Canadian immigration policy is doing a good job of attracting skilled immigrants to this country, says a Queen's University expert.
Economics professor Charles Beach told a U.S. Senate committee recently that the growing importance of education, business and work experience as admission standards to Canada has significantly raised the skill levels of the 230,000 immigrants who come to Canada annually.
The result is a group of new immigrants who are better educated and experienced, younger and more fluent in either English or French than the immigrant population as a whole.
The senators invited Dr. Beach's testimony as part of a debate on U.S. immigration policy driven by the large number of illegal immigrants there.
Only about 20 per cent of the U.S.'s legal immigrants -- one-third the level of Canada -- enter the country under independent or economic status based on rules that reward education, business and work experience and language fluency.
Some U.S. politicians are considering adopting a similar points system.
"Ironically, our findings have attracted more interest south of the border than from government officials in Ottawa," Dr. Beach said.
The study did not deal with the touchy issue of ensuring well-educated newcomers get jobs to match their skills once they are in the country.
Dr. Beach said in an interview yesterday that Canada has to do a better job of recognizing the credentials of foreign-born professionals and easing the transition to the Canadian job market.
"Some training, adjustment and wage subsidy programs were cut because of government deficits in mid-90s. I think that is a factor in the slower integration of some well-educated immigrants."
The study found that in 2000 those with university and post-graduate degrees jumped to 34 per cent of all immigrants from just eight per cent in 1980.
The portion of immigrants with a secondary school education dropped to 34 per cent from 59 per cent over the same period.
The proportion with some post-secondary or specialized training was flat at 16 per cent while the balance have little formal education.
The reason for the shift is that 59 per cent of all immigrants in 2000 entered under independent or economic status determined solely by a point system, up from 35 per cent in 1980.
The proportion who entered under family unification status dropped from 36 per cent to 27 per cent and those who entered under humanitarian or refugee status dropped even more, from 28 per cent to 13 per cent.
Dr. Beach, along with professor Alan Green of Queen's and professor Christopher Worswick of Carleton University, separating out the impact of business cycles and unemployment rates in Canada and the U.S.
"It appears that changing Canada's immigration policy to the point system had the desired effect of improving the quality of skill attributes of incoming immigrants," said Dr. Beach.
The point system has gone through many changes since it was introduced in 1967 and will likely change again to attract more skilled building and industrial tradespeople which are in short supply.
The study found that opening the door wider,had a small negative impact on the credentials of the whole immigrant group.
The average education of all immigrants dropped 2.6 per cent and the average age increased 1.7 per cent in years when the number of immigrants jumped by 100,000.
But increasing the portion of economic immigrants by 10 per cent, raised the education and language levels and reduced the average age of immigrants.
Jan 06, 2007