Parag Khanna is the founder and managing partner of FutureMap and an author whose books include The Second World, Connectography and The Future is Asian. His latest book is Move: The Forces Uprooting Us, from which this essay is adapted.
In early 2010, my colleague Greg Lindsay and I set out to answer the question, “Where will you live in 2050?” The answer could only be “high-tech cities”, but which ones? Some will be sites of predator surveillance while others will allow residents to maintain some privacy. Some will be in areas adapted to climate change, while others may be submerged by then. Some will have thriving service economies and vibrant cultures, while others will have abandoned “factory towns” scattered throughout Michigan. As we scanned the world for geographic regions that offer abundant freshwater, progressive governance, and may attract talent for innovative industries, we decided to… Michigan.
More broadly, we pointed to the emergence of the “New North”, a collection of geographies such as the Great Lakes region and Scandinavia that are making significant investments in renewable energy, food production and economic diversification. Not long after living through Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Greg and his family moved from New York to Montreal.
Greg’s relocation to Canada is far from unique, and it represents a bet not only on Canada’s climate resilience but also on its physical and economic mobility. These are the principles known as the “American Dream”.
Even as millions of Americans intentionally move to more spacious homes to capitalize on the trend of remote working, remember that millions more have been Compelled In dynamism since the 2008 financial crisis, as firms collapsed and were forced to reduce their size. On the surface, today’s trend appears to mark a return to the period from the 1940s to the 1960s, during which about one-fifth of Americans moved each year as the population grew and expanded westward. But there are still too many Americans “stuck in place.” Instead, they should move to places where housing, health care and education are affordable. Today’s crowd of unemployed youth is again looking for work, they have to move forward to find it.
The American Dream needs to be redefined. Owning a home should be the new norm rather than Mobility – Enabling every American to go wherever they need to go, where their skills are needed and where they can earn more. Research by Harvard economist Raj Chetty shows that over the course of a generation, socioeconomic performance improves when families move to places with greater economic opportunities. Therefore physical mobility is the best way to economic mobility.
Coming out of the pandemic, perhaps more of them will follow in Greg’s footsteps and find the American Dream in Canada. After all, the “Canadian dream” is much more attainable. Canada is a policy laboratory for experiments in reducing inequality. The country is far from perfect, but it far exceeds the US in social mobility: about 20 percent of Americans are born below the poverty line, a figure that less than 10 percent in Canada. America is also going through its second eviction crisis in a decade, worsening both poverty and hunger.
Americans and Canadians have been moving across their long inter-oceanic border with relative ease for two centuries. A hundred years ago the expansion of large-scale farming attracted 750,000 Americans to the Canadian prairie provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. There are over one million Americans living in Canada today, and their numbers are increasing. After 2016, it was the election of Donald Trump that drove a new wave north of the border. In 2020, at the height of the coronavirus, Americans jammed Canadian real estate websites, buying unseen properties. Canadians joke that they would need to build a wall on their border to keep the Americans out. At least Canada wisely banned some assault weapons in 2020, keeping the most disgusting US feature.
Even more evident than the US is Canada in its commitment to systematic mass migration and assimilation. While the US object to immigration policy, Canada has had very few hiccups. Canada has entered the immigration big leagues, setting a clear target of 400,000 migrants annually to add to its 38 million population – a far higher annual percentage than the US Canada’s “Century Initiative” to openly reduce the population to 100 million. It wants to increase to – the point at which its population is likely to exceed that of Russia. Is Canada the Migration Magnet of the 21st Century?
Canada embodies the reality that immigration policy Is economic policy. Its aging population needs caregivers; Its eastern and maritime provinces need to be rejuvenated with new industries from IT to hydropower; Its melting borders require generous labor, and new pipelines and a vast freight rail network are needed to connect its oil patches and farmland to global markets. There aren’t nearly enough Canadians to do it all.
Immigrants make up a fifth of Canada’s current population, accounting for most – and soon all – of its population growth, particularly South Asians and Chinese. If Canada continues down this high immigration path, by 2036 half the country’s population will be born abroad or have at least one immigrant parent.
Canada could also move into the next wave of immigration-innovation collaborations. Canada is looking for talent as it seeks to diversify its economy, and Indians are easy targets to hunt. The number of annual Indian migrants to Canada more than doubled to nearly 90,000 between 2016 and 2019, far exceeding US critics of Mr Trump’s 2020 executive order suspending the H1-B visa program, calling the order ” Canadian Employment Generation Act”. The next Canada could be snatched away from Silicon Valley’s 500,000 Indian-origin residents. American nationalists should not separate emerging innovations within their borders from the diverse nationalities of the minds that produce them. Without the latter, the former would be very less.
European numbers may well expand with Americans. Like the US, Canada has a large Eastern European diaspora, and as unemployment continues to remain high in those homes, many unemployed may leave the Atlantic to join their relatives. Canada is more like continental Europe than the US or the United Kingdom, which partly explains why since the financial crisis its politics has stuck midway between the Netherlands, France and Germany, rather than the fierce populist nationalism of the US and UK. .
Canada just had an election – and there was no rebellion. Meanwhile, in America, the stink of January 6, 2020 remains, and Democrats look to 2022 – and 2024 – with great uncertainty. Meanwhile, it is unclear whether President Joe Biden’s woefully ambitious infrastructure bill and immigration reform will also see the light of day. Young people around the world keep a close eye on these trends, which is why they are flooding the website of the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) to check their eligibility to obtain residency in Canada.
Every March and April I receive e-mails and phone calls from friends in London, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore whose children have just been admitted to several vacant universities in the US, Canada, UK and elsewhere . After debating the merits of schools and countries, they thank me and start worrying about their children’s future. Over the years, I have noticed that there is a greater tendency for their children to be sent to Canada. While American college graduates are unsure what to do with their degrees, Canadian universities such as Waterloo have blended apprenticeships into their curriculum as a graduate-level requirement. This European-style business approach has proven very successful in adapting the workforces of Germany, Korea and other advanced industrial economies to both global competition and technological automation.
There’s another major reason young people favor Canada: the vast majority of new jobs created are full-time, rather than just temporary work. Indeed, Canada’s immigration boom coincides with the collapse of oil, meaning the country is betting on a more diversified economy that is also focused on manufacturing and services. To cope with its growing population and prevent an anti-immigration backlash, Canada needs to build more residential communities, schools and hospitals.
In the recent election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and The Liberal Party won mainly because of their strong performance in major cities, even though they again failed to win the popular vote. It is reminiscent of the fate of the Democratic Party in America: urban and educated, pro-immigration and earning well in the service sector. The urban-rural gap is common across the world. In fact, it represents a globally profound pattern of inequality in the form of disparity between North and South. But it doesn’t have to be that way, certainly not in a wealthy country like Canada that can make significant investments in digital broadband, affordable housing and skills training. The flip side of being a mass migration society is to prevent massive inequality before it is too late. Think “no Canadian left behind.”
The government has substantial support for continuing deficit spending and a robust fiscal programme, which can also be directed towards upgradation of national infrastructure and a low-carbon agenda. Canada needs a more robust coast-to-coast rail network for goods and construction materials. Need to think more about this…