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As reported in the Globe and Mail, February 11, 2009, Canadian Immigration Minster, Jason Kenny is considering to reduce immigration targets due the slowing economy in Canada.Mr. Kenny said that Canada is planning to receive 245,000 to 260,000 Canadian Permanent Residents next year. This range is roughly the same as last year where Canada accepted 247,000 Permanent Residents.
However, following the lead of other countries such as the United States, there is mounting pressure to restrict permanent and temporary resident applications as a means to “protect jobs”. This protectionist thinking usually comes to the forefront during times of economic downturn. Ironically, it has been clearly demonstrated in past recessions, that policies restricting trade whether it be goods, services or immigration, results in a worsening of market conditions rather than the intended goal of protecting jobs for local residents.
What Canada, the US and other nations need during recessionary periods is more trade and more people. Erecting barriers to entry never works. More than ever, Canada needs to attract the best and the brightest workers to remain competitive, globally. More immigration means more talent which means more productivity for Canadian companies.
The concern that the current labour market may not be able to absorb foreign workers, demonstrates a widely held misconception about the market in general; that it is fixed, static and there are only a finite number of jobs to be filled. The economy in the protectionist mind, is like a building with four walls containing a certain number of rooms that only can hold a certain number of people. When those rooms are filled up, the doors are to be closed.
Far from being the case, the labour market is a dynamic force and driven by innovation, resources and talent. It can grow and shrink depending on many factors including the quality of the labour pool. In a shrinking economy, restricting immigration will therefore only serve to exacerbate the contraction. Rather than the intended goal of “protecting jobs”, companies will loose out to more efficient competitors with better workers. The jobs that already do exist will, in a restrictive environment, be less secure rather than protected. Contrary to popular belief free trade actually protects workers as it promotes productivity. True, the jobs of workers who lack talent, drive and ambition may be under pressure due to “competition” from better candidates. But is this necessarily a bad thing? Do the math. If a company is to remain competitive, grow and be able to afford to hire more workers, it has to be productive and to be productive it has to attract talented employees in the first place.
Hanging on to mediocre workers is like failing to update old machinery. Both approaches are fatal to the ongoing success of any organization. Multiply this many times over, and you have a country that falls behind globally.When you consider what the real drivers of the labour market are, there is no justification for protectionist policies in any market, especially during a recession. Opening our borders to attract the best and the brightest immigrants is a solution to our economic woes not a threat to Canadian workers.
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