Canadians question decision to focus skilled worker program on youth
23 August 2012
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The Canadian government's plan to focus its skilled worker program on younger people has caused some concern among Canadian immigrant organisations. Changes to the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), which are due to come into force next January will mean that only those aged between 18 and 35 will score maximum points on the age section of the Canadian points-based assessment.
The Canadian points based system awards applicants for residency under the FSWP a number of points in six categories. Applicants must, at present, score a minimum total of 67 points to qualify. The fourth category is age. At present, all applicants aged between 21 and 49 score 10 points, the maximum score in the age category. However, after the proposed changes are introduced next January, only workers aged between 18 and 35 will receive 12 points, the new maximum. Applicants aged 35 or over will lose one of those 12 points for every year of their age over 35. Therefore, from next year, applicants aged 47 and above will receive no points at all in the age category.
Canada says that there is clear evidence supporting the contention that younger immigrants are more likely to succeed in the workplace. Last week, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said that his department, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, had announced the changes after considering the data. He said that the changes were designed to enable immigrants to 'hit the ground running' and that CIC had assessed the evidence and knew 'what factors were 'likely to lead to success for skilled immigrants'.
The government is also worried about the country's rapidly ageing population and is seeking to inject young blood into the nation's veins through the immigration system. 'The immigration of young people able to work at relatively high wages for a number of years can help lessen the consequences of [an ageing population]' says a government report.
The government has cited research by Professor Arthur Sweetman, the co-author of 'Immigrant Earnings: Age at Immigration Matters' in support of the change in the policy. Professor Sweetman says 'Immigrants who arrive later in life, on average, have a lot more difficulties in the labour market.'
However, Ratna Omidvar, president of the Maytree Foundation, a Canadian charity, and board chair of the Toronto Region Immigrant and Employment Council, says that the change in focus may mean that Canada misses out on talent. He called for 'a little less rigidity.' 'The next Frank Stronach could be 38 years old, and then what do we do?' Mr Omidvar asked.
Mr Stronach is an Austrian immigrant to Canada. He arrived in Canada at the age of 22 in 1954 and established a motor parts business. He is now worth CAN$1.7bn and is the 21st richest Canadian according to Forbes Magazine.
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