Canada must reorient its immigration system for the 21st-century economy

December 30, 2020

By Globe and Mail |

A mass exodus has commenced in Silicon Valley. Last month alone, Oracle Corporation, Tesla Inc., Charles Schwab Corporation, SpaceX and Hewlett-Packard Company announced relocation plans. Amid the pandemic, companies and their employees realized that remote work offered an opportunity to improve their competitiveness and quality of life elsewhere. But they are not coming to Canada. Instead, they are moving to jurisdictions that actively recruited their entrepreneurs and employees.

Attracting top talent is already posing a challenge for Canada’s most innovative companies. Canada produces high-quality graduates and attracts highly skilled immigrants. But the tech sector continues to have key positions go unfilled due to labour shortages in strategic roles. At present, there are more than 54,000 tech-sector job openings.

This, in part, has been a result of multinational tech companies having set up engineering outposts here over the past generation to take full advantage of our relatively low-cost talent. The pressure on Canada will continue to grow as foreign companies look for top-tier talent. The International Monetary Fund reports there will be a shortage of 85 million tech workers by 2030.

Talented workers and the intellectual property (IP) they create and commercialize are the two most important ingredients of modern business globally. While IP permeates borders with relative ease, talent has been bound to traditional national structures.

The pandemic has begun to erode this construct, with companies looking for the best talent on the planet as the normalization of remote work continues. Under our current circumstances, Canada is more likely to be a victim than a beneficiary of this shift.

Canada’s productivity has already been lagging for a generation. Despite all the attention given to increasing investment in research and development and growing rates of entrepreneurship, our national innovation outcomes have continued to lag those of other advanced industrialized countries.

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