Immigrants stimulate trade growth and innovation in Saskatchewan

Immigrant employees boost innovation levels to enhance the return on investment for employers, according to the Conference Board.

OTTAWA – People who come to Saskatchewan from abroad drive more trade with their home countries and help to diversify the province’s economic growth, according to a Conference Board of Canada report.

“Regardless of relative wealth, presence of a trade office, distance, or language spoken, Saskatchewan is more likely to import goods from and export goods to countries that have an increased immigrant presence in the province,” said Michelle Parkouda, Senior Research Associate. “The unique finding of this research is that increases in imports and exports are country-specific and linked to the source of immigrants.

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

Some highlights from the report include:

  • In 2006, immigrants represented about 5% of Saskatchewan’s population.
  • Saskatchewan has attracted increasing numbers of immigrants in recent years. In 2011, almost 9,000 immigrants arrived in Saskatchewan.
  • In addition to driving trade growth, immigrant employees bring innovation skills to their organizations, offering a strong return on any investments that their employers make in them.

Based on this analysis, a 1% 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,” said Parkouda.

Like the rest of Canada, Saskatchewan is heavily dependent on the US for trade, although trading patterns are slowly shifting. 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.

In 2006, a total of 48,160 immigrants resided in Saskatchewan, representing approximately 5% of the province’s population. However, immigration levels have soared in recent years. In 2011 alone, 8,995 newcomers immigrated to Saskatchewan. Yet the province is still experiencing labour shortages. All available sources of talent, including the growing Aboriginal population – need to be part of Saskatchewan’s growth.

The full report can be found here.