For all, regardless of entry classification, it is imperative to focus on labour market integration, as this sets new Canadians, their families and their chosen communities up for success from the outset.
Committee members, quite simply, hope is not a strategy. To effectively move forward in the recovery period we need local solutions built by communities for communities, with strong involvement of the business community to effectively address community workforce needs.
To this end, the Canadian Chamber supports the continued devolution of the immigration selection process. It started with the provincial nominee program, then the Atlantic immigration program and then recently RNIPs, as were just discussed by my colleagues from the Kootenays, and the promised municipal nominee program. However, these need to become widespread and permanent, not just piloted.
A positive out of the rural and northern immigration pilots was the requirement that local chambers or business association directives apply on behalf of the community, which has ensured the integrated presence of the business sector from the outset. Also, as was mentioned earlier, if funding implementation for those businesses and the work they do could be added, that would be greatly appreciated.
The Canadian Chamber has also long advocated for pathways to permanent residency for temporary permit holders. I was in front of this committee in April speaking about this in the context of temporary foreign workers. The same rings true for international students. Before the pandemic, I used to refer to the fact that there were half a million job vacancies across the country and 600,000 international students. Of course, there were some issues here with labour market alignment, but what I will say is that international students study at institutions in communities large and small and in rural locations across the country. The point is that they're already in these smaller, rural and remote communities. There is a real opportunity to keep many of them there and integrate them into these communities for the longer term.
The Canadian Chamber has a final cluster of recommendations that fall into the category of enhancing services to support settlement and labour market integration. I'll start with just a couple of data points to frame these recommendations.
I can cite any number of data sources that demonstrate how in this century, over the past two decades, the population in small centres and rural areas across Canada has been declining, especially in those areas with populations under 250,000.
In 2019 permanent and non-permanent immigration accounted for over 80% of Canada's population growth. As well, in 2019 almost 75% of immigrants chose to immigrate to one of six metropolitan areas.
With the one minute I have left I'll give you an array of policy recommendations by the Canadian Chamber that apply to rural and remote communities.
The first is to introduce a five-year pilot permanent residency category for low-skilled positions in areas with labour shortages to permit international workers who reside in communities of less than one million and who have at least two years of related work experience to qualify for permanent residency.
We have recommendations around regional strategies to apply the resources required to meet settlement needs for newcomers in all regions of the country. We recommend taking action to include a national vision and strategy aimed at increasing immigration to rural and northern communities across the country and, finally, to take action to develop a strategy to increase international student retention in rural and northern communities.
Thank you very much.