Shortchanging Immigrants Costs Canada

The Globe and Mail

By Tavia Grant And Rita Trichur

In her home city of São Paulo, Brazil, Yane Brogiollo was a manager at Hewlett-Packard Co., where she oversaw a team of 15 database professionals. She also designed and taught courses for a local university’s MBA program.

They were “wonderful” jobs, and she earned a good salary. São Paolo was crowded, though, and too big. Crime was escalating. So a year and a half ago, she moved to Vancouver, hoping to find a better quality of life.

That hasn’t happened. Despite 15 years of IT experience and a master of science degree in computer engineering, 70 job applications have yielded only five interviews and no offers.

“The first thing they look is for Canadian experience,” she says. “If you don’t have that, they don’t call you for an interview. And if you don’t get an interview, it’s hard to show your skills.”

She’s not alone. Canada has a well-documented history of attracting the best and brightest immigrants from developing countries. But many of these people wind up jobless, or in minimum-wage survival jobs. And there’s a wider economic cost to the country of under-utilizing these skilled workers.

New research by the Royal Bank of Canada, to be published Monday and released exclusively to The Globe and Mail, puts a price tag on that lost opportunity. The study finds that if immigrants’ skills were rewarded in a similar way to that of Canadian-born workers, the increase in their incomes would amount to $30.7-billion – or the equivalent of 2.1 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Closing the gap with Canadian-born workers would also translate into about 42,000 additional jobs.

“If we are going to continue to flourish and grow as a country, we’ve got to be very receptive to foreign capital, to foreign thinking and to foreign skills to maximize our potential,” Gordon Nixon, the bank’s chief executive officer, said in an interview. “I think it is very important that we have that macro discussion, particularly against a backdrop of high unemployment and financial global economic turmoil.”

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