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IMMIGRATION PAPERS



Patrick Grady
The Inconvenient Facts the Government Hides About Immigration
November 15, 2010

In the late 1980s, the government sharply increased target immigration levels in what can only be considered the Western worldís largest experiment in mass immigration. And since 1990 the number of immigrants admitted to Canada has averaged over 230 thousand per year, for a total of over 4.6 million new people.

To bring in so many immigrants, the net had to be cast much more widely than had traditionally been the case. The source countries from which immigrants were brought thus changed dramatically from the traditional ones in Europe to Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In recent years, the disappointing results of the governmentís experiment have become harder to hide. The performance of recent immigrants in the labour market has steadily deteriorated and their earnings have continued to fall further behind those of native born Canadians. Yet following the 2006 census the government has failed to provide an accounting of how immigrants from the different countries are doing.

There are many reasons why this information might be being withheld. They range from a politically-correct desire not to offend immigrants from particular poorly-performing countries or regions to politically-motivated concerns to minimize informed criticism of an immigration policy going badly off track.

However, while the information isnít formally published either on paper or the web, it can still be calculated from the 2006 census public use data file, which is sold for research purposes.

This census data show that recent immigrants coming to Canada between 1990 and 2004 experienced a very wide range of earnings in 2005 across the different source countries from whence they came. At the one extreme, immigrants coming from the United Kingdom averaged $49,293 and from the United States $45,144, both of which are well above the $25,714 earned on average in the same year by recent immigrants in the same 25 to 64 age category and even above the $37,213 earned by non-immigrants. At the other extreme, recent immigrants from Pakistan earned only $20,198, those from West Central Asia and the Middle East $20,033, and Other Eastern Asia (excludes China and Hong Kong) $15,245, which is well below both the recent immigrant and non-immigrant average earnings.

Only recent immigrants from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Other Northern and Western Europe (excludes the UK and Germany) earned more than non-immigrants. Recent immigrants from a depressingly long list of countries and regions including India, South America, Northern Africa, Eastern Africa, Central America, Other Caribbean and Bermuda (excludes Jamaica), Other Southeast Asia (excludes the Philippines), Other Southern Asia (excludes India and Pakistan), the People's Republic of China, Pakistan, West Central Asia and the Middle East, and Other Eastern Asia (excludes China and Hong Kong), in descending order of performance, all do worse than the average of all recent immigrants, with those immigrants coming from Other Eastern Asia earning only a feeble 41 per cent of non-immigrants. In some sense, this should be surprising as the same selection criteria are supposedly being applied to all immigrants regardless of country of origin. But only 17 per cent of immigrants admitted each year are actually fully assessed on the basis of their employment and language skills.

The reason why immigrants from different Third World countries do so much worse than those from the traditional European source countries of immigration is obviously a subject for in-depth study, particularly given the governmentís ambitious plans to draw most of Canadaís new immigrants from these countries. And the immigrants admitted need to do at least as well as other Canadians if they are not to become a burden on Canadian taxpayers. In this regard, itís not encouraging that in 2005 according to census data recent immigrants only paid on average about half the income taxes paid by native Canadians.

Some of the differences in the employment income of recent immigrants among countries and regions can probably be explained by the different composition of immigrants among economic immigrants, family class, and refugees. Past studies have shown that family class immigrants earn less than economic immigrants, and refugees earn much less than other immigrants at least initially. However, this is not the whole story. There are many other possible factors that need to be studied if the government really wants to learn what needs to be done to improve its selection criteria. For one, there seems to be a relationship between the level of income of the source country and the earnings of immigrants from that country once in Canada. This makes sense as it is reasonable to believe that the more similar the economy of the country from which an immigrant comes, the more transferable and recognized the skills acquired there would be after arrival in Canada. The current system of immigration selection is clearly not working as it should.

The government is not making it any easier to study these issues in the future as it plans to eliminate the compulsory long form from the 2011 census. This is the key form from which all this information on the labour market performance of recent immigrants from different countries comes. And its announced elimination has provoked a surprising firestorm of controversy for a change in a statistical program, but the government has still stubbornly refused to reinstate the needed form.

So not only is the government going to try to keep Canadians in the dark in the future by not publishing this information, it will go a step further and make sure that itís no longer even collected. Thatís no way to make sound immigration policy, especially for a country thatís gambling its future on an untried policy of mass immigration.

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