A new report from the Fraser Institute suggests immigrants who arrived in Canada between 1987 and 2004 received about $6,000 more in government services per person annually than they paid in taxes – costing taxpayers between $16 and $23 billion a year.
For a host of reasons, immigrants “are not doing as well economically” now as earlier waves of newcomers and often struggle to find high paying jobs.
“We’re not against some immigration,” said Herbert Grubel, who co-authored the report with Patrick Grady.
But he said the “mass immigration” system that sees Canada accept some 250,000 newcomers annually is stifling innovation.
Grubel pointed to Japan, a country with aging citizens where less than 2% of the population is foreign-born – the lowest percentage among developed nations.
Faced with an elderly population in need of care and a shortage of medical staff, Japanese inventors have created robots that dispense pills and help feed and bathe seniors in hospitals.
“This increases productivity of people who design robots and run robots,” he said. “We’re preventing all of that from taking place.”
The researchers also reject the notion immigrants are needed to fill gaps in the workforce, and argue the market should set immigration levels.
A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the department has noticed the economic trends highlighted in the report.
She also noted Kenney was moving ahead with a series of policy changes that aim to make it easier for immigrants to find work – changes supported in part by the Fraser report.
Researchers studying Canada’s immigration system frequently point out the problem of matching skilled immigrants to jobs has been a long-standing one – but disagree on the remedies.
Research by the Conference Board of Canada – an economic think-tank – links immigration to higher foreign direct investment and innovation.
The Conference Board argues businesses are failing to take advantage of those skills by not hiring immigrants and not managing talent.
It wants Canada to boost annual immigration to 375,000 to maintain the workforce and economic growth.
–with files from Sherry Noik