Como diz o próprio artigo, publicado no Toronto Star de 28 de May e escrito por Carol Goarl, acertar em políticas de imigração nunca foi algo fácil desde que o mundo é mundo. Entretanto, cometer erros nesta esfera pode facilmente significar - em um longo prazo - uma queda na economia e no padrão de vida. E um país que - até 2011 - terá 100% do crescimento de sua força de trabalho oriundo de imigrantes, segundo afirma a colunista, não pode arcar com estes erros à longo prazo.
Um ótimo fim de semana e boa reflexão à todos!
Lost in the immigration jungle
Quick fixes have a nasty habit of breeding long-term problems.
Naomi Alboim of Queen's University, an expert on immigration policy, fears that is what is happening in Canada now.
In Ottawa, the Conservatives are pouring millions of dollars into makeshift schemes to alleviate labour shortages, without considering the risks of becoming dependent on a steady influx of temporary foreign workers.
At Queen's Park, the Liberals are pouring billions of dollars into post-secondary education, without requiring universities to supplement their full degree programs with bridge training for immigrants who need to fill the gaps in their qualifications.
At the local level, senior governments are starving the non-profit groups that know how to integrate immigrants into the community.
There are dozens of initiatives, but no overall plan. There are dozens of stakeholders, but no shared vision.
"If we continue to develop immigration policies in isolation, we could end up hurting or restricting our broader goals for Canada," Alboim told a roomful of politicians, bureaucrats and policy analysts recently.
Alboim is not one of those academics who pores over statistics and studies and theorizes about what should be done.
She's out in the community, working with immigrants and social agencies. At the same time, she understands the constraints that policy-makers face. She worked in the senior ranks of the public service at both the federal and provincial levels.
What worries her, as Canada approaches 2011 – the year when immigrants will account for 100 per cent of the country's workforce growth – is that no one seems to be thinking beyond the exigencies of the moment:
Bringing in thousands of foreign temporary workers might appease employers who can't wait the five to six years it normally takes to get a skilled applicant into the country. But it reduces their incentive to hire and train the underemployed Canadians (foreign and native-born) who are already here.
Raising Canada's immigration target (Ottawa is aiming to admit 265,000 permanent residents this year – 15,000 more than last year) might seem like a rational response to an aging workforce. But with a backlog of 500,000 unprocessed applications, the immigration department clearly can't handle its current workload, let alone a larger one. It takes an average of 5.3 years to get an application processed in Beijing, longer in Hong Kong, Moscow and New Delhi.
Permitting Canadian-educated foreign students to stay and apply for permanent resident status might look like a good way to boost the supply of well-trained workers. But it turns universities and colleges into a shortcut into Canada for would-be immigrants and encourages the creation of quick-buck vocational schools.
Allowing each province to nominate immigrants, based on its workforce needs, might sound like regionally sensitive planning. But it leaves the country with a bewildering patchwork of admission criteria and prevents newcomers from moving freely once they arrive in the country.
"We need to think in terms of a pan-Canadian immigration framework that flows from a vision of Canada's future and the values we share," Alboim said.
She acknowledged that there is a lot of goodwill in the system. She also gave Prime Minister Stephen Harper credit for investing $13 million in a new Foreign Credential Referral Office and earmarking $500 million a year to provide job training for people who don't qualify for employment insurance (many of whom are immigrants).
But Ottawa needs to do more than add new tools to the cluttered mix of policy instruments that exists now, Alboim stressed. Its role is to set priorities, provide leadership and ensure that everybody is pulling in the same direction.
Getting immigration right has never been easy. But getting it wrong – the usual result of lurching from one expedient to the next – will mean a shrinking economy, a drop in living standards and a loss of vitality.
Canada can't afford to be slapdash about its future.