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  5. Canada's plugging its labor shortage with 1 million people moving to the country last year, while Biden is maintaining Trump-like policies that keep immigrants out

Canada's plugging its labor shortage with 1 million people moving to the country last year, while Biden is maintaining Trump-like policies that keep immigrants out

Jason Lalljee,Madison Hoff   

Canada's plugging its labor shortage with 1 million people moving to the country last year, while Biden is maintaining Trump-like policies that keep immigrants out
  • Canada welcomed a record level of immigration last year and plans to top that in the coming years.
  • It's part of an effort to address the country's labor shortage, Canada's immigration minister said.

Canada is on its way to having a much better handle on its labor shortage than the United States.

Thanks to Canada's immigration policies, the country's population grew by over 1 million for the first time in 2022, according to a report that Statistics Canada, the country's census agency, released this month. It was one of the world's fastest-growing countries, the agency reported.

That's just the start in a planned immigration boom. Canada had almost 1 million job vacancies in the second quarter of last year, according to a release in September. The government has been setting its sights on filling its labor shortage with an influx of new immigrants. Sean Fraser, the country's immigration minister, announced in November that one of the nation's aims between 2023 and 2025 would be to draw in nearly 1.5 million immigrants, per The New York Times.

That's in contrast to the US. Even though it's seen a spike in immigration recently, the country is not likely to sustain that growth in the long term unless it makes a concerted policy effort to welcome more immigrants, experts told Insider. President Joe Biden's current course of action could mean that the labor shortage in the US is never really solved.

"Look, folks, it's simple to me: Canada needs more people," Fraser said last year. "Canadians understand the need to continue to grow our population if we're going to meet the needs of the labor force, if we're going to rebalance a worrying demographic trend, and if we're going to continue to reunite families."

In Canada, immigrants made up nearly a quarter of the population in 2021, the largest fraction in more than 150 years, according to the statistical agency. In 2022, the country welcomed more than 400,000 immigrants, plus roughly 600,000 non-permanent residents such as people with work or study visas, or asylum claims.

And Canada's immigration policies are getting increasingly ambitious. They plan to admit 465,000 this year and 500,000 in 2025.

"This increase is because of a combination of factors, including the aforementioned intent to leverage international migration to help fulfill employment needs across the country and the program created to welcome people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine," the release stated about the net figure of non-permanent residents.

Canada's immigration policies stand in stark contrast with those of other western countries

The United Kingdom introduced proposed legislation this month that would discourage migrant boats from entering UK territory, a policy that might violate the European Convention on Human Rights. Last year, Italy's far-right government enacted a similar law targeting asylum seekers that legal experts also say violates international law. The leaders of countries like Italy and Sweden have said that they want to limit immigration, and blame immigrants for crime.

And then there's the US. Former president Donald Trump implemented many restrictive immigration policies. In part because of those policies, as well as the collapse in international migration early in the pandemic, about 2 million fewer people immigrated to the US between 2016 and 2020 than would have if pre-Trump trends had continued, Insider estimated. Some of these people could potentially have filled the 10.8 million job openings in the US as of January 2023.

While the US has seen a recent upswing in net international migration, it is not necessarily sustainable. Giovanni Peri, professor of economics at the University of California, Davis, told Insider in January that it was due to "a little bit of a backlog of immigrants who wanted to come into the United States and were essentially blocked because of all the Covid restrictions."

However, President Biden has pushed for some Trump-like rules that are likely to hold immigration levels — and labor shortage recovery — back.

According to Peri, "the number of immigrants who can come in legally is constrained" by laws and procedures that haven't really changed. As Insider previously wrote, "the last major change was decades ago in 1986."

"This is not likely to change unless there is some change in legislation," Peri said. "And so in that respect, probably this slow decline or stagnation of immigrants will continue."

Biden is replacing Trump-like anti-immigration policies with his own

That's a major reason why the persisting labor shortage will likely never resolve.

Biden characterized his immigration stance as the opposite of his predecessor's, but there remains some continuity in practice. While his administration announced last month that it will be shuttering a Trump-era policy that expelling asylum seekers at the border, it is replacing it with a similar plan that immigrants' rights groups have likened to Trump's "transit ban."

Alexis Lucero, an immigration defense attorney in Texas, told a local Fox News outlet that Biden's incoming rule was "equally restrictive" as the Trump-era rule he's getting rid of.

It's in direct opposition to the kind of policy changes that Peri said the US needs to make to address the labor shortage.

"I would say that we will need this type of immigration to stay at 1 million plus people net per year for the next four or five years to fill the gap," he said. "And my prediction is that that's not very likely to happen."

Additionally, David Kelly, chief global strategist of JPMorgan Asset Management, previously talked to Insider in April 2022 about how changes to immigration could help address the labor shortage.

"I think the problem is that both sides treat immigration as a political football, and therefore you won't get the kind of compromise necessary to increase the number of legal immigrants into the United States while we are suffering this massive labor shortage," Kelly said.

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