Immigration Agencies Funding Cuts
Jan 28, 2011

Immigration Agencies Funding Cuts

The Harper administration is introducing $53 million in cuts to immigration agencies. With unemployment among recent immigrants nearly triple the national average at 20% these cuts not only raise humanitarian concerns but inhibit the growth of a productive economy that affects us all.

This issue can be considered as both at the level of values such as fairness - and there are two distinct sides here as to what is fair - but also at the level of economics. Very often the economic arguments are ignored because of strong feelings about the values argument so I will address the economic argument first.

The key point to realize is that high levels of unemployment and lack of integration in society is bad for all of us. What this represents is underutilized human capital which brings a significant opportunity cost due to the lowered production. The lowered demand and production relatively hurts the entire economy. Even issues of, say, decreased learning of English because of cuts to these programs, decrease immigrant engagement in our society. It results in more social segregation and the dampening of economic interrelations follows.
The relationship between economies and unemployment is two sided. When an economy is poor, unemployment rises - hence why people fear immigrant labour that might displace their own. However, it also works the other way around: high employment generates a strong economy by increasing demand and consumption. High employment reflects an economy efficiently using its human capital and an economy with high production. Services that aid in the training, networking, and integration of immigrants into society are all in the second category because the barrier to lower unemployment isn't economic capacity it is these ancillary issues that prevent economic engagement. Reducing unemployment in this group will grow the economy, not saturate labour markets.

Return to the values argument, the typical argument is that it is unfair for Canadian citizens to have a tax burden distributed to newcomers. It is an us vs them mentality in who is helped and hurt which I usually reject on first principles but even if we accepted it, it is framed entirely under the assumption that there is a significant net harm to taxpayers. Yet the economic argument demonstrates how this is not universally true. Of course, the exact balance requires some economic study to see precisely where too much is spent on taxes to justify the economic benefits; regardless, it is sufficient to dispel this notion as being true categorically.

The larger values argument is the humanitarian one where we look at a group suffering and feel compelled to help them. The above arguments indicate why we should help them for our sake (us being taxpayers not receiving benefits). However, I think there is good reason to help them for their sake just as I would any other group in Canadian society from First Nations to the homeless who is suffering. Arguments about fairness are often empty guises to avoid compassion - all to often including racial overtones.

The result of this analysis is the clear idea that assistance to immigrants that help them transition into engaged members of society. While there is a humanitarian case for this benefit on its own, there is a larger economic and social benefit that results from lower unemployment and greater economic and social integration.

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