Thank you, Mr. Chair, for inviting IRCC to speak to the committee as part of the committee's study.
With an aging population that is contributing to more workers leaving the workforce every year than entering it, immigration will be a key source for population and labour force growth in the coming years. It will account for up to 80% of labour force growth by 2031.
At IRCC, we've certainly heard from many sectors about the challenges they're facing in terms of meeting the need for skilled labour to grow their businesses, improve exports and create more jobs. In addition to strategies for enhancing the participation of the domestic workforce, IRCC does recognize that new immigration will be an important component to meeting this need.
This is why the government's multi-year levels plan, which sets the number of permanent residents that Canada will accept every year, plans for year-over-year growth, with up to 350,000 new permanent resident admissions by 2021.
In addition to meeting Canada's commitments to family reunification and our humanitarian obligations, a key part of our levels plan is the emphasis it places on economic immigration. Nearly 60% of the 2019-21 multi-year levels plan is devoted to immigrants in the economic stream. The number of planned economic immigrants has grown almost 20% over the last three years.
Ontario, and in particular the GTA and the GTHA, receives the greatest share of permanent immigration overall, across all of these categories. In 2018, Toronto alone received over 106,000 new permanent residents, or about one third of all permanent resident admissions last year. Over 61,000—or about 60%—of these were permanent residents in the economic category. In addition to permanent residents, over 70,000 work permits were issued to migrant workers destined to Toronto in 2018 to work on a temporary basis.
Against that backdrop, I'd like to turn to an overview of some of our permanent economic immigration programs that may be of interest to this committee.
First, I understand the committee is interested in the Atlantic immigration pilot or, as we call it, AIP, and whether the lessons we're learning there could be applied to the greater Toronto and Hamilton area.
The AIP was launched in 2017 and seeks to address particular demographic challenges that have been faced in the Atlantic region. This included the challenge of attracting and retaining immigrants to that region. Prior to the launch of the pilot, retention of immigrants in the Atlantic provinces was the lowest nationwide. It ranged from 16% to 68%, compared to the national average of 86% or the 91% retention rate in Ontario.
Therefore, a key focus of the pilot has been how to integrate newcomers early on in the process. This includes requiring every applicant to have, in addition to a job offer, an individualized settlement plan and the endorsement of their province. While the pilot is employer-driven, in the sense of employers being the ones to identify and recruit candidates who can permanently fill jobs in the region, employers are also required to play a stronger role in the settlement and integration of recruited workers and their families in the Atlantic region.
It's important to note that, in comparison, Ontario does not face the same challenges in attracting and retaining immigrants as the Atlantic region. As noted earlier, it receives the most new immigrants on a yearly basis, has a retention rate of over 90%, and also receives secondary migration from other provinces.
However, there are other existing economic immigration programs that can help respond to labour needs and may be of interest to the committee. In the brief time I have available, I'll talk about just two.
First, there are our federal express entry programs, which can meet the need for skilled workers in the construction industry at the national occupational code or NOC levels O, A and B. This includes construction managers and supervisors, carpenters, masonry workers and welders, as well as those in the electrical trades. Under our federal skilled trades program, we have targeted draws for skilled trade workers under express entry. Using express entry, we provide points. Points are given for job offers where they are available, as well as for Canadian work or study experience. That allows more temporary foreign workers who are already here to then transition to permanent residents.
The second program I'll highlight is the provincial nominee program, which allows provinces and territories to address labour market needs, such as those in construction, that are more regional than national in nature. While our federal programs often seek to balance needs across the country and in different parts of our economy, the provincial nominee program enables provinces and territories to develop their own streams that are more employer-driven in order to address needs in the in-demand sectors and occupations.
For example, in 2017, Ontario introduced an in-demand skills stream to allow workers with permanent job offers in high-demand occupations, including those in the construction sector, to become permanent residents. Ontario also has a skilled worker stream that is available to workers with at least one year of cumulative paid full-time work experience in a skilled trade. This includes those in the industrial, electrical and construction trades, as well as in the maintenance and equipment operations trades.
In closing, Mr. Chair, I think it's important to note that unlike the temporary foreign worker program or temporary immigration, which are focused primarily on filling a certain job vacancy, permanent economic immigration does take a broader perspective. This means that, in addition to responding to labour market needs that may be present, we also look at indicators of an economic immigrant's ability to establish and adapt to a changing economy in the longer term. This often means looking at such attributes as language ability, education and work experience, and it often also includes their ability to have full-time year-long employment rather than seasonal work.
Those are some considerations that we take into account when we think about permanent economic immigration as opposed to filling job vacancies on a temporary basis.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. If there are any questions, we're happy to answer them.