May 23, 2007 <br><br>No immigrant paradise <br>By MINDELLE JACOBS<br><br>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.
<br>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 report.
<br><br>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.
<br><br>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.
<br><br>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."
<br><br>Employers have identified a lack of <strong>language proficiency</strong> 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.
<br>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.
<br><br>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.
<br><br>Still, potential immigrants had better lower their expectations. We offer permanent residency - not paradise. <br><br><a href="http://www.edmontonsun.com/News/Columnists/Jacobs_Mindelle/2007/05/23/pf-4201344.html">
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