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Forces in the Making of New Chinese Immigrants

Immigrants to Canada are admitted under three broad categories: family class, economic class and refugee class (Statutes of Canada 2001).1 Admissions under the family class are usually restricted to close family members of a resident or citizen of Canada, such as a spouse, common-law partner, child, parent or other prescribed family member. Economic-class admission is premised on education, labor-market skills, or financial or investment capacity. Refugees are admitted based on the United Nations’ criteria of refugee or on humanitarian grounds. Between 1980 and 2000, the component of family-class immigrants made up about 36 % of all immigrants, and economic-class immigrants 46 % (Li 2003: 82). After 2000, the proportion of economic-class immigrants increased relative to the family class. Between 2001 and 2010, economic-class immigrants made up 55 % to 66 % of all immigrants annually while family-class immigrants declined to 22% to 27 % per year (Citizenship and Immigration Canada 2011).

Two forces, related to the rising demand for skilled immigrants in Canada and the oversupply of university graduates in China, explain the rise of new Chinese immigrants in Canada. The emergence of what is called the new economy or information-based economy has increased the demand for skilled workers in Canada. Virtually all jobs created in Canada in the 1990s were knowledge-based (Zhao 2000). Canada also faced the problem of a brain drain to the USA throughout the 1990s. However, it managed to bring in an even larger number of immigrants with university degrees to offset out-migration: a ratio of four immigrants coming to Canada to one lost to the USA (Zhao 2000). Thus admitting well-educated immigrants allowed Canada to recuperate its human-capital loss and to sustain continuous growth in the country’s knowledge-based sectors. It responded to this rising demand by investing heavily in higher education (Zhao 2000) as well as by focusing more closely on the human-capital dimension of new immigrants.

Revamping Canada’s immigration system at the beginning of the twenty-first century led to a growth in the number of economic-class immigrants—that is, those admitted on human-capital grounds and to meet labor-market needs. Both the Immigration Act of 2001 (Statutes of Canada 2001) and the revised immigration regulations of 2002 (Privy Council 2002) reinforced immigrant selection on the basis of educational qualifications and work experience. The 2002 points system used to assess prospective immigrants allotted up to 70 of the 100 points to education, knowledge of languages and work experience, as opposed to 39 points in the old system (Li 2003: 41). Canada had been increasing the intake of economic-class immigrants ever since the late 1990s, even before the new system was implemented. Subsequent changes, including broadening the Provincial Nominee Program and introducing the federal immigration category of Canadian Experience Class to facilitate those on temporary visas to apply for permanent residency, further expanded the admission of skilled immigrants needed in the Canadian labor market (Li 2012).

Immigrant landing records indicate that between 1980 and 1986, annual economic-class immigrants made up 30 % to 40 % of all categories of immigrants admitted to Canada, although the percentage for immigrants from Hong Kong was larger (Fig. 17.2). From 1987 to 1994, economic- class immigrants accounted for 40 % to 50 %. After 1995, annual economic- class immigrants made up more than 50 %, and after 2007 more than 60 %,

Percentage of economic class immigrants from the PRC, Hong Kong and other regions, as county of last permanent residence, admitted annually to Canada, by landing year, 1980-2009 (Source

Fig. 17.2 Percentage of economic class immigrants from the PRC, Hong Kong and other regions, as county of last permanent residence, admitted annually to Canada, by landing year, 1980-2009 (Source: Data from 1980 to 2009 compiled from microdata file of Permanent Immigrants Data System, 1980-2009, Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

of all immigrants arriving in Canada. This increase in the proportion of economic-class immigrants reflects Canada’s growing emphasis on admitting immigrants with skills and credentials as it seeks to strengthen the information-based economy. Figure 17.2 shows that after 1993 the percentage ofimmigrants from the PRC admitted under the economic-class criterion rose rapidly every year, from 20 % in 1993 to 80 % in the early 2000s, and remained at a level of between 60 % and 70 % from 2002 to 2009.

As the share of economic-class immigrants rose over time, the proportion of immigrants arriving with a university degree also increased. Immigrant landing data indicate that those from the PRC were more likely to have a university degree than those from other regions. Figure 17.3 shows that before 1989, fewer than 10 % of immigrants from the PRC arrived in Canada with a university degree. The percentage of PRC immigrants with a degree rose sharply in 1990 and 1991, probably as a result of Canada accepting PRC students in Canada as permanent residents after the 1989 student protests. The number of PRC immigrants with a degree continued to grow proportionally after the mid-1990s, from 27 % in 1995 to 39 % in

Percentage ofimmigrants with a university degree from the PRC, Hong Kong and other regions admitted to Canada by landing year, 1980-2009 (Source

Fig. 17.3 Percentage ofimmigrants with a university degree from the PRC, Hong Kong and other regions admitted to Canada by landing year, 1980-2009 (Source: Data from 1980 to 2009 compiled from microdata file of Permanent Immigrants Data System, 1980-2009, Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

1997, and to nearly 50 % in 1999,2000 and 2001. From 2002 to 2009, the number of PRC immigrants with a degree declined but continued to account for 30 % to 40 % of all immigrants from the PRC annually. The proportion of university-educated immigrants from all sending countries has also been rising since the mid-1990s. However, the proportional increase for the PRC tended to be substantially larger for most years after the early 1990s.

 
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