Study says Canadian immigration numbers should be reduced

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A new study released this week questions whether Canadian governments should continue to maintain high immigration levels in tough economic times.

The study released 4 April by the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP), proposed that if Canada reduced immigration numbers during recessions then it could possibly improve the overall performance of immigrants. They added that it could also reduce the damage caused when new immigrants enter the labour market but can't find work for lengthy periods of time due to the economy.

"During recessions, economic outcomes deteriorate more among recent immigrants than among the Canadian-born," said the report, "Making it in Canada: Immigration Outcomes and Policies". "It also helps prevent longer-run economic 'scarring' that can occur when new labour market entrants are unable to obtain jobs or are unable to practice their skills over a long period."

Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said he partially agrees with the findings in the report but did not support the idea of reducing migrant numbers during recessions. He added that he is trying to maintain a balance between immigration critics on both sides who have been urging the government to either increase or decrease migrant numbers.

"I think the findings confirm what I've been saying about the struggles of recent immigrants," said Kenney. "This is why I'm saying we need transformative change."

In 2010, Canada accepted over 280,000 permanent residents, the highest level in over fifty years. Canada has one of the highest intakes of immigrants in the world, with a per capita rate double that of the US rate, according to the IRPP report.

Data from the 2006 census shows that immigrants are earning roughly 60 to 70 percent of the wage earned by the average Canadian-born worker in their first few years in the country. This is compared to 85-90 percent in the late 1970s. Prior to the 1980s, Canadian immigration flows used to rise and fall based on Canada's economic performance.

Although the report did state: "Immigration has a very modest impact on measures such as gross domestic product per capita and the government's balance sheet, although whether it is positive, negative or zero is open for debate, with most observers favouring 'small positive'."

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