Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Low Quebec Birthrate Spurs Some Calls for Increased Immigration

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Low Quebec Birthrate Spurs Some Calls for Increased Immigration

Article excerpt

Quebec birthrate falls for sixth straight year

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MONTREAL - An ever-declining birthrate in Quebec as well as an aging population are putting the spotlight on the province's immigration levels against the backdrop of issues such as the economy, identity, culture and language.

The province's statistics bureau said the 2015 rate was 1.6 children per woman, down one per cent from 2014 and marking the sixth consecutive year it had edged lower.

While that figure may not appear abnormally low, the province also has a rapidly aging population and a growing shortage of skilled workers.

Quebec estimates 1.1 million people will retire between 2013 and 2022 and a recent document published for the Immigration Department said "this situation underscores the need to reassert immigration's role and its contribution to Quebec."

Immigrants, however, are not spread out evenly across the province, and Statistics Canada estimates visible minority groups will represent 31 per cent of Montreal's population by 2031 -- but no more than five per cent everywhere else in Quebec.

Universite de Montreal demographer Marc Termote said he's "very, very worried" about the growing cultural and linguistic divisions between Montreal and other cities.

"What's happening is a profound break between Montreal and the rest of Quebec," he said.

For example, he explained, there are more immigrants in one of Montreal's suburbs, Brossard, than in all of Quebec City, the capital and second-largest city in the province.

Furthermore, Termote said it's a widely publicized myth that increasing immigration will help labour shortages or the economy.

"All the studies show immigration creates a neutral benefit to the economy," he said. "And we will need to welcome many, many more people than we do now for it to affect our aging population figures or fix labour shortages."

Montreal is having trouble integrating the immigrants it already has, with unemployment rates for those born outside Canada at 11 per cent in the city compared to seven per cent for non-immigrants.

Quebec has more control over its immigration policy than other provinces and selects newcomers largely based on language; between 2010 and 2014, 61.3 per cent of immigrants were francophone.

The policy helps preserve Quebec's linguistic distinctiveness, but it also creates tensions, Termote said. …

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