(Montreal) The offer on the real estate market is not sufficient for us to find solutions to the scarcity of labor only with immigration, believes the chief economist of the Mouvement Desjardins, Jimmy Jean .
Immigration and the rapid integration of new immigrants have played a positive role in contributing to a moderation in inflation in recent months, the economist said during a virtual conference on Wednesday to discuss the economic outlook.
But that can’t be the only solution, he said. “Is demography the solution to inflation?” The answer, clearly, is no. More population means more demand for goods and services. Second, more population means more demand for housing in a context where there is already a shortage. Also, more population does not necessarily improve GDP per capita. »
In this context, it is necessary to make a “fine and sharp” analysis to determine Canada’s integration capacity, said Mr. Jean in an interview after the conference. Think tanks and political parties put forward different figures, sometimes at odds, but the economist believes that we remain “in the dark” in this regard. “It deserves a thorough analysis with the use of econometric model. »
Mr. Jean, however, has reservations about the federal government’s goal of welcoming 500,000 immigrants per year by 2025, particularly because of insufficient supply and construction.
For the moment, we cannot build enough housing in Canada, warns the economist. Desjardins Group estimates that approximately 350,000 housing units should be built per year to avoid worsening the unaffordability of the real estate market. “We’re not far from 200,000 (housing starts). We see that we are awfully far from the mark. »
The solution to the scarcity of labor must also go through an increase in productivity. In this respect, Canada fares poorly, Mr. Jean worries. Investments in intellectual property increased by 12.6% in Canada between 2012 and 2022. In the United States, this figure is 99.3%.
“What worries me is that all over the world, we are facing labor challenges, we are aiming to accelerate automation. There are countries that are going to be the first in the race. They will be able to produce in certain areas at a much more advantageous cost. »
During his lecture, Jean commented on the most recent inflation data released the day before. “The downward trend we’ve had in the last nine months may be starting to run out of steam. We went from 4.3% to 4.4%. »
For the moment, the chief economist maintains his forecasts. “The policy rate is expected to be stable at 4.5% through December and the Bank of Canada to begin lowering rates gradually. »
This gradual decline would contrast with the “muscular” efforts by central banks to revive the economy after a recession, he points out. “There is talk of bringing interest rates down to neutral. This means that the recovery will be quite slow after all. »