Commentary by: Sean Cowan
Seems like immigration hasn’t been seen in a positive light as of late. Control over immigration has been a central theme in the successful Brexit bid in the United Kingdom. America elected a president who suggests tougher laws and screening for immigrants. Syrian refugees were welcomed by the thousands into Canada (46,700 in 2016 alone to be exact), but not without considerable controversy.
Of course, with the entry of new immigrants comes the culture. Clearly they simply do not know of any other way to live until they move into new land and set roots. Learning another Language and assimilating into another culture takes time and requires patience of the guests who welcome them.
In some places, it seems, they aren’t necessarily welcome. There appears to be an immigrant backlash brewing in many of the wealthiest countries. The demographics are changing drastically and quickly. In 2012 in America, the census bureau reported that for the first time there have been more minority births than white births.
What becomes disturbing is that the glaringly obvious seems to be overlooked-Caucasians are having less babies.
We need an abundance of young people for the economy to work.
If we have less children we need to import them.
Every healthy economy regardless of society which runs it (within a more left wing society or more to the right) requires a pyramid shape in order for it to work. The tip of the pyramid being those who are not generating income (from the disabled, to young children, to the elderly), casual workers would be found somewhere below the tip, further down from casual comes the part time employees and somewhere halfway down the pyramid being the civil servant who receive revenue from public funds, yet redistribute it into the economy. The base of said metaphorical pyramid are the full time workers of various classes who work for private industry and generate the revenue which works its way up to the very tip and sustains the entire society within.
What becomes abundantly clear when visualizing this pyramid is that every society needs a healthy dose of working, young, able bodied people to sustain the economy and, most importantly, there has to be many more at the base than at the tip for the society to exist at all.
For the longest time it was a non-issue. Forty years ago it was nothing to see a family with four or five children and was quite unusual for anyone to reach the age of 40 and be single without multiple children.
As was often the case. Many years ago you had no choice but to have multiple children but then along came contraceptives and women entered the workforce en masse. Now people had the choice if and when they had children. Women had options. They could wait until later in life to have children and focus on their career. To see a person reach the age of 40 without a child and single in the first world now is quite common.
This person will need young people to continue to generate revenue for when he or she retires. Police are still needed, and roads need to be paved.
This is why we need immigration. The alternative is simply to make more babies. That doesn’t appear to be an option. Most people simply are not willing to make enough babies to keep the engine running (or can’t due to shrinking wages/ unstable work….but that’s another story) so therefore we need to take in young people to make up for the loss.
There are still many countries with large families of 4 or more. They are typically countries who are culturally distinct from us so as they come in, they change the landscape.
Ultimately, if we curb immigration we need to make more babies. If we don’t, eventually, the metaphorical pyramid will change shape with the base of the pyramid becoming narrow and the aging population making the tip wider. It’s a demographic nightmare that countries like China ( with their one child policy) and Japan (statistically the oldest population on earth and a country not built on multiculturalism) are currently struggling with.
Xenophobia therefore is essentially a demographic nightmare waiting to happen for any first world country. Generally the local populations have been steadily decreasing as the desire for large families have diminished. Without the immigrants to inject new fresh young workers into the economy our social services will erode quicker than you could say ‘build a wall’.
So we are left with little choice but to embrace immigration and while we may change immigration policy to be more efficient and attract more of the people each country is desperately looking for in regards to age, family size and qualifications; there is no question that we need a healthy number of new young people in just about every first world nation on earth and that will indeed change each nation that welcomes them.
It should go without saying that immigration has been a continuous process in Europe, North America, New Zealand and Australia for centuries now. Various waves have come and gone and from various ethnic groups and they have made their mark and changed the country. As a Canadian I’m hard pressed to believe that our much more diverse, multicultural country would go to war for the queen and the ‘motherland’ as we have in the past because, of course, the demographics have changed and now the majority of the population cannot identify with a cause such as that.
One thing that is clear is that more young people from afar are more crucial than ever to maintain our society and the standards we have come to expect within it. What must be understood is that for the majority of the first world in general and former British colonies in particular it has played a vital part of our society. It has in fact built the society itself. So we should embrace it, because, unless you’re going to make more babies, we simply don’t have a choice.
Sean Cowan is a former member of the military who has worked with a wide range of first-generation immigrants throughout his career. His experiences as a result of his work and his upbringing in Nova Scotia have led to become an advocate for multiculturalism.
