Multiculturalism

I just fed Feijoada to a group of Moncton’s Brazilian community (25 in total) at my house over the weekend.  It was a bit odd for a Canadian to cook a relatively complex Brazilian dish but they were kind in their comments.

I set the table with this (no pun intended) to begin my comments on the story today about multiculturalism – or about the lack of multiculturalism in Moncton and Saint John.

The most basic fact of New Brunswick’s economy over the past 50 years is it hasn’t generated enough economic activity and employment to support the people that are here let alone population growth from immigration. 

That doesn’t mean that healthy economies don’t have out-migration.  Tens of thousands of people move out of the GTA each year.  But the underlying reality is that the number of net new jobs being created in Toronto, or Kelowna, or Calgary each year far out-paces the local supply of labour so they need new immigrants and migrants from the rest of Canada to meet their workforce needs.

New Brunswick, overall, has not had that challenge.

Therefore, efforts to aggressively attract immigrants (unless they are immigrant investors) that need jobs are bound to either lead to high out migration among the new immigrants or among the general population.

As the death rate now starts to out-pace the birth rate in New Brunswick, we will need immigrants or migrants just to sustain the current level of economic activiity.

But remember the last decade saw an increase of thousands of new public sector workers in New Brunswick.  It is very unlikely the public sector (health, education, public admin, etc.) will be growing in the next 10 years at any level like the last 10.  We also added roughly 10,000 new call centre/customer contact centre jobs (net new jobs) in the past decade and that is unlikely to continue in the next 10. 

My point is that I can’t see the sectors that are going to drive employment growth (and hence the need for significant new immigration) over the next 10 years.  Retail is a lagging sector (i.e. 1,000 call centre jobs generate the need for 50 retail jobs and not vice versa) as is most of the professional and personal services sector.  Construction is also not a primary economic engine.

Will tourism create thousands of new jobs?  Will manufacturing?  How about IT?    Life sciences is talked about a lot but there isn’t much happening yet.

My point, of course, is to not put the cart before the horse.  We tend to think like that in New Brunswick.

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14 Responses to Multiculturalism

  1. “The most basic fact of New Brunswick’s economy over the past 50 years is it hasn’t generated enough economic activity and employment to support the people that are here let alone population growth from immigration. ”

    No. Other way around:

    The most basic fact of New Brunswick’s economy over the past 50 years is it hasn’t generated enough population growth, economic activity and employment from immigration to to support the people that are here let alone.

    Immigrants don’t cost jobs. They create jobs. They come with money ideas, expertise and ambition, and given the barest foothold of an opportunity, they build something out of nothing.

  2. Samonymous says:

    A good thing about diversity (or new Canadians) is that they tend to keep the focus off ones own ethnic agenda. Unfortunately here in NB, we are still debating a dualistic existence rather than a multicultural one because there has been close to know retention of new immigrants.

    Not good place to be since birth rates have plummeted significantly amongst the french and english populations.

  3. Peter Lindfield says:

    Downes has it right. Immigrants are a growth engine, creating innovative enterprises with unique networks and, frequently, investment capital that cannot be accessed by conventional means.

    It is a provocative question to ask why New Brunswick cannot attract more immigrants or retain them when they have been attracted here. The answer is not only that the critical mass of ethnic groups in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver exercises a magnetic pull to those centres.

    It is also that immigrants perform their own evaluations of locations much as firms perform site selection analysis when determining their investment options.

    How are we to interpret the unfavourable results of those decisions?

  4. richard says:

    “Immigrants don’t cost jobs. They create jobs.”

    The latest stats on that are, I believe, a bit more nuanced. A large influx of ‘family’ immigrants has changed that picture a bit.

    In any event, David is closer to the mark. Immigrants are, in the main, attracted to economic opportunity (like nearly everyone else). They follow the jobs (like nearly everyone else). If NB wants more immigrants, then there needs to be more economic opportunity here. There are no data that I have seen that suggest that simply being more ‘welcoming’ will help retain immigrants in the absence of a reasonable amount of job growth. The children of immigrants are going to be just as likely to be forced to move away in search of opportunity as the children of 3-4th generation Canadians.

  5. As I said, immigrant investors (those that either buy, partner or create businesses) are in a different category. Immigrants coming for work want a good job and a career path like anyone else. It is true there are broader clustering effects and secondary economic impact from attracting immigrants but if they are coming for a ‘job’ and they either can’t find one or the one they came for doesn’t work out, they will leave. I interviewed over 200 immigrants a couple of years ago and the #1 reason they were here was for a ‘job’ and the #1 reason that would compel them to leave was another ‘job’ somewhere else. Those immigrants ran the gamut from eastern European, to the U.K, the USA, India and China.

  6. PS – the last data I saw New Brunswick had about a 50% retention rate of new immigrants. This is actually better than before.

