The top two immigration friendly countries of the world, renowned for their permanent residency programs, are Canada and Australia. This is not surprising, as the economic growth of both these countries is largely supported by their permanent and temporary immigrant population.
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Immigrants make up a considerable population of the countries; 22% of Canada’s 38 million and 30% of Australia’s 25.5 million populations. A majority of the said immigration population are economic migrants, which means that they are direct contributors to the growth of the countries’ economies.
International students, temporarily migrating to Canada and Australia in pursuit of their educational aspirations, annually contribute approx. 22 billion and 39 billion to the economies of the respective countries and support over 400,000 jobs (combined figure for both countries)!
Apart from the economic benefits of immigration, the two countries also rely on immigration to sustain their population numbers. The countries have an aging native population (median age in Canada is 41 years and 38 in Australia) and extremely low birth rates (1.5 in Canada and 1.7 in Australia). Immigrants are the countries’ hope to maintain their population and sustain the economy by alleviating the fiscal pressure on their economies caused by rapidly ageing populations and increasing revenue flow to ensure the continued supply of social benefits.
Despite the above stated facts, the two countries have adopted considerably different immigration policies to address the needs of their respective economies. Canada has been inviting immigrants with open arms, since the 1980s, Australia started doing the same since the 1990s. The difference is that Canada continues to increase its immigration targets while Australia has chosen to be more restrictive in the recent decade.
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Canadian Immigration levels plan 2020-2022, has set some high immigration targets (1 million immigrants over the span of next 3 years). Canada expects to invite at least 340,000 immigrants this year (2020), of which 58% would be economic migrants, 27% under the family class (spouses, children, parents and grandparents of citizens and permanent residents) and 15% asylum/refuge seekers.
Contrary to this, Australia has reduced its annual immigration target to 160,000 permanent residents from the previous 190,000 (which had been maintained for the last 8 years), at least until 2023. Under the new target, 70% of the immigrant permanent residents would be of the economic class and 30% under the family class.
Coronavirus has definitely led to a major disruption of societal functions and the immigration system is no different. However, Canada has made incredible efforts towards extending its compassion to not just its citizens and residents but also to immigrants. Despite the social distancing and lockdown measures enforced in the country, Canada’s IRCC conducted 2 Express Entry draws in April 2020 and issued 11, 700 invitations to apply for permanent residency (this is incredible, keeping in mind that only 7,800 invitations were issued in March and 8,000 in February). Canadian provinces have also acquired permission to expand their immigration targets for the current year.
Meanwhile, Australia’s immigration system issued a mere 100 invitations under the SkillSelect expression of interest system in April 2020 (this is a steep fall, from 2,050 invitations issued in March and 1,500 in February).
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From the above information, it is clear that Australia would be exercising further restraint in terms of meeting its immigration targets in light of Covid-19 related measures implemented within the country. On the other hand, Canada remains committed to meeting its immigration targets for the current year, Coronavirus or not!
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