Canada’s use of skills based point system for immigration: do we need it?

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held hearings on September 14 to explore the merits of skills based point system for managing much of permanent immigration. Canada has been using such a system for years. Here is what I gleaned from a presentation by Queen’s University professor Charles M. Beach.
Beach said that Canada has “the highest per capita immigration rate in the world” – about 225,000 persons per years out of a population of 30 million. Our legal permanent immigration is somewhat under a million a year; Canada’s rate is over double of ours.
Canada has three immigration tracks: economic, family, and humanitarian (mainly refugees). The economic track has grown relatively to the others as Canada’s immigration rate has grown from the 1980s. The economic category accounted for 35% of immigrants in 1980, but 59% in 2000.
The country’s Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has considerable legal latitude to set target levels and make changes to the skills base system.
This system was introduced in 1967. Originally it was focused in part on trying to target immigration to meet periodic labor gaps, but that approach being cumbersome was abandoned towards a more generic skills scoring protocol. It had an effect: changes early in the 1990s led to a large increase in the rate of higher educated immigrants. The strategy: don’t fill labor shortages, but foster labor productivity and growth.
Since the mid 1990s, three factors in the scoring system dominant: education, age and French/English fluency. Maximum points for these categories respectively are a four year university degree, 21 – 49 age range, and fluency in both languages. If you get these maximum points you earn 59 of the 70 out of a 100 points you need for acceptance. Of these factors, education carries the greatest weight.
Douglas S. Massey of Princeton University also testified. I have posted on him before and find his a voice of reason. Massey noted that employment based immigration is about 20% of total American immigration. We gave much more weight to family affiliations. Canada and Australia have more employment-focused immigration policies needed to compete with the United States. We don’t need such a system. “In the long run, the primary source of America’s stock of skills, talents and education must come from investments made init sown human capital” – through education, training and research. Immigration to Massey is a “poor substitute” for investments in education and training. Massey also noted that many immigrants have problems earning enough, and that the highest educated immigrants are not necessarily the happiest. Massey recommended, in effect, an approach which balances employment focused immigration policy with one of family integration and fuller implementation of the population aspects of NAFTA.

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