  7. Chris Baker says:

    The immigrant retention rate in NB is about 60%, with a governnment commitment to raise it to 80%.

  8. mikel says:

    Immigration is a pretty complex topic, so as Richard says, its a bit more nuanced. Did irish immigrants choose New Brunswick, or did just enough of them come to a small area so it seems significant? Did you come for job opportunities or because of conditions at home?
    There are LOTS of different types of immigrants, and each one will have their own story. There are quickly becoming only two types, ones let in for political reasons, and ones with the economic wherewithal.
    I’ll just mention a couple of things to think about. First, I know that here in Waterloo the universities are a big draw, like I’ve said, even during the regular school year a white male on campus will feel very much like a minority (which is an odd experience but one I think people SHOULD experience).
    As I’ve also said before, the research lab my wife runs finds it VERY difficult to find qualified people in Canada, and now the lab is mostly chinese. Many of these ALSO are not ‘retained’ and only want to get into the states, although that has changed somewhat.
    One of the women from Taiwan actually ended up working here because she was following her daughters-who had been to a ‘university expo’ in China where the University of Waterloo had a very large display. They had never heard of Waterloo, but liked what they say and the rest is history. I suspect if a university wanted to run such a display ‘on the cheap’, there are LOTS of alumni that could help out. Again, unfortunately, the public has no way to influence university policy.
    Second, from what I’ve seen and read I doubt any city in New Brunswick is prepared to spend the money on immigration services. Here in ontario a VERY active chinese society is lobbying the government to expand services because the province is just about to announce an aggressive education campaign that will supposedly mean ANYONE who wants to go to university will get in (no details yet), AND that more foreign students will be allowed.

    Most immigration services are funding municipally here, and there are quite extensive ones. The bilingual issue is not moot here, as language training is quite important. Its quite normal to go through a day ‘around town’ and hear about a dozen different languages being discussed. In an ‘officially’ bilingual province one wonders whether as much emphasis would be demanded for french as well as english.

    Finally, according to statistics canada, new immigrants are only second to ‘native’ canadians in their likelihood of ending up in poverty. Like the Simpsons its almost a standing joke that most new immigrants take over a convenience store as their method of investment. So its a stretch to say things like ‘immigrants are this’, or ‘immigrants do that’.

    From a policy standpoint I think the university route is a relatively sound one. When you get more students, you get more exposure to those students families back home. Not ALL those students will stay in the area, but SOME will, and as we saw with things like FatKat, it doesn’t take nearly so much to build an industry as some might think. If one guy can start drawing cartoons, not even in 3D, and at one point have over a hundred employees, then who knows?

    And SOME of those parents will follow their children, and bring some investment money and ideas with them. Thats my OPINION of course, but it beats waiting for all those jobs that supposedly will come with lower income taxes (or you can just wait for those to ‘kick in’), and the other side, which is let in a slew of immigrants which only keeps down wages. Its worth noting that canadian immigration has ALWAYS served workforce needs FIRST.

    That’s why I mentioned a new university up north, designed perhaps even specifically for international students and with a specific focus. The good part of that idea, is that its a political tool to control OTHER universities, who probably wouldn’t like the idea so may adopt the policies in order to eliminate it. But cheap miser Ralph Harris started a new university, so its not like there’s no precedence. Sorry, no time left to edit that down…

  9. richard says:

    “How are we to interpret the unfavourable results of those decisions?”

    They want to make more money and seek out better opportunities – like everyone else. Immigrants do not possess a magic making-money gene; they may simply be willing to temporarily accept less because 1) they come from nations where they had even less or 2) they see better opportunities for children. Either way, regions with more job opportunities are going to be more attractive.

    Yes, they might prefer to ba among those with similar cultural backgrounds, but they come to Canada largely because of economic opportunity. Regions with greater economic opportunity will attract and retain more immigrants. Those regions will develop ethnic communities that serve as a secondary pull. But the primary pull is economic activity. NB has relatively poor levels of economic opportunity; only a small fraction of immigrants or locals will try to ‘make something out of nothing’. Most immigrants and native-born will seek out jobs where the most jobs are being created.

    I do not see a compelling need to manufacture a theory for attracting immigrants when most data suggest they follow the same path as native-born Canadians. They go where the jobs are.

  10. That’s good news on the retention front. I haven’t seen those new numbers.

  11. mikel says:

    I’m not sure that 60% retention rate is ALL immigrants, or immigrant entrepreneurs. I saw that figure in the article where the government announced that its going to ‘charge’ immigrant entrepreneurs $75,000 until they’ve been in the province two years. There was little additional info, such as exactly what types of businesses were started and then ‘relocated’, or whether these entrepreneurs set up in NB, went bankrupt, so then moved. WE don’t know, but the government probably (we’d assume) does.

