MONCTON – An updated immigration strategy for the Greater Moncton area says by 2024, the region will need between 2,700 to 3,500 immigrants per year.
City Council got a look Monday night at the strategy that focuses on the retention of immigrants.
The strongest scenario proposed by the strategy, which would result in a 1.8 per cent average annual growth rate in the labour force, requires more than doubling the current number of immigrants and non-permanent residents within five years. It proposes that one-third of immigrants attracted to be francophone.
Greater Moncton has seen a 1.4 per cent population growth between 2016 and 2018 due to the increase in immigration. Last year, 67 per cent of net population growth was due to immigration, compared to 22 per cent in 2009.
In addition to 5,000 immigrants active in the labour market, up to 2,000 international students fill post-secondary educational institutions and another 700 people are in the region as temporary foreign workers.
Immigrants, the report says, represent 6.6 per cent of the total workforce in Greater Moncton, where the number of people aged 15-24 has declined. In 2018, there are 75 persons aged 15-24 in the Greater Moncton workforce for every 100 in the workforce over the age of 55. In 2001, the youth figure was 263
Meanwhile, around 17,000 people over the age of 55 are expected to retire in the next decade or so.
The strategy also features ways to prevent Moncton from becoming a ‘trampoline city’ for the immigrants it attracts.
David Campbell of Jupia Consultants says many pieces need to be in place in order to get them to stay.
“On the healthcare side, on the education side, on the settlement side, so what this strategy does is look at all the pieces and lays down an action plan to ensure we can attract and retain an increasing number of immigrants in the coming years,” he says.
Campbell says more funding will be required to ensure newcomers have access to necessary services.
He says immigrants are crucial in ensuring the city’s economic growth with an aging population.
Campbell says post-secondary institutions play a role in ensuring international students want to stay in Moncton.
“Some of the main reasons that international students are coming here is because it’s cheaper to study and cheaper to live. One of the biggest frustrations is when you come in as an international student and you take a program, you graduate and you want to get a job but there are no jobs,” says Campbell.
It’s important for schools to make sure the students it attracts are going into programs that can fill jobs within the community.
However, Campbell says part of the issue is the reluctance of the locals to let immigrants in.
“And I would say that’s not just an immigration thing. If you flooded in a whole bunch of people from Alberta or other parts of Canada I think you’d get the same thing, people thinking, ‘why are they all coming, are they taking our jobs?’ We need to make sure we’re clear on why we need them, what we’re doing to attract them and that’s part of the public engagement and awareness strategy,” he says.
He says it’s not enough to just give them the jobs they want, they need to feel like they are an important part of the community.
The public engagement and awareness aspect of the plan will include tangible ways for locals to connect with immigrant families.
Campell says Greater Moncton needs to be an economic engine for the province to be able to pay for public services like education and healthcare.
More than 600 people were consulted and provided feedback for the plan, which has seven key objectives:
- Promote Greater Moncton internationally as a destination to study, advance careers, do business and live;
- Strengthen alignment of immigrant attraction efforts to labour market demand and economic opportunities;
- Expand and improve the pathways for immigrants;
- Significantly broaden public awareness and engagement;
- Expand and enhance settlement services to meet the needs of immigrants and foster better workforce outcomes;
- Invest in and strengthen the immigration support system; and
- Bolster the region’s leadership and advocacy role.
With files from Christina Mulherin of 91.9 The Bend, a Huddle content partner.