Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

This is part of The Immigrant Answer –The Globe's series on the future of immigration in Canada. Read the original story here.

Since the early 1980s, Canada's immigration selection policies have focused on the principal applicant's highest educational achievements and language skills, explicitly to ensure that immigrants would be suitable for employment and economically successful once they arrived.

But data based on the 2005 census and published by Statistics Canada show these policies have not been successful. Immigrants who arrived between 1987 and 2004 earned incomes that were on average equal to only 70 per cent of the incomes of Canadians. These recent immigrants have higher than average levels of unemployment and lower labour force participation rates. They also disproportionately have incomes below the official poverty line.

Story continues below advertisement

Significantly, these recent immigrants pay income taxes that are only 54 per cent of the national average. Because of their low incomes, they also pay less than the average in other taxes. At the same time, these immigrants are entitled to all of Canada's generous social programs and enjoy the benefits of the country's spending on infrastructure and security.

In our paper Fiscal Transfers to Immigrants in Canada: Responding to Critics and a Revised Estimate, my co-author Patrick Grady and I estimated that the average new recent immigrant is imposing a fiscal burden on Canadians of about $6,000 annually as they use that much more in government services than they pay in taxes. The total fiscal burden in 2012 was around $20-billion for immigrants who arrived between 1987 and 2011.

This fiscal burden will never be repaid. The 2005 employment income of the sons of second-generation visible-minority immigrants (where one or both parents were born abroad), was only two-thirds of non-immigrant Canadians. Third and later generations will most likely have the same average incomes as other Canadians and thus will never pay enough taxes to compensate for the fiscal shortfall recorded by their parents.

Reforms of the present immigrant selection policies are needed to prevent a growing future fiscal burden. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has begun this process.

One of the most important changes is giving preference to applicants who have a pre-arranged employment contract for work in Canada. Patrick Grady and I recommended this change because it would relieve civil servants of the responsibility of selecting immigrants on the basis of information that by its very nature is imperfect and would allow employers to make the initial decision as to which applicants have the needed occupational and language skills to earn their pay and become economically successful Canadians.

Limited experience with this prearranged job-offer criterion, which provincial governments have also embraced enthusiastically, shows much promise. It is time to use job offers as the main criterion for the admission of all skilled immigrants, who may be accompanied by their immediate family members.

The successful operation of this system will require a quick approval process and continued government involvement in its administration and the screening of immigrants to protect public security and health. Adequate resources must be devoted to monitor the income tax returns of immigrants to make sure they are indeed paid the amount promised in the employment contract and that they have not become unemployed for prolonged periods.

Story continues below advertisement

The avoidance of the fiscal burden also requires that the immigrants' prearranged contract offers pay equal to at least the average income of Canadians. This condition is needed to prevent a flood of low-skilled immigrants with little earnings capacity who would not pay enough taxes to cover the cost of the public social programs to which they are entitled.

The proposed policy would not only stop the growth of the fiscal burden but would solve two problems associated with the present system. It would make the number of immigrants responsive to business-cycle conditions and would determine how many immigrants are allowed to enter Canada annually.

This number would no longer be the result of arbitrary decisions driven by politicians, bureaucrats and special interest groups but would be determined by labour market conditions and thus better serve the needs of the economy and all Canadians.

Herbert Grubel is a professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University and a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute.

To find out what immigration looks like in your community, see an interactive look at solutions to Canada's immigration problem and share your own story click here.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies