FREDERICTON– Nearly 7,000 immigrants entered the province’s workforce between 2011 and 2016, contributing about $168 million annually to the provincial budget, according to an economic impact study conducted by Jupia Consultants for the New Brunswick Multicultural Council (NBMC).
Alex LeBlanc, executive director of NBMC, says it’s difficult to show the exact impact of immigrants on the economy, so the report includes economic models and estimations based on various data sets from Statistics Canada.
“What [the report] shows is that if they arrived between 2011 and 2016 and they were participating in the workforce to that extent, there really is a pretty quick integration into the workforce. And within that five-year period, people hit the ground running,” he said.
According to the report, the contribution is based on more than $129 million of implied annual tax payments to the province, and federal transfer payments, which amounted to $4,200 per capita in 2017. The transfer payments “are almost entirely distributed based on population,” the report said.
LeBlanc said with more than 64 per cent of the provincial budget relying on residents’ taxes, it’s necessary to grow the population.
“If we’re going to have a plan for growing our economy and maintaining our public services, it has to be anchored in growing our population base,” he said.
The report also found that the 6,960 immigrants plus more than 900 international students have a direct impact of $516 million to the province’s GDP. This doesn’t include contributions from immigrant-owned businesses.
“It also doesn’t include the significant resources that immigrants often bring with them to support their early stage settlement. And it doesn’t include other forms of investment [from governments],” LeBlanc said.
Overall, including indirect and induced effect, recent immigrants and international post-secondary students support 11,680 jobs.
Number Of Economic Immigrants “Unprecedented”
Last year, 4,610 permanent residents came to New Brunswick, according to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). While the number was slightly higher in 2016 due to the influx of Syrian refugees, LeBlanc says 2018’s number shows a different significance.
“This is an unprecedented level of economic immigration to New Brunswick, meaning that people are coming here with an attachment to the workforce,” he said.
In Canada, economic immigrants are people who are selected for their skills, including language proficiency, and ability to contribute to the country’s economy. They include skilled workers, business immigrants, provincial nominees and live-in caregivers, among others.
Fredericton continues to be the top destination for newcomers to New Brunswick, receiving 1,470 immigrants last year. Moncton, which has boosted efforts to increase immigration in recent years, follows closely behind with 1,440. Saint John received 835 immigrants. Bathurst, Miramichi, Edmundston and Campbellton saw fewer than 100 newcomers each last year.
Newcomers are also doing better in the labour market, the report said.
In December 2018, there were 7,900 more immigrants in New Brunswick’s labour force compared to December 2013 – a 54 per cent increase. Around 7,700 of them were working, marking a 57 per cent increase since 2013 and the highest in the last 100 years in New Brunswick. More than 80 per cent of those working held full-time jobs.
The labour market participation rate of recent immigrants also increased from 57.1 per cent in 2013 to 80 per cent in 2018.
At the same time, the number of people born in Canada that are active in the labour force dropped by 18,400.
The higher number of newcomers that came to New Brunswick wasn’t enough to offset this loss, “it only blunted the blow,” LeBlanc said.
“The only segment of the workforce that’s growing is the immigrant segment. So people need to understand that one of the fundamental reasons why we’re trying to attract people to our province is because we need the workers,” said Jupia Consultants president David Campbell.
More Needs To Be Done
The provincial government’s labour market forecast now predicts there will be approximately 120,000 job vacancies in the next 10 years. Because of this, the NBMC says 1 per cent of population growth annually needs to come from immigration. That’s around 7,500 newcomers a year.
“That figure, 1 per cent of growth, would be more or less what the national average is, so we’re really not striving for anything that’s unachievable or unreasonable here,” LeBlanc said.
“Getting to 7,500 won’t happen overnight. We need to do this responsibly, we need to make sure that people have the right supports when they arrive in terms of settlement and integration and we need to make sure that communities and employers are also prepared to welcome and include newcomers.”
With immigration up 26 per cent from 2017 to 2018, NBMC wants to see more investments in settlement agencies and community services through municipalities, and others. The province currently invests $8.3 million in its Population Growth Division, which leads newcomer attraction, integration and retention efforts.
“We can’t increase the intake and expect a better result without investing. If we want to retain more people, it’s not going to happen on its own. We have to make sure that the supports are in place so that the employers have the support they need, and spouses and children integrate well,” LeBlanc said.
The NBMC is also pushing for a clearer and faster way to recognize foreign professional credentials for newcomers. It also wants to see a “very clear and intentional” plan on immigration for rural and francophone communities, and an “ambitious strategy” to retain international students.
“They represent a major opportunity for the province both in terms of driving and fueling our post-secondary institutions but also in terms of growing our workforce,” he said.