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Immigration in BC: A Complex Tapestry

Immigration has long played a central role in BC’s labour market and economy more generally. As our population steadily ages and more baby boomers retire and exit the workforce, immigration is poised to be an ever bigger factor in the evolution of the labour market.

Given the demographic landscape, attracting talent from other jurisdictions will be increasingly important. The degree to which BC is able to develop a workforce to enable our companies to grow and compete depends in large measure on our ability to attract skilled individuals from abroad.

This edition of Human Capital Law and Policy offers a review of immigration. Most of the focus is on BC, but for context and to tease out a few potential policy implications, some comparisons are made with other provinces. This review examines statistics on how many immigrants arrive each year and the different immigration pathways to permanent residency.

Report Highlights

  • Immigration remains a key element in building a skilled workforce in BC and will play an even more significant role in the coming decade as the ranks of retiring baby boomers swell.
  • In recent years, the number of immigrants coming to BC has been lower than historic averages.
  • Where immigrants choose to settle is more evenly spread across the provinces than is widely believed.  In this regard, Alberta now attracts more immigrants than BC.  And once adjustments are made for differing population sizes, BC is a middling performer in terms of the relative impact and lift to population and labour markets from immigration. 
  • Comparatively high rates of emigration coupled with a smaller share of emigrants who return to the province dampen the overall increase in population attributable to immigration in BC.
  • Immigrant admissions in the economic category are particularly important in helping employers meet labour needs.  The Provincial Nominee Program, one of the pathways to permanent residency in the economic immigration category, is especially helpful for employers looking to hire high-skilled individuals from other countries in an expedited manner. 
  • Taking the different population sizes into account, BC has proportionally fewer admissions of Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) immigrants than most other provinces. 
  • The provincial government has worked with the federal government to increase BC’s PNP allotment, but given BC’s low per capita numbers of admissions we believe there is scope to significantly increase BC’s PNP quota. 

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