Immigration a significant economic driver in region GWLIP officials advise Wellington County councillors

GUELPH – Wellington County councillors received an update on efforts to attract and integrate immigrants into the local economy at their May 23 meeting.

Guelph Wellington Local Immigration Partnership (GWLIP)  co-chairs Sandra Cocco of Immigrant Services Guelph Wellington and Trish McComb, representing the County of Wellington, provided information on immigration trends and GWLIP activities.

“Within the County of Wellington, excluding the city of Guelph, immigration makes up approximately 11 per cent of the population,” said McComb.

“When you include the city within that number, it rises to 17% and you’ll note that almost 2% are what we consider recent immigrants who have come since 2011.”

McComb noted there are approximately 800 newcomers arriving each year (710 to Guelph, 90 to the county).

She pointed out 50% of recent immigrants to the region are from the economic class and have been screened based on language proficiency, education level and work experience

“And they also have demonstrated that they have money available to support themselves,” said McComb.

“The other portion is made up of family class, at approximately 35%, which means family have sponsored them and they have demonstrated that they have means of support.”

She added refugees make up the remainder of recent immigrants.

Of recent immigrants to the Guelph-Wellington area, 68% have post secondary education, while 21% have secondary school diplomas. Only 11% have no certificate, diploma or degree.

Cocco pointed out 78% of recent immigrants locally are working age (15 to 24), compared to only 66% of the total population.

Seniors make up 16% of the region’s total population, but only 5% of the recent immigrant group. About 17% of recent immigrants are children under 14, close to the figure for total population, at 18%.

Cocco noted that by 2038, it is estimated that growth in Canada would mostly be from immigration.

For municipalities, she said, that means immigration is a significant driver of economic growth. Immigrants create “pull and push” for services, pay taxes, vote in municipal elections and participate in local politics.

Immigrants also create and support local businesses, Cocco explained.

Citing a study released last month by Statistics Canada, Cocco told councillors that immigrant entrepreneurs represent directly about 15% of entrepreneurs in Canada.

“However they create about 25% of new jobs, which is interesting. So they are definitely a wonderful opportunity in our community,” she added.

Also, she said, 78% of recent immigrants “are either in the labour market or soon to be in the labour market. And that, of course, is a good thing for our community.”

Following the presentation, councillor Don McKay, noted Guelph attracts 10 times the amount of immigrants that the county draws. He asked if the partnership had information on the reasons more immigrants chose the city.

“If we have some understanding of why they’re not (moving to locations in the county), maybe there’s things we can do to encourage more of them moving out of the city. I assume maybe services is one of the things,” said McKay.

“I would say that employment opportunities are one of the key factors that drive peoples’ decisions on where to live,” said Cocco, adding access to transportation – “can I easily get to my shift” – is another.

“I think also families go where other families are located. So if you know there is a large … community and you have that support there from friends and family from back home, it’s also another attractive piece.”