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PPGPortal > Home > Concept Dictionary > I, J > Immigration

To enter and settle in a country or region to which one is not native.



The International Encyclopaedia of Social Policy has the following to say about immigration:

“Immigration refers to the migration of people to a country where they are non-indigenous. Several countries that are not too heavily populated admit immigrants or 'permanent residents' from other countries. The countries that admit immigrants on a regular basis and as a matter of policy do so mainly for economic and demographic reasons, often having abundant resources, a relatively small population and a low rate of population growth. Such countries would tend to face labour and skill shortages if they were to depend solely on natural growth in population.

The major reason for individuals and families moving from one country to another is a combination of pull and push factors. A large majority of them move in search of better economic opportunities than are unavailable in their home country (pull). International migration also occurs due to political upheavals, religious persecutions and civil wars (push).

The three major countries that have admitted immigrants over the last half century in large numbers are the USA, Canada, and Australia. The USA presently admits 700,000 to 800,000, Canada about 250,000 and Australia about 100,000 immigrants annually. When these are considered relative to the total population of each of these countries Canada currently admits more immigrants than any other country in the world. Among these three countries Canada has the largest proportion of the population that is foreign born (17% compared to 8% in USA and 3% in Australia) and in all three countries immigration flows constitute an important source of labour force growth.

During the second half of the 1960s there was a major shift in immigration policies. Until that time both USA and Canada followed quota systems in admitting immigrants from different world regions. The new immigration policy, especially in Canada, came to be based on labour market needs rather than the country of birth or racial origin. This new immigration selection system came to be known as the 'points system' and this is still the cornerstone of the Canadian immigration policy. Under this system applicants are assessed on the basis of points awarded on their personal and labour market traits. The USA also discontinued the quota system in its immigration policy during the sixties. Until 1973, Australia followed a policy of 'White Australia' and was racially discriminatory but came to adopt an immigration policy very similar to the Canadian system. With the policy shifts in immigration, the traditional importance of Europe as a source of immigrants declined and that of Asia and Africa has increased substantially.

The immigration policies adopted in North America and later in Australia are very different from the 'guest worker model' followed in Western Europe after the Second World War in the wake of manpower losses. At that time, only temporary work permits were issued when labour was short and there were no long term plans for their skill development or integration into the domestic labour market. This resulted in many economic and social problems in subsequent decades.

The adoption of selection criteria for admitting immigrants as permanent residents yielded high dividends. The impact of immigration upon the host countries has been found to be beneficial in meeting skill shortages and in providing a channel of labour supply that has a large human capital component.

In times of economic recession, when there are job losses, the public in general and workers in particular often look upon immigration as a threat to their jobs. Many research findings have demonstrated otherwise. Since under the points system immigrants are carefully selected, competition between the native born and the foreign workers is kept at a minimum and the job displacement effects of new immigrants are limited. Immigrants are more willing to accept the low wage jobs that native born workers are reluctant to take. There is an initial period of adjustment in the new home country when employment difficulties may be encountered by new immigrants in some occupations. This could arise due to the lack of job experience in the host country and only a partial recognition of their academic degrees and other qualification acquired elsewhere.”


International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences


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© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance