Immigrants stimulate Sask. economy

18 Apr 2013
The StarPhoenix

Trade rises with ethnic diversity

The more diverse Saskatchewan’s population becomes, the more economic growth will be stimulated, says a new report by the Conference Board of Canada.

“We found the number of immigrants you have in a province increases the value of trade that the province is doing,” said Michelle Parkouda, senior research associate with the Conference Board. “And that is independent of all the other factors that would normally influence trade.”

The report, The Influence of Immigrants on Trade Diversification in Saskatchewan, was published for the Leaders’ Roundtable on Immigration and the Saskatchewan Institute.

The analysis showed a one per cent increase in the number of immigrants living in Saskatchewan is associated with increases of approximately $30 million in imported goods and $41 million in exported goods.

“This research demonstrates that increasing ethnic diversity through immigration can promote trade diversification. As Saskatchewan continues to welcome increasing numbers of immigrants from around the world, this will have the potential to stimulate additional opportunities for trade outside of North America,” Parkouda said.

The last few years has seen a rapid increase in immigration to Saskatchewan.

In 2006, about five per cent of the province’s population (48,160) were immigrants. In 2011 alone, 8,995 newcomers immigrated to Saskatchewan.

“In one year almost 9,000 ( immigrants) came in,” Parkouda said. “That is incredible.”

Saskatchewan exports and imports have also soared in recent years. Provincial exporters sold more than $32.6 billion worth of products in 2012, a 10.3 per cent increase from the year before.

This puts Saskatchewan in fourth place among the provinces when it comes to exports and the province is Canada’s largest exporter on a per-capita basis.

Parkouda said the increase in trade doesn’t seem to be connected with relative wealth, the presence of a trade office, distance or language spoken.

“The unique finding of this research is that increases in imports and exports are country-specific and linked to the source of immigrants.”

Having strong immigration from many parts of the world is a plus as the province’s trading patterns shift from being predominantly tied to the United States.

Managing the relationship with China is a theme of the forthcoming Saskatchewan Forum, where speakers will address issues of access for Canadian resources to the Chinese market and a framework for Chinese foreign direct investment in Saskatchewan.

“China has become such a huge trading partner and it doesn’t hurt that you now have many more Chinese living in the country,” Parkouda said. “They can speak the language, they have connections in their home country and they can help to facilitate that business.”

Businesses have to take advantage of the unique skills and ideas that immigrant employees can bring to the table, she said.

A separate Conference Board briefing said organizations should be making investments in immigrants as part of an innovation strategy.

“In many companies there can be difficulty getting people with ideas that are lower down (the chain of command) to communicate their ideas up. So people in the management office don’t necessarily know about the unique skills and abilities some of their employees have,” Parkouda said, adding companies actively seeking input from immigrant employees are finding greater success.

via Prosperity Saskatchewan

One comment

  • “The more diverse Saskatchewan’s population becomes, the more economic growth”. Southwest Saskatchewan is also seeing the benefits of having a diverse population as more people from different cultures move to the region. New people bring new ideas!

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