Last year, Canadians older than 65 outnumbered those under 15 for the first time. Although its graying demographics aren’t as nightmarish as in other big Western countries, the implications for Canada’s economy are worrying.
To cushion the impact of an aging population, Canada is opening its doors—and will keep them open—to skilled immigrants and refugees. Some 300,000 immigrants will be allowed to settle permanently in Canada next year—the most since 1913. This will become a permanent annual target in a bid to boost economic growth, according to immigration minister John McCallum. “I do believe it is true that more immigrants for Canada would be a good policy for demographic reasons,” he said.
The government’s economic growth council had recommended increasing immigration to 450,000 permanent residents per year. “That number is a conceivable number for some date in the future, but certainly not for 2017,” McCallum explained.
Immigrants comprise around 22% of Canada’s population, already the highest by far in the G7.
What’s particularly noteworthy about Canada’s plan is that it explicitly calls for more economic migrants, the skilled workers and other job seekers who have been demonized in Europe, blamed for depressing wages and taking jobs from locals. In 2017, Canada will admit 172,500 migrants purely for economic reasons, an increase from 160,600 this year. At the same time, the number of refugees admitted will fall to 40,000, from 55,800 the year before.
The Canadian government met its pledge to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees between November 2015 and February 2016, and announced plans to double its intake of Syrian refugees, to 50,000, by the end of the year (the government has resettled 33,239 as of November 2016). By comparison, the US resettled just 10,000 Syrian refugees over the same time, while the UK and Australia have resettled 2,800 and 2,000 refugees, respectively.