Canada


Immigrants with degrees find it harder to find professional jobs in Canada

by Ray Clancy on April 10, 2014

Highly educated immigrants to Canada are facing more difficulties in accessing professional and management occupations than in the middle of the 1990s, according to researchers.

A team from the University of Toronto analysed trends in the success of immigrants with university degrees in census data from 1996, 2001, and 2006 and have identified a ‘brain waste’ trend.

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The number of university educated immigrants working in low skill occupations has steadily increased since 1996

They discovered that although recent immigrants are much more likely to have university degrees than earlier immigrants, lower proportions are obtaining high skilled jobs.

In 1996, some 50.4% of recently immigrated men with higher education succeeded in obtaining a high skilled occupation, as compared to 70.7% of educated, native born men. But in 2006 only 43.5% of educated immigrant men had these occupations, while the percentage for native born men remained the same.

Educated immigrant women fared even worse, with their success rate in obtaining high skilled jobs decreasing from 34.6% in 1996 to 34.4% in 2006. The success rate for native born women with similar education levels increased from 64.5% in 1996 to 66.9% in 2006.

The researchers also found that the proportion of university educated immigrants working in low skill occupations such as sales and manual labour, has steadily increased since 1996.

They calculated the total value of work lost from the Canadian economy as a result of this skill underutilisation has increased from $4.80 billion in 1996 to $11.37 billion in 2006.

‘These figures indicate that while we have begun to address the problem of immigrant brain waste, the growth of the problem has outstripped our efforts to address it,’ said sociologist Jeffrey Reitz, director of Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

Since 1996, Canadian policy makers have targeted immigrant skill underutilisation through programmes like credential assessment, career bridging, and mentoring. These programmes aim to help immigrants adjust to new work environments and gain soft skills, while also connecting them with employers and colleges.

However, these findings show that barriers for immigrant skill utilisation still persist but it can depend on locations. For example, in Quebec, university educated immigrants have higher rates of success gaining access to skilled occupations than in British Columbia, and more in British Columbia than in Ontario.

Comparing the most recent arrivals in all three provinces over time shows that recent arrivals had more difficulty in 2006 than in 1996.

The report also points out that labour demand fluctuation does not provide a full explanation. Labour demand was stronger from 2000 to 2005 than in the recession of the early 1990s, yet the occupational success of immigrants was significantly less for those arriving in the latter period.

It says that a lack of systematic standards in many unregulated fields means it is difficult for immigrants to demonstrate the value of their skills. Another barrier is racial and cultural difference as ethnic minorities may possess technical qualifications but lack soft skills like communication.

‘Labour market integration policies are unfocused and lack systematic strategies, and immigrants may be unaware of services and programs that could help them. Given the importance of immigration for Canadian economic development, the evaluation of current policies and consideration of future directions seems urgent,’ the report concludes.

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