Immigration policies that encourage foreign nationals with the skills needed to fill positions requiring a university degree are being largely credited with the demographic twist that immigrants to Quebec are now more likely to have university degrees than Canadian-born Quebeckers.
Basing himself on the 2021 Canadian census, demographic researcher Jack Jedwab conducted an analysis that showed newcomers to Quebec were more likely to be university-educated than the rest of the population.
“There’s a substantially widening gap between immigrants and non-immigrants and it’s largely being fuelled by our immigration policies,” Jedwab reportedly told the Montreal Gazette.
The findings of the president of the Association for Canadian Studies, gleaned from looking at the census responses of people aged 35 to 44 years of age, run counter to the discriminatory notion held by some people that immigrants are poorly educated.
“That’s clearly not a stereotype that has any basis in our reality in the 21st century.”
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In his analysis, Jedwab discovered 51.5 per cent of immigrants had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 28.5 per cent among the rest of the population, and immigrants were also more than twice as likely to have master’s degrees with 15.7 per cent of them holding these advanced degrees compared to just six per cent of the rest of the Canadian population.
Immigrants were also found to be twice as likely to have degrees in the health sciences, in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry.
Although they are more likely to have degrees qualifying them to work in healthcare, immigrants in Canada were also found to be much less likely to work in that field.
Jedwab cautions that Canada must make better use of immigrants’ education.
“As we attract more people with these higher-education degrees, are we running the risk that they’ll be underemployed because the type of education they’ve received does not align with the skills that we require to meet our labour force requirements?” he reportedly said.
The demographic researcher’s analysis of the immigrants’ levels of education and success in the job market comes as Quebec is undertaking a public consultation process to determine its immigration strategy for 2024 to 2027.
During the three-week consultation process that started Sept. 12, a committee of the National Assembly of Quebec, the province’s legislative body which is officially called the Assemblée nationale du Québec, is to consider the 77 briefs which have already been submitted and listen to roughly 70 experts and organizations that have asked to make presentations.
Business groups in the province are solidly in support of increased immigration to the province.
The latest data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reveals Quebec in fact welcomed 68,720 new permanent residents last year and had already received another 33,550 new permanent residents by the end of July this year,
That level of immigration, if the trend seen in the first seven months of this year were to be continued throughout the rest of 2023, would see 57,514 new permanent residents settling in Quebec by the end of this year.
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And Michel Leblanc, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, wants Quebec to raise its immigration target to 60,000 to help resolve labour shortages.
“This need, which is quite predictable, can be explained by the demographic tightening of Quebec’s population, which is occurring at a time when our economy is experiencing strong structural momentum,” Leblanc has reportedly said.
“Our society as a whole has to contend with a sustained increase in the number of vacancies in all areas, from health care to education to high-tech sectors.”
But Quebec Premier François Legault and Christine Fréchette, the Quebec minister responsible for the Ministre de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI), the province’s immigration department, have been adamant that immigration to the francophone province must be limited to 50,000 new permanent residents yearly to ensure the survival of the Quebecois culture.
In the run-up to the last provincial election, Legault told a business audience that raising immigration levels would be “suicidal” to the French language and insisted Quebec must not accept substantially more than 50,000 new permanent residents annually.
After the election, the premier doubled down on that vision of Quebec by putting forth a plan to limit economic immigration to the province to only those foreign nationals who already speak French.
“As premier of Quebec, my first responsibility is to defend our language and our identity,” said Legault. “During the past few years, the French language has been in decline in Quebec. Since 2018, our government has acted to protect our language, more so than any previous government since the adoption of Bill 101 under the Levesque government.
“But, if we want to turn the tide, we must do more. By 2026, our goal is to have almost entirely francophone economic immigration. We have the duty, as Québécois, to speak French, to daily pass on our culture and to be proud of it.”
Under the proposed changes to Quebec’s immigration system, all adult applicants for economic immigration would have to demonstrate they can speak French.