaking countries at similar levels of economic development as Canada, to less developed, non-English-speaking countries.

The educational credentials from less developed countries are often not as valuable as an equivalent degree in Canada, while immigrants from these countries often require an adjustment period to adapt to Canada’s culture and become proficient in its official languages.

Immigrants from developed, English-speaking countries on the other hand often have an easier time adopting Canadian culture and integrating economically in the country.

Canada Top Country for Immigrant Businesses – Financial Post

Canada tops the list of countries to start a business according to a new article in the Financial Post (Martin Cajzer)

An article featured in last Friday’s Financial Post makes the case for Canada being one of the best countries in the world for immigrants to start a business.

Among the factors that make Canada such a welcoming place for immigrant entrepreneurs are its business friendly environment and immigration program, says author Chris Riddell:

The World Bank labelled Canada the best place in the G-7 to start a business, and thanks to an open immigration policy, a comparatively easy one to enter. Add a strong banking system, growing job market, and high standard of living, and it’s no wonder it tops immigrant entrepreneurs’ list.

For many, the government’s Start-Up Visa launched in April is making Canada an even more appealing place.

For business people considering Canada as a destination for immigration, there are three points to consider:

  • The per capita income of new immigrants is well below the Canadian average, with the gap growing since the early 1970s despite the average level of education of recent immigrants increasing in the intervening time. The longer an immigrant is in Canada, the closer their income tends to be to the Canadian average.

  • Immigrants and first-generation Canadians make up a sizeable percentage of Canada’s millionaires, at 48 percent.

  • The average income of immigrants who are admitted into Canada through the business class immigration programs is slightly below that of immigrants admitted through the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), despite the former group having had to meet stringent capital and business experience requirements.

Taken together, it suggests that:

1) immigrants who arrive through economic class non-business immigration programs, like the FSWP, are likely not at a significant disadvantage compared to their business class counterparts in their chance of creating a successful business, that

2) immigrants are likely more entrepreneurial than the general population, and that

3) many immigrant business people fail for the few that succeed.

Matt Man, a successful immigrant businessman profiled for Riddell’s article, advises immigrants who are starting their business to try to get as much face-time as possible to improve their chance of success:

“Face to face can always make up for some of what I lost due to my accent or the way I’m communicating.”

Federal Skilled Worker Program Opens to Immigration Applicants

New Canadians taking their Citizenship Oath. After nearly one year, the Federal Skilled Worker Program opened to new applications on May 4 with a set of changes to the applicant assessment process (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

The federal government began accepting Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) applications on Saturday, marking an end to a nearly one year moratorium on the skilled worker program.

The annual reset of the program’s quota was scheduled for July 1 2012, but was postponed due to a backlog of FSW applications that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) said it needed to work through, and to give CIC time to make changes it said were needed to make the program better meet Canada’s economic needs.

The new annual quota for the FSWP is set at 5,000 applications, which is less than the 10,000 application cap of 2012, and is expected to be filled quickly as immigration hopefuls rush to apply after a years-long wait. The 5,000 applications accepted are expected to represent about 12,500 people as they will include spouses and dependents of principal applicants.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney promoted the goals of the program changes on Friday, saying they would benefit Canada:

“The government’s number one priority remains jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. Our changes ensure not only that Canada can select the immigrants most needed by our economy, but that they are best positioned for success.”

These changes include a greater weight placed on English or French language ability, applicants of a younger age, and Canadian work experience, in assessments of FSW applicants. The changes were made after research and consultations to find the factors that most often accompanied successful economic integration and employment by immigrants.

The program has also introduced a requirement for applicants to provide Educational Credential Assessements (ECAs) for credentials earned outside of Canada, provided from one of three organizations designated to provide ECAs.

Federal Court Rules Against Immigration Hopefuls in Skilled Worker Backlog

Justice Donald Rennie ruled that the federal government was within its rights to eliminate Federal Skilled Worker Program applications affecting approximately 280,000 people last year (StockMonkeys.com)

A federal court on Thursday ruled that the Canadian government was within its rights when it threw out the backlog of applications for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) that were filed before February 27, 2008.

Presiding judge, Justice Donald Rennie, said that ”section 87.4 [of Bill C-38] is valid legislation, compliant with the rule of law, the Bill of Rights and the Charter.”

He addressed the fact that the legislation had caused would-be immigrants in the queue anguish:

“The applicants have waited in the queue for many years only to find the entrance door closed. They see the termination of their hope for a new life in Canada to be an unfair, arbitrary and unnecessary measure.”

But maintained that the applications were “terminated by operation of law” and that the court did not have the jurisdiction to overturn the legislation.

Lorne Waldman, a lawyer who represents the 1,400 people who are suing the federal government to force it to process their applications, said he would recommend to his clients to appeal Justice Rennie’s decision, which they have 15 days to do.