Harnessing Immigrant Mobility Means Prosperity for All Canadians

Numerous studies find immigration and economic growth go hand-in-hand.

By Geoffrey Cameron and Ian Goldin, The Globe and Mail

More than a century ago, the debate about migration in the West was largely settled. Migration was seen to be a boon to the economic fortunes of countries, and many states eliminated unnecessary obstacles to movement such as passports and visas. Britain, after calling for the use of passports in its 1836 Aliens Restrictions Act, later eliminated them in 1872.

The argument was simple, according to Giovanni Bolis, a late-19th-century Italian legal commentator: Passports should be eliminated “not merely as a homage to the civility of the times … but as a measure of great importance for economic relations, favouring commerce, industry and progress, facilitating the relations among the various countries, and liberating travellers from harassment and hindrances.”

Such a view would be considered radical by today’s standards, but the 19th-century insight that immigration and economic growth go hand-in-hand has returned to conventional thinking in Canada. The evidence is certainly strong. A recent OECD study found that increased immigration is accompanied by increases in total employment and GDP growth. In the United States, studies find that migration increases the rate of invention, and in Canada, first-generation immigrants are 20 per cent more likely to have started a business.

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