[Analyse] Misunderstanding about the economic impact of immigration

From an economic point of view, experts warn that immigration is neither the disaster some claim nor the panacea others hope. In fact, they say, it will eventually have a relatively small impact on the economy in general and on the labor shortage in particular.

François Legault caused a stir this week by saying that if Quebec did not get more immigration powers from Ottawa, it would risk the same fate as Louisiana in defending the French. He also closed the door on the idea of ​​increasing the annual immigration threshold from 50,000 to 58,000, and the prime minister said, “We believe we have reached the capacity to integrate.”

In fact, Quebec already welcomes many more immigrants each year, the Institut de Québec reported in a study Wednesday. Taking temporary immigration into account, we were talking about record gains of nearly 93,500 new arrivals in 2019. However, labor needs are so great in Quebec that this has not, over the years, prevented a significant improvement in economic integration Immigrants landed. This can be seen in particular by the marked decrease in their lag in terms of employment rate and wages as compared to other workers.

These facts clearly show the extent of the needs of Quebec’s economy, which is struggling with a noticeable aging population, as the Council of Presidents argued last month. in white paper on immigration. “We are facing an unprecedented labor shortage, but we are not giving ourselves every opportunity to overcome it,” declared its president and CEO, Carl Blackburn, before specifically pleading to raise thresholds for permanent immigration “to at least 80,000 people a year for the next four years. “.

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modest effect

All these discussions tend to exaggerate the impact of immigration on the economy in general and on labor shortages in particular, notes emeritus economist at the University of Quebec at Montreal Pierre Fortin in a nearly forty-page memoir produced at Quebec’s behest. Ministry of Immigration.

Based on Research summaries In addition to his new analyzes, he notes first that “there is no scientific evidence that growth in Canadians’ standard of living will interact positively (or negatively) with the accelerated expansion of immigration.” This standard of living depends not only on the increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is mechanically generated by the increase in the number of workers, but also on the increase in GDP. for each inhabitant. However, the size of the population and the weight that migration occupies, in the long run, have no effect on the growth of this wealth for each individual.

Nor does immigration have the power to significantly alter the current aging of the Canadian population, says Pierre Fortin, citing it Study by CD Howe Institute. Firstly because immigrants also end up getting old, like everyone else, and also because they often bring their parents to live with them. In fact, to stem the steady rise in the proportion of the population aged 65 or over, CD Howe estimated that Canada’s annual immigration targets for 2024 must triple, from 451,000 to 1.4 million people.

Finally, if the reception of foreign workers can meet the urgent and special needs of certain companies, then immigration, in general, can have only a modest impact globally on the problem of labor shortage, I found experts. Immigrants who come to fill vacancies also become consumers and end up, “at the other end of the economic circle,” by stimulating demand for workers in return.

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Beyond the economy

Nor are there only economic considerations, of course, as Pierre Fortin emphasizes. We must also take into account the demographic weight of Quebec City in Canada, the defense of French truth and the danger of a xenophobic slide.

However, immigration must progress. It is a tremendous source of cultural and human renewal and progress. It makes possible a more diverse, dynamic and open society. It is our contribution to the global struggle against inequality of income and wealth, “with which the economist concludes in his memoirs. But you have to understand that optimal migration is not maximum migration.”

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