Not Just Good for Business

op-ed

Recently, Mike Timani, President of the NB Multicultural Council, wrote a Commentary and shared a statistic that seems small but is incredibly important for the future of our Province.

Based on economists’ projections, New Brunswick needs to grow its population by at least 1% annually, which is roughly 7,500 people each year. The influx of people is needed to maintain the level of tax base that will allow us to afford the health care, education and infrastructure we value so dearly as part of our way of life in NB.

The New Brunswick Business Council agrees that we need to make the attraction and retention of newcomers to New Brunswick a cornerstone of our economic growth strategy if our communities and companies are to grow and thrive in a global market. Francis McGuire, Co-Chair of the NB Business Council and retired CEO of Major Drilling says “Our members want a full range of applicants available to their organizations – the best and the brightest from here and abroad.  Diverse backgrounds create better decision making – we want to have a diverse pool of people to hire from in Atlantic Canada”.

Often there is a concern that newcomers will take jobs away from local residents when in fact, the data tells us a different story altogether.   It’s clear in Canada, and jurisdictions throughout the world, that newcomers create businesses, which in turn expand employment options for residents.  Statistics Canada released data in March of this year that clearly shows immigrants are more entrepreneurial than those born in Canada.  Over the longer term, 5.8% of immigrant tax filers are owners of private incorporated businesses, versus 4.8% of those born in Canada.  One percentage point may not seem like a lot, but in 2011 there was estimated to be 6,775,800 immigrants in Canada.  So, if you do the math, 1% is 67,758 more immigrant entrepreneurs, innovators and job creators.  We need more of that!

Vala Afshar of SalesForce recently shared an interesting list of tech companies that were started by first or second generation immigrants in the US: Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, IBM, Yahoo, Uber, Tesla, Oracle…Think of the reach of these companies, the job creation globally and most importantly how these innovators are changing our daily lives.  Diversity brings creativity, energy and learning that we all stand to benefit from if we can just be open.  We have an abundance of opportunity and natural spaces to share, we don’t need to be fearful and come from a place of scarcity.

Just last week, the Guardian published findings from a recent study conducted by a fellow at the London School of Economics and former adviser to the president of the European Commission, Philippe Legrain.  The study revealed that refugees will repay European Union spending almost twice over in five short years, through job creation, increased consumption of goods and services, and by filling gaps in the labour market.  The same is true for New Brunswick.   Because of our declining population, there is declining demand for goods and services, and there is a shrinking pool of workers for our companies to employ for growth.

It’s important that New Brunswicker’s realize that there are many examples of New Brunswick owned companies that have had to expand their operations outside of our province due to a lack of labour locally.  If you asked them, these very same companies would passionately tell you how committed they are to New Brunswick and that moving operations or expanding outside the province was absolutely a last resort. When New Brunswick based companies move from our province there is a risk that other jobs will follow including key leadership and administrative positions, thereby creating a net loss of employment opportunities for all.  When we help newcomers, we in fact do help our own.

The people of New Brunswick have done amazing work in welcoming and settling almost 1500 Syrian newcomers in the past 6 months.  It shows what we are made of as a community.  Now these new residents and neighbours want to give back.  By being open, caring employers – we all stand to gain.

Organizations, big and small, can begin to think about how to support the settlement process for newcomers, which in turn will build their capacity to welcome people into their workplaces.  I encourage employers to participate in some of the wonderful initiatives taking place in their area such as newcomer job fairs, cross-cultural training workshops for employers, and job shadowing or mentoring opportunities.  After all, welcoming newcomers into our province is not just good for business – it is good for New Brunswick.