Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Canada and immigration: the undiscovered laboratory

My limited recollection is that between 1950 and 1980 the province/nation of Quebec switched from a theocratic government, devout Catholicism, an average family size of over 5 children, and economic dominance by an ethnic minority (anglo-english) to a secular government, a secular society, an average birthrate of about 1.7, and the relatively silent emigration of that ethnic minority (including me).

That's a rather impressive amount of social transformation, and yet I suspect it's not well studied. Canada is the "dog" of sociology -- a remarkable species that has been falsely assumed to be "ordinary".

Now another experiment is playing out. Canada is a wealthy nation with, compared (only) to the US, a relatively even standard of living with limited pockets of severe poverty and a relatively intact social safety net. That may be why it has a birth rate similar to Italy, Japan, or Denmark -- very low (of course then one might ask why evolution allows relative wealth and prosperity to end reproduction!). Unlike Japan, which seems destined to slowly fade away (Korea's birth rate is too low to provide immigrants and every other nation is too "foreign"), Canada has returned to its historic roots as a nation of immigration.

There's one key difference, however, between Canadian immigration and the US model. Canada has been aggressively managing its immigration stream, with an almost "eugenic" policy of selecting the most economically productive immigrants. This is why I believe Canada will not have a social security crisis. More below ...
CANOE -- CNEWS - Canada: Census: Immigration critical to Canada

OTTAWA (CP) — Two-thirds of Canada’s population growth over the past five years was fuelled by immigrant newcomers...

The country is on track to becoming 100 per cent dependent on immigration for growth...

... That point won’t be reached until after 2030, when the peak of the baby boomers born in the 1950s and early ‘60s reach the end of their lifespans.

... Canada’s net migration, per capita, is among the highest in the world. According to the OECD, Canada’s net migration of 6.5 migrants per 1,000...

Canada’s influx offsets a flacid national birthrate of about 1.5 kids per woman, well below the replacement rate of 2.1 and just below the OECD average.

The United States, by way of example, accepts only 4.4 immigrants per thousand but has a fertility rate 25 per cent higher than Canada.

... A candidate for the ADQ in the Quebec provincial election was dumped by his party on the weekend after telling a weekly newspaper that native Quebecers need to “boost their birth rate, otherwise the ethnics will swamp us.”

... Ontario’s population... increased 6.6 per cent...

...Newfoundland, meanwhile, is on a three-census slide and has seen its population fall to a level not seen since the late 1960s.

Quebec’s population climbed 4.3 percent ... another slight decline in the French-speaking province’s overall share of the Canadian population. [jf: see comment below]

With the federal government poised to bring down a budget next Monday that is expected to reconfigure equalization payments to the provinces and address a so-called fiscal imbalance in the federation, population shifts are of critical importance.

... The census shows that Toronto remains Canada’s biggest metropolitan area, with 5.1 million people.

Montreal, at 3.6 million, and Vancouver at 2.1, were next among megalopoli...

About 35 per cent of Canada’s total population lives in these three metropolitan regions — and they attract more than 80 per cent of immigrant newcomers.

There's a lot here. The writer was careful to steer clear of the extremely sensitive, but inescapable, conclusion that Quebec's "ethnic Quebecois" population is in steep decline, with a birth rate, I suspect, comparable to Japan. Newfoundland is emptying out, rather like North Dakota and much of the American plains states. The nation is becoming very urban, though one should note that all of Canada's cities would fit into a single anonymous urban center in central China.

Canada is one heck of a laboratory. A future US president might learn from this.

2 comments:

Scott said...

Canada and the USA: Demographically Different?


According to PRB.org's 2006 World Population Data Sheet Canada's population as of mid-2006 was 32.6 million people and the USA's population was 299.1 million people. The same document shows that the rate of natural increase in population for the two countries is 0.3 percent per year for Canada and 0.6 per year for the USA. So absent immigration the USA is expected to increase its population twice as fast on a percentage basis alone. When you take into account the base population number, we should expect to see Canada's population increase absent immigration by 97,800 persons whereas with the same criteria the US population should increase by 1,794,600 persons which is 18 times greater than the Canadian increase.


Per the PRB report Canada's net migration is 7 persons per 100,000 while the US number is 3 persons per 1,000. Again, when one takes into account the relative base populations that translates into expected in-migration for Canada of 228,000 persons versus expected in-migration for the US of 897,300 persons. The ratio in favor of the US is a shade under 4 to 1.


Finally, when we take a look at PRB's projections for the two countries' populations for the year 2025, Canada's is expected to be 37.6 million persons while the USA's population is expected to by 349.4 million persons. That translates to an increase in the US population of 50.3 million persons versus an increase in the Canadian population of 5.0 million persons. Remarkably, the US will increase in population to 2025 by significantly more than the entire population of Canada today! Plus, the total increase for the USA is expected to be 10 times that of Canada!

The answer to the title of this post is that one can categorically state that Canada and the US have radically different demographic situations. What then, are the implications of this difference? I suspect that Canadians who are aware of these facts must be somewhat uneasy about the relationship between Canada and the US. Living next to a country that dwarfs yours by most criteria means that a careful balance in relations must be managed. On the other hand, US growth represents export opportunities for Canadian businesses and Canadian economic policy ought to steer toward export-oriented industries. Of course, just about every other country in the world is dependent on exports to the US for economic growth, so this could be problematic for Canada.

One remaining set of facts from the PRB report concerns the geographical size of the two countries; Canada at an area of 3,849,670 square miles is larger than the USA at 3,717,796 square miles. If immigrants were seeking land, it would seem that Canada would be the place to go, but the global trend toward urbanization negates this seeming advantage to Canada. I believe climatic factors weigh against Canada when it comes to where immigrants choose to seek a new country, as well. It seems that systems for managing heat are preferred to systems for managing cold as the growth of southern-tier US states has been radically higher than any other part of the US or any Canadian province.

I wonder why there isn't more immigration into Canada, as its legal system and zeitgeist seem more in tune with the rest of the world than the USA. My impression as well is that Canada's immigration restrictions are not as tight as those of the US.

John Gordon said...

Wow, that's a rather longer comment than I usually see. Interesting user profile too!

Canada's immigration policy is very different from the US. It's less based on relations and more on economic value and especially job creation -- it's a very "Darwinian" policy. It means that Canada gets a very near term big economic boost from its immigrants with a strong bias towards job creation.

I think the US could learn something there.

Global warming, of course, is mostly good news for Canada, assuming no major drought.