Knocking Down Barriers Faced by New Immigrants to Canada

Immigration selection should focus on both short-term and long-term labour market needs while settlement services should be co-ordinated to boost the workforce integration of immigrants and ensure Canada’s long-term prosperity, states this TD report.

Employment and wage gaps are increasing between immigrants and their Canadian-born counterparts because newcomers face several barriers to workplace integration, including inadequate language skills and credential recognition issues, according to a new report from TD Economics.

Ensuring full workplace integration of immigrants is crucial for Canada’s long-term prosperity in terms of filling skills shortages and competing on the international stage, states Knocking Down Barriers Faced By New Immigrants to Canada.

Radical changes to the immigration system aren’t needed to achieve this integration goal, states the report. Instead, the report identifies two critical areas of reform:

  • the federal and provincial selection processes
  • the network of immigrant settlement services

Selection Processes

The temporary foreign worker (TFW) and provincial nominee (PN) programs should continue to focus on short-term labour market needs and all the PN programs across the country should co-ordinate their approach by adopting similar standards and best practices.

The TFW program should complement the PN program by targeting more specific skill sets rather than broader occupational categories. Processing and approval times for this program must also be sped up in order to meet the immediate demands of employers.

The federal skilled worker program, on the other hand, should meet the job market’s longer-term needs. To do so, the federal government needs empirical models and regular consultations with employers and the provinces to identify current and future high-demand occupations, as well as a transparent and flexible method for changing the program’s eligible occupations.

The program should also include a minimum language threshold for principal applicants because language proficiency is a determinant of successful labour market integration.

Immigrant Settlement Services

To reduce overlap and boost efficiency, the various immigrant-serving agencies should adopt a co-ordinated approach to service delivery that includes common best practices, especially when it comes to language training and credential recognition. The federal government could consider giving the provinces a lump sum of settlement funds to fund the agencies that best suit the needs in their own jurisdictions (as is already done in Manitoba and British Columbia).

In the long term, a national regulatory body should be created for each regulated occupation so the equivalency requirements will be the same across all provinces. In the short-term, the roles of provincial fairness commissioners, who oversee the credential recognition processes for all regulated occupations within their province, could be expanded and mutual recognition agreements could be pursued more aggressively.

The federal government should also expand the Canadian Immigrant Integration Program, which provides pre-arrival services, to more countries and allow the credential recognition process to begin before immigrants come to Canada.

Finally, a single integration portal through which both employers and newcomers could connect should be created.  The portal would provide integration services to immigrants and create a database of immigrant skills and experiences that employers could use to connect with the professional talent they need. Such a portal exists in Manitoba through the province’s Entry Program.

Interesting Statistics

  • 370,000: The number of additional people who would be working if the employment rate of immigrants was the same as non-immigrants.