Canada’s future prosperity will depend on how well it develops its exports and attracts investment from businesses globally. To support these objectives, Canada needs to attract more foreign workers with specialized skills.
There are many examples in the OECD of countries that have successfully attracted international talent to boost their innovation and productivity. The Canadian economy is currently at a critical juncture.
The country is facing several challenges, including an aging population, declining birth rates, and increased demand for education and skills training.
Economic growth in Canada is also facing significant headwinds as a result of trade tensions with the United States and other trading partners.
Brexit, the trade war between the U.S. and China, and weakening global demand for commodities such as oil, and natural gas, and coal. These factors make attracting skilled workers from abroad even more important for Canada’s long-term economic prospects.
To avoid placing unnecessary obstacles in front of potential immigrants, there are a few things that Canada can do to attract more foreign workers from abroad:
Increase Talent Mobility within Canada
One of the first things that Canada should do to increase the attractiveness of its immigration system is to increase the mobility of skilled workers between provinces. Quebec and the Western provinces have been facing a major shortage of labor for many years.
The situation in Quebec is particularly critical, and there is a great demand for skilled workers in the province, including in the areas of computer science, engineering, and health care. Quebec has been a net exporter of workers for several decades, and the province is trying to retain as many of its skilled workers as possible.
In 2017, the province introduced Bill 10 – An Act to foster the growth of the information technology industry in Quebec to meet the needs of the Quebec economy, which included a provision that increased the mobility of skilled workers between Quebec and other provinces.
Expand Canadian Language Training Capacity
Canada’s immigration system accepts skilled workers based on their human capital. That is, their potential to contribute to the Canadian economy in the long term.
Language proficiency is one of the most important factors that determine whether a person will be able to enter the Canadian workforce quickly.
The language requirements for various occupations vary from low-skilled to high-skilled occupations. However, the language requirements for different occupations are not standardized in Canada.
A University of Toronto study found that only about 20% of immigrants who arrive in the country can enter the Canadian labor market within three years.
These statistics show that Canada can do more to expand language training capacity within the country. In 2018, Canada’s Official Languages Commissioner recommended that the federal government standardize language requirements for different occupations.
He also recommended that the government work with provincial governments and language training providers to increase capacity.
Make it Easier for Foreign Students to Stay and Work in Canada
Educational exchanges are important because they promote dialogue, understanding, and partnerships between nations. The benefits of exchanges are not limited to the students themselves but extend to their families. The institutions that receive these students, and the societies at large.
In the past few years, Canada has made it easier for students from around the world to study in Canada by providing multiple pathways to permanent residence.
In 2017, Canada introduced the Express Entry system, which was an online system that allowed skilled workers from abroad to apply for a Canadian work visa.
Furthermore, in 2018, the government also introduced the Post-Graduation Work permit. This allowed foreign students who graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution to apply for a two-year open work permit.
These changes made it easier for international students to become immigrants. If these students can find a job that matches their skill set, they can easily transition to permanent residence.
Increase the Number of Visas for High-Skilled Workers from Abroad
Canada needs to increase the number of visas it offers to highly skilled workers from abroad. This will allow more workers from abroad to find jobs in Canada and apply for permanent residence.
Currently, the federal government issues two types of visas to skilled workers from abroad: the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Graduate Program.
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is designed for low-skilled workers from abroad who are expected to return to their home country after completing their employment contract in Canada.
On the other hand, the International Graduate Program is designed for high-skilled workers from abroad who are expected to apply for permanent residence in Canada. However, Canada issues a very low number of visas for high-skilled workers from abroad.
In 2019, the federal government promised to increase the number of visas that it issues to high-skilled workers from abroad. This is a positive development since it will allow more workers from abroad to find jobs in Canada. It will also allow potential immigrants to settle in the country.
Canada needs more foreign workers to meet its 2030 needs. There are many examples in the OECD of countries that have successfully attracted international talent to boost their innovation and productivity.
To attract foreign workers, Canada will have to take several steps, including increasing the mobility of skilled workers within Canada.
Hence, expanding language training capacity, and making it easier for international students to stay and work in Canada.
Canada can also increase the number of visas for high-skilled workers from abroad. If these steps are implemented, Canada will be better placed to meet its 2030 needs.