Social and welfare service programs were developed “to respond to personal, social and emotional needs including services for the residential care of people in government-run or private residences, care of people in their own homes, and a wide range of community-based services such as day care, home-delivered meals and counselling.”(The Canadian Encyclopaedia)
The government of Canada provides assistance to citizens outside the provisions of the market under what is called “social security programs”, most of which are run by the provinces. Such social programs include Family Allowances, Old Age Pensions and provincial and municipal social-assistance programs. In addition, Canada also administers funds to individuals, as well as provides the funds for Medicare and public education programs. The word “welfare” has negative connotations in Canada, so it is rarely used. It however refers to payments made directly to low-income individuals in the Canadian society.
Knowing that immigrants are a mix of skilled and unskilled economic migrants and refugees, with the latter being just a fraction of the total number of immigrants, will help put things into perspective. Most economic migrants come to Canada, with funds for settlement as required by CIC. They come in financially buoyant and settle in without difficulty. Over time, when the initial reality of immigration sets in and some find it difficult to find professional jobs, most immigrants in such situations rather settle for less satisfactory job roles than resort to government welfare services. It isn’t pride. It is because most never enjoyed such luxury in their native countries before immigration so it doesn’t come to them as a way of life to be pursued.
A 1996 study provides some insights. It found that over a lifetime, a typical immigrant family will pay some forty thousand dollars more to the treasury than they will consume in services. Explanations for this include that immigrant households tend to be larger, and have more wage earners, increasing taxes. Newcomers are also less likely to make use of many social services. Immigrants are less likely than native Canadians to receive employment insurance, social assistance, and subsidized housing.
Immigrants are also much less likely to become homeless or suffer from mental illness. Recent immigrants are also less likely to make use of subsidized housing than native Canadians of the same income level. In 2004 22.5% of low-income native Canadians lived in subsidized housing, but only 20.4% of low income recent immigrants did so, though this number was considerably higher among more established immigrants.
Immigrants are also found to be more contributors to tax pools which are used to fund welfare services. A 1990 study found that an average immigrant household paid $22,528 in all forms of taxes and on average each household directly consumed $10,558 in government services. By contrast an average native Canadian household paid $20,259 in tax and consumed $10,102 dollars in services. Across the country this means that immigrant households contributed $2.6 billion more than their share to the public purse. More recent studies and statistics have given more credence to the study. (Fraser Institute)
Unfortunately, recent trends indicate that the gap between the low-income rates for immigrants and those born in Canada has increased substantially since 1980. Rising low-income rates among more recent immigrants relative to both the Canadian-born and immigrants who have been in Canada longer are a cause for concern because low-income potentially impacts the ability of immigrant individuals and families to participate economically, socially, culturally, and with dignity in their communities.
Is it not surprising that a study by Fraser Institute shows that high-income families in Canada receive more benefits from government programs than do low-income families. The indication is that immigrants are not a burden on the system as suspected. This somewhat surprising result is due to the fact that high-income families tend to be older and have more children benefiting from education expenditures than do families with low incomes. Further, these families consume more health care services as they have children, and they live in cities where healthcare is more readily available than in rural areas. People with low incomes tend to be young and without children and consume relatively fewer educational and health care benefits. The bottom line is that, the immigrant cohort on average received fewer benefits from government spending than did other Canadians. The precise figures for the benefits received by the two groups are: $10,288 for the immigrant cohort and $11,508 for other Canadians. The difference in favor of other Canadians is 10.6 percent.
Immigration as far as is seen and heard, is a strategic economic decision of the Canadian government. Immigrants need Canada as much as Canada needs immigrants. it is a mutually-beneficial arrangement and to infer otherwise is to be prejudicial. Immigrants are not a drain on the nation’s economy. They do not consume more in social services. They rather help to ensure that taxes are funded and all Canadians continue to enjoy benefits.
By The Editorial Board.