Canadians have seen a flurry of changes to federal immigration policy since a majority government was elected in the spring of 2011. They have affected every aspect of immigration, from the economic class and temporary workers, to the family class, to refugees. The government says they are fine tuning the system to the needs of the economy, while reducing “bogus” claims and fraud. Critics say they are dramatically changing the welcoming approach of the former system to one that is punitive, not improving its support of the labour market, and making immigrant settlement and inclusion more difficult.
There are indeed many views of Canada’s immigration system. Many of those who praise it are non-Canadians, looking at the outcomes and calculating how they can replicate those in their country. Those outcomes are high levels of labour market participation, social inclusion, citizenship uptake, and second generation success. Many of the critics are Canadians, some of who see it as a cesspool of fraud and corruption, which takes jobs away from Canadians. Others see it as not being good enough, holding out promises to immigrants about job success and social inclusion that don’t come true. Critics come from across the political spectrum. Still others see the system as a success, but one that needs improvement and constant fine tuning to current conditions.
Historically Canada’s early immigration came from push factors in countries of origin: Scotland’s Highland Clearances and the Breaking Up of the Clans, and the Irish famines. Our first great intentional immigration came in the early 20th century when Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier worried that the empty prairies would be taken over by the US, and his government created policy and programs to attract cold weather farmers. Their first target were farmers in the northern US states, who brought with them livestock and equipment. Then they targeted farmers in northern Europe. They developed instruments to attract them: land grants or cheap land, credit for the purchase of equipment and livestock, rail lines for shipping farm produce, and storage silos. In under a decade they increased Canada’s population by over 50%, the equivalent today of adding 17 million people by 2022, or 1.7 million a year, or seven times our current rate.
The next great period began in the late 1960s with the invention of the points system, which chose immigrants on the basis of human capital: education, job experience, family situation, and language skills. Developed by the late Tom Kent, a senior public servant, it had the added advantage of being colour blind. As long as you could assemble the required number of points, where you came from didn’t matter. This has led to the great diversity that is such an important strength for Canada.
Both of these periods had in common the desire to attract immigrants and to embrace their strengths. It created the instruments to help them succeed, particularly in the Laurier era. It put out a welcome mat.
There is significant debate as to whether the current measures being put in place remove that welcome mat, and merely erect a set of hurdles and barriers.
There is general agreement that Canada needs immigration. Most people point to pending labour shortages and the Canadian domestic birth rate that is well below replacement levels, meaning without immigration our population would decline. Others, like the late Jane Jacobs, note that many parts of our country are sparsely populated, and that we have too few significant sized cities in most regions of the country. Cities drive prosperity in the modern economy. Still others note that our domestic economy is too small, and we remain too dependent on the trade whims of our larger trading partners.
But the unrest caused by the changes to immigration policy raises immediate questions about what should constitute good policy.
Maytree has always been clear in its view:
The debate, such as is being permitted by a majority federal government not given to robust democratic process, is really like the sound of one hand clapping. The other hand is population policy. Canada doesn’t have one that is generally articulated or understood, if it has one at all. How many Canadians do we want? Are we about the right size at 34 million? How many immigrants do we want to accept each year? About the quarter million we accept now?
Some environmentalists say we already have too many people, that the earth has a limited carrying capacity, which we’re already exceeding, and that we are depleting it. Others say that too many people lead to too many social problems like crime and disease. Still others claim that immigrants themselves bring too many problems like conflicts from their home countries or ways of living that are out of step with so-called “Canadian values.”
Others say we have way too few Canadians, that our population target should be 75 or 100 million, and we should get there as soon as possible. They say our economy is too small, that entrepreneurs need a bigger market to build companies up to more robust size before taking on foreign markets. They point to the importance of universities and colleges in modern economies, and make the case for more students, graduates, researchers, teachers, and highly educated workers. They look at our secondary and tertiary cities as possibilities for more vibrant communities with stronger local economies driven by more customers, workers, and entrepreneurs.
Even with a smaller welcome mat, Canada will continue to be an attractive magnet for immigrants, although the international competition for the best and brightest is increasing by the day. This is one of the rewards for Canada’s brilliant 20th century, when we built a great country based on justice and equity. What we need to know is how big we want to be. Making immigration policy, or most other kinds of policy, without knowing the answer to that question, is the sound of one hand clapping.
Source - http://maytree.com/spotlight/immigration-policy-sound-one-hand-clapping.html
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit