Immigration as a finite resource: Is Canada thinking strategically enough?

Contrary to an oft-quoted statistic, Darrell Bricker says we are not racing to a population of 9 billion by 2050. In fact Bricker, CEO of IPSOS Public Affairs and author of Empty Planet, argues that population dynamics mean Canada needs to think more strategically about attracting new immigrants and finding new export markets.

Bricker says that without some medical miracle, population growth is not going to increase at the rate that many believe it will. What’s more, although many equate immigration with refugees, he says that, in Canada only about 20% of immigration cases are because of those fleeing distress, such as war or famine. Immigrants are a resource, and a finite one, he says.

“[Immigration] is a young person’s game,” Bricker says. The number of surplus populations of young folk is not forever and infinite and is, in fact, shrinking. Most of Canada’s immigrants are coming from India, China, and the Philippines, and that youthful demographic is stabilizing or even declining in China and India. The Philippines is the only country currently with population growth above the replacement rate.

Full stop, immigration is driven by economic opportunity. You need that motivation to move — and countries, including Canada, need new people.

“It’s not just a process of absorbing people in distress,” he says. Instead, Canada needs to be maximizing the immigration opportunity and actively recruiting talent and brainpower from other countries.

Taking it a step further, population growth shifts overseas also impact trade. Granted, super economies such as China and India aren’t going away anytime soon, but Bricker says countries need to anticipate shifting demand patterns. Africa, for example, is poised to become a larger player for imports — are Canadian exporters ready?

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