A new report says immigrants now overwhelmingly prefer Canada – often derided in popular culture south of the border as The Great White North – over the United States.
“If, 30 years ago, you had asked somebody from Brazil, South Africa, or the UK which foreign country they would most like to move to for work, there’s a good chance that each person would have offered the same answer: ‘America. America. America,’” note the authors of Decoding Global Talent, Onsite and Virtual.
“But the appeal of the U.S. as a work destination has declined. Canada is now the first choice of foreign workers.”
The United States was top dog until 2018, the favoured destination of immigrants the world over. Then, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration put in increasingly restrictive immigration policies. The Black Lives Matter protests led to riots in some American cities. The U.S. presidential elections resulted in some Trump supporters storming the Capitol building and the loss of life.
As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, things seemed to many to only get worse.
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In their own countries, prospective immigrants watched the incidents unfold on their TVs and on the web and it soured their view of America.
“Hurt by an inconsistent pandemic response, the adoption of more nationalistic policies, and social unrest, the U.S. has fallen to second in the rankings, behind Canada and basically in a tie with Australia,” wrote the authors of the report.
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Published by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a management consulting firm, and The Network, a global alliance of recruitment websites, the report was authored by a team of people from both firms.
These included, BCG managing director and senior partners Rainer Strack and Jens Baier and the firm’s associate director Orsolya Kovács-Ondrejkovic as well as The Network managing directors Pierre Antebi and Kate Kavanagh and the company’s international operations director, Ana López Gobernado.
Although both Canada and Australia are English-speaking countries like the U.S., they are seen as having done a better job of managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They are also seen as having better social systems and more open cultures than the U.S.,” the report quotes Sudha Lakshmi, a 48-year-old health insurance manager from India, as saying.
Canada’s coveted top spot as a favourite destination for immigrants is based on a broad appeal, including among those the country would particularly like to attract to reboot its economy after the pandemic.
“The country is the number-one work destination for many of the types of people that countries prize, including those with masters or PhD degrees, those with digital training or expertise, and those younger than 30,” states the report.
“The U.S., despite having many of the world’s biggest and best-known technology companies, is second as a destination for those with digital talent. Australia is third.”
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Two years ago, Trump set the tone for immigration in his country with an often-reported comment he made in a meeting: “Why do we want all these people from ‘s**thole countries’ coming here?”
The COVID-19 global pandemic allowed Trump to push an even more anti-immigration agenda, banning a swathe of work visas in a move he said was aimed at ensuring jobs for Americans. In reality, the U.S. president had been looking for ways to cut immigration and limit work visas ever since he came to office.
Ever since he was elected in 2016, Trump moved to increase red tape within the U.S. visa system, pushing up processing times and increasing uncertainty for both candidates and employers desperate for new hires.
Economics and immigration experts in the U.S. warned the direction the White House was taking would put a damper on efforts to recruit skilled workers overseas.
Sean Randolph, senior director of the Economic Institute of the Bay Area Council, warned changes to H-1B visa for highly-skilled workers would hurt San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, home of tech giants Google, Apple and Facebook.
“If Silicon Valley or other companies can’t find the skills they need when they need them, the odds increase that more high skilled jobs and functions will the U.S. for other countries such as Canada which welcomes immigrants and where educated workers with advanced skills are readily available.”
The BCG-The Network report seems to confirm those fears of a downturn in America’s appeal to immigrants were well-founded.
The rise of Democrat Joe Biden to the presidency, though, has led to the reversal of many of Trump’s policies surrounding immigration and has been seen as an “open doors” policy.