04/29/2015 03:38 EDT | Updated 04/29/2015 03:59 EDT

Non-Permanent Residents A Force Too Large To Ignore: CIBC Report

Immigrants temporarily living in Canada are an economic force too large to ignore and any government actions to limit their numbers should be offset by boosting immigration policies, says one of Canada’s top economists.

A report by CIBC economist Benjamin Tal released Wednesday says that Canada’s record number of non-permanent residents (NPRs) should be recognized as economic driving forces for consumer spending and housing, rather than just band aid solutions to fill gaps in the labour force.

“It is common knowledge that immigration accounts for more than three quarters of population growth,” he wrote in the report.

“What is less known is the dramatic impact of the meteoric ascent in the number of non-permanent residents on the nation’s demographic landscape—mainly among young Canadians.”

The government overhauled the temporary foreign worker program last year amid criticism that it was too lax, allowing employers to call in foreign workers willing to do a Canadian job for less. The changes restricted the number of workers that could be hired by a single employer, as well as hiring immigrants in areas of the country with high unemployment.

The Conservatives also set an April 1 deadline for low-skilled temporary foreign workers to either become permanent residents or face deportation.

Tal estimates about 29,000 low-skilled workers are affected by those changes. Even if all of those workers lost their jobs, he adds, the number of non-permanent visa holders would be reduced by just 3.7 per cent.

Statistics Canada’s estimate of 4.4 per cent growth in the number of non-permanent residents living in Canada last year is too weak, Tal says, adding that he believes the real growth figure is at least eight per cent.

“We can expect a spike of this subset of lower skilled to receive Permanent Resident Status (there has already been a spike in applications), and in those that obtain temporary visas in other program categories,” he explained.

About 95 per cent of temporary immigrants are below the age of 45, the report said. The number of non-permanent residents in Canada accounts for all of the growth in the population between ages 25 to 44 since 2006, which would have fallen without the inclusion of the non-permanent demographic.

There are now some 770,000 temporary immigrants in Canada, about 50 per cent of which are workers, 38 per cent students and the balance falling into the humanitarian or refugee category.

“The fact that those advances came at the expense of the share of refugees in the NPR pie, suggests more rapid economic contribution from the current stock of NPRs,” Tal wrote.

“[They] are a demographic force with significant macro-economic implications.”

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