As countries around the world reel from the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated financial meltdowns, the next one million immigrants that Canada accepts might be the most important cohort ever. The next one million immigrants will reignite the Canadian economy, solidify our reputation as a nation that welcomes newcomers, and lay the foundation for future growth well into the next century.
The global population decline
The world has a population problem. It’s not overpopulation we need to worry about, it’s underpopulation. Our global future is likely one of baby busts rather than the baby booms of the past. But Canada’s long-term strategy of welcoming hundreds of thousands of newcomers could allow the Canadian population and economy to grow well into the next century, as populations dwindle elsewhere.
Contrary to the science fiction dystopias we have seen in books and film of a world overpopulated with humans, our collective future is one of declining birthrates. By 2100, the global fertility rate is expected to drop to 1.66 children per mother, well below the 2.1 needed to maintain current population levels.
The global pandemic is already impacting global populations. The Brookings Insitute, a thinktank based in Washington, estimates that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, 500,000 fewer American children will be born.
But the global Covid-19 pandemic and economic fallout created in the aftermath are by no means the sole cause of this demographic shift. The pandemic has simply advanced the timeline of when the world witnesses a major tipping point. A tipping point between a fertility rate of a growing global population to one in decline.
In many ways, the declining global fertility rate is an amazing success story. As women and girls gain access to education and body autonomy, they are allowed to choose when and how many children they will have. A declining population, however, will create a demographic shift that will cause problems that future governments will need to address.
Fewer children mean the cost of care for an aging population will skyrocket. Currently, much of the care for elderly parents is done by children, free of charge. Then there are the economic contractions created by fewer workers that fill government coffers. Not all countries will experience the same rates of population declines but for a country like Canada, with an average population rate of 1.5, our strategy of welcoming newcomers by the hundreds of thousands will pay major dividends in the years to come.
The next one million Canadian newcomers
Canada has long pursued the strategy of immigration fueled growth to keep our population growing. Newcomers to Canada provide much more than numbers on a population chart. Newcomers to Canada provide new perspectives, cultural vibrancy, and create jobs through innovative entrepreneurial endeavours. In return, Canada provides a safe, stable, and prosperous new home to those seeking a new life elsewhere but policies that welcome newcomers are always at risk of nationalist and xenophobic governments
For the most part, Canadians have largely refuted anti-immigration policies but the nationalist government in Quebec for example has cut immigration levels despite the provinces rapidly aging population. Elsewhere in Canada however, the story is very different. Provincial immigration is increasing year after year and the federal government, which sets immigration targets, has a strong track record of welcoming newcomers and supporting their integration into Canadian society. The majority of Canadians support Canada’s historically high levels of immigration.
As the demographic shockwaves of declining populations grip future governments across the world, Canada is uniquely situated. Canada will not have to make rapid changes to immigration levels to offset a declining population. Canada will not have to convince the electorate to support high levels of immigration as other countries will. Canada will not have to build a reputation as a country that is welcoming of newcomers because it already has one.
The next one million immigrants to Canada will be the seed that will propel Canada into the next century and help us stave off the worst parts of a declining global population.