While the recession prompted the United Kingdom and Australia to raise the admissions bar for skilled migrants this year (see Issue #3: Buyer's Remorse on Immigration Continues), Canada chose to leave untouched its long-standing points system and the number of immigrants admitted for permanent residence despite the highest unemployment rate in nearly a decade.
In February, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney made Canada's position clear. "Our government will not follow the advice of those who believe that Canada should take steps to reduce immigration levels," he said.
Canada admitted 247,202 permanent immigrants in 2008 and was aiming for between 240,000 and 265,000 new permanent residents in 2009 and 2010.
"The focus of the 2010 plan is on economic immigration to support Canada's economy during and beyond the current economic recovery," Kenny stated in late October. As part of the plan, the government increased the admission ranges for immigrants nominated by provinces and territories.
This year was not the first time Canada stayed the immigration course in a recession. In the early 1990s, Canada kept permanent immigration levels at about 230,000 per year. Over 256,000 immigrants settled in Canada in 1993, when unemployment hit 11.4 percent. Studies have shown that immigrants who arrived in this period never fully recovered economically.
As University of Toronto sociologist Jeffrey Reitz told the Toronto Star in March, "Their professional careers got derailed. Their skills became stale. They were stuck even when the economy bounced back. These people are worse off for their entire life."
While this recession has been less severe — Canada's unemployment rate in October was 8.6 percent compared to 6.2 percent a year earlier — some question whether immigrants could face similar economic "scarring."
For immigrants in the country five years or less, the unemployment rate reached 13.9 percent in October. A new report from Statistics Canada revealed that in 2008, two-thirds of recently arrived university-educated immigrants worked in occupations that normally required at most a college education or apprenticeship.
The Canadian government, which recognizes that too many of its immigrants are underemployed, is taking some measures to tackle at least once facet of the problem. Earlier this year, the federal budget set aside CAN$50 million (US$40 million) over the next two years to make the process of assessing and recognizing educational and professional foreign credentials more efficient.
And in a just-unveiled agreement that will be implemented over the next three years, immigrants in certain occupations, including nurses and engineers, will have their credentials recognized within one year of submitting an application to the relevant authority.