    But that again is an extra disincentive. For immigrant entrepreneurs, there really is no real benefit to setting up in NB. You have to earn quite a bit in order to really benefit from tax cuts, and in the first years its doubtful entrepreneurs are making that kind of income. So when ‘shopping around’ for a place to locate, I doubt being told by an accountant “oh by the way you need an EXTRA $75G just to start your business, is helpful, particularly since its the first two years of running a business that can be the most critical.

    Anybody with some time to kill can check statistics canada where they have quite a bit of information on immigration, even within provinces, and until we know more about the issue, its pointless to speak for immigrants as to why they do what they do. I’m moved to Ontario, but certainly not for economic reasons, although I stayed in ontario due to the lack of job resources in research for my significant other-but she’s not from NB. Either way, again, you can talk blue in the face about whether jobs are needed first or immigration first, but without policies for EITHER, its a rhetorical question.

  12. mikel says:

    I did find one study from 2005 specifically on NB. No surprise, just type in statistics canada, new brunswick and immigration.

    For those with limited time. It’s interesting to note that the number of immigrants to NB has stayed pretty much stable over 40 years. As a percentage of Canada they’ve obviously dropped. In 1989 they peaked, tho I can’t guess why.

    Of the 600-900 immigrants per year, 24% was the ‘family class, which I believe are those related to previous immigrants, I’ve heard the feds are seriously cutting back on this number. Provincial nominees represent 9%, skilled workers 33%, and business class, which I suspect are those entrepreneurs, are only 6%, or about 126 a year. Sorry, missed one, the ‘refugee class’ represents the second largest, at 29%. So of those only a very small percentage are going to be starting businesses, I suspect.

    We know the gist of provincial comparisons, but its interesting that the immigrant population is HALF that of Nova Scotia’s, although I wonder how much of that is Halifax and whether immigrants prefer cities over smaller towns.

    Interesting also that the top place of birth is the United States, followed by the United kingdom as the VERY larger overall group. Non european groups are only a small minority, although China is the same as the UK.

    US 1470
    UK 280
    CHina 280
    Yugoslavia 275
    Germany 190
    India 165
    Iran 135
    Phillipines 100
    Columbia 85
    Algeria 80

    All other countries 1340. That’s 4400 immigrants representing the decade between 1991-2001.

    The government’s policy seems to pertain to the following, that while X number gave NB as the “intended destination”, just over half of those were actually living IN NB. Which means close to half were just saying that to get into the country, or else had some unpleasant surprises upon settling in.

    The retention rate IS 61%, which is highest in the maritimes. No surprise the western provinces have the highest retention.

    Interesting though that recent immigrants to NB have HIGHER educational levels than immigrants to other parts of Canada. In fact, those with university degrees are a higher percentage that NBers with post secondary degrees.

    They also have ‘similar’ levels of unemployment as NBers. Almost half of both labour leaders and management think the province should ‘increase credential recognition’, which is definitely a policy issue, but one that is almost never seriously discussed.

    Language difficulties were by far the biggest ‘obstacle’ that managers had for not hiring immigrants, again, most language training here in ontario is municipal, not provincial.

    No surprise that the industries facing the largest employment crunch with the oldest workers are the private industries, mainly resources.

  13. Samonymous says:

    It was just a year ago that a report from Statistics Canada declared New Brunswick as one of the oldest populations in the country (close to one fifth of the population is over 65) and the trend shows no signs of reversing any time soon. So with that in mind, it still doesn’t appear that immigrant retention, as small percentage of the overall population, is making any significant impact on the amount of working age folks in New Brunswick.

    As Bob Rae once said, there are parallels between a declining economy and demographics. A declining economic region usually has an aging population coupled with a low birth rate (NB was one of the lowest at 9.1. babies per 1,000 people in 07 and dropping) and low levels of immigration. That said, it would be nice to see a long term trend where we have should immigration retention. But because of the make up and lack of acceptance of outsiders, that just hasn’t been so.

  14. richard says:

    “Interesting though that recent immigrants to NB have HIGHER educational levels than immigrants to other parts of Canada. In fact, those with university degrees are a higher percentage that NBers with post secondary degrees.”

    That’s useful information. I wonder if the proportion of immigrants with higher education is related to recruitment into public services. That is, there are fewer overall employment opportunities for immigrants and non-immigrants in NB than in more prosperous regions, but public service demand over the past decade has led to hiring of highly educated immigrants to fill public and para-public jobs where there are skill shortages (eg health care). That also might be affecting retention rates.

    If that’s the case, then the higher level of education seen among NB immigrants might be an artifact of poor job growth outside of the public sector in NB. Most immigrants (regardless of job skills) will go where the most jobs are located, which isn’t NB.

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