Migration trends can be surprising

posted on February 6, 2016

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

Five years ago, Sun editors asked me to add migration to my beat specialties of spirituality, diversity and ethics.

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

Five years ago, Sun editors asked me to add migration to my beat specialties of spirituality, diversity and ethics.

It has been an enormous and enlightening learning curve. Researching trans-national migration has put me face-to-face with deep ethical issues, dramatic geo-political forces and global economic realities, many of which I had not imagined.

Digging into migration trends has proved a natural expansion because I had already been covering religion in Canada, where seven million immigrants form the bulk of large assemblies of Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, evangelical Christians and Catholics.

In Metro Vancouver and Toronto — where foreign-born residents comprise almost half the population, making them the two most diverse cities on the planet — migration is high impact. It’s been a privilege to gather evidence about its complicated workings.

Many of my discoveries involve numbers, because the significance of the increasing movement of people into Canada and around the globe is often captured by hard data and economics.

That does not entirely take away from the customary feelings Canadian have about immigration, as basically a humanitarian venture.

Canadians tend to see our immigration levels, arguably the highest in the world per capita, as a way to lend a hand to the relatively lucky few (globally speaking) who end up being allowed in as immigrants, refugees, temporary foreign workers and even international students.

I could have made this a much longer list, but for now I’ll keep it to 10 things I’ve learned about migration trends:

Canada is among the world’s most popular destinations

A Gallup poll found 45 million people want to move to Canada. Compared to the country’s population, that figure arguably makes Canada the most desirable of any nation.

The waiting lists to get into Canada are years long. In contrast, most of the world’s largest countries, such as Brazil, Turkey, Japan and China, take virtually no immigrants.

Despite Canada’s problems, the country is attractive because it ranks highly by objective measurements — economic opportunity, pollution levels, health care, tolerance, access to education, low corruption, the rule of law, personal freedom and government stability.

Migration creates winners and losers

As with free-trade agreements, the benefits and losses of migration policy are not spread evenly.

International agencies report the people who gain the lion’s share from immigration, generally, are the migrants themselves, particularly because most move from often-dysfunctional low-wage countries to high-wage ones.

In the host cultures, the businesses that most gain from migration are those that thrive on growing populations, such as the real estate industry and retailers.

Educators, especially in higher education, also gain from high migration — particularly from new teaching positions created by expanding student populations, which include full-fee-paying foreign students, many of whom have wealthy parents.

On the other hand, members of the lower and middle classes, whether domestic born or immigrant, are not necessarily helped by stronger competition for jobs.

Enclaves are expanding rapidly

The first migration series Sun data reporter Chad Skelton and I did detailed ethnic enclaves. We mapped how the number of South Asian, Chinese, Filipino and other ethnic enclaves in Canada has grown to several hundred from just six in 1981.

In Metro Toronto, 25 per cent of the population now lives in ethnic enclaves (neighbourhoods where more than 30 per cent of the population is made up of a single visible minority group). In Metro Vancouver the proportion is 33 per cent.

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