Canada: No immigrant paradise

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu May 24 13:44:40 UTC 2007

May 23, 2007

No immigrant paradise

Canada's efforts to integrate immigrants are failing because of a lack of
collaboration between levels of government to help newcomers overcome
barriers, says a new study.
Ottawa hopes to welcome up to 265,000 permanent residents this year - 10,000
more than the projections for 2006 - but only 40% of skilled immigrants find
jobs in their fields, says the Institute for Research on Public
Policy.  "Overall, there have been deteriorating labour market outcomes for
all new ... entrants," says the institute in a paper on immigrant
employment.  The grim news is that most skilled immigrants who arrive in
Canada with visions of better lives end up "downwardly mobile," says the

Part of the problem stems from "policy silos" at the federal level created
by the division of responsibilities between the departments of Citizenship
and Immigration Canada and Human Resources and Skills Development, the
authors warn. The former is responsible for the selection and settlement of
immigrants - but not their integration into the workforce. The latter
handles labour market programming. "The end result is that no department is
specifically tasked with immigrant labour market integration, and this
important responsibility falls in between the silos," says the study.

That division of responsibilities, adds the paper, simply exacerbates the
barriers faced by immigrants, such as a lack of Canadian work experience,
difficulties with credential recognition and insufficient language training.
While the immigration selection criteria emphasize education, language
competency and skills, the programs needed to facilitate settlement haven't
changed accordingly, the institute argues.

Newcomers don't receive enough help preparing them for the Canadian
workforce, so many highly skilled immigrants are forced to take survival
jobs. Immigrants who have arrived since the 1990s are the most educated to
date but they're competing with a better educated Canadian labour force. As
well, because most of Canada's immigrants now come from Asia instead of
Europe, language problems and the lack of credential recognition are
hampering their economic success, says the report. "There is an
overrepresentation of university-educated immigrants in low-skilled jobs,
and many recent immigrants with university degrees are employed in jobs that
typically require a high school education or less."

Employers have identified a lack of *language proficiency* as a significant
barrier to hiring skilled immigrants, notes the study. Increasingly, it
adds, newcomers need occupation-specific language skills but most language
training programs do not prepare skilled immigrants for professional jobs.
To make matters worse, it has been extremely difficult for employers and
governments to accurately forecast labour market needs and for Ottawa to
process immigrants fast enough, says the report. The institute recommends
enhancing federal-provincial agreements to serve the specific needs of
immigrants. It also calls for expanded services for newcomers, including
better language training, mentoring programs, student loans and subsidized
work experience opportunities.

We have a reputation for bringing in loads of immigrants and then leaving
them to sink or swim. The question is whether a country as large and as
jurisdictionally complex as Canada can do a better job of integrating
newcomers. I think we can.

Still, potential immigrants had better lower their expectations. We offer
permanent residency - not paradise.

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