Last month, the Federal Government released the new annual immigration levels. For 2017, they were set at 320,000 newcomers, up from the 305,000 this year. In the face of accelerating population aging and widening labour force gaps, the Government looks at immigration as a key force to help Canada stay competitive in an increasingly global economy. Indeed, new Canadians will soon account for ALL net labour force growth, and without an inflow of immigrants, Canada’s working population could begin to decline as early as 2020.
But we need to remember that these demographic shifts have become a pressing issue not just for Canada – but internationally as well. And when it comes to global talent, we are in competition with the rest of the world. Many countries in the world are aging rapidly, and according to international population reports, by 2030 the number of people aged 60 or over is expected to reach 1.4 billion. Even the BRICS nations that currently account for more than 40% of the world’s population, and that used to be sources of international talent before, are not immune to these challenges. Russia and China have already become graying countries, while India is projected to become a graying society by 2020.
And new “talent magnets” are emerging all the time. While such countries as Canada, the US, Switzerland, Germany and Australia have long been attractive destinations for talent, there are now other countries that show strong potential. Just because we set higher immigration targets doesn’t necessarily mean that people will come to Canada. Considerations such as cost of living, smooth pathways to permanency, and effective labour market attachment will all come into play as we compete for the best and the brightest.
We know that in the demographics lies the future, and we need to take action. If we want to compete effectively with other graying societies and other countries vying for talent – we need to be able to attract talent faster and better than they do. We need to have effective policies, programs and supports in place. But we also need to build on the advantage of our “Canada brand.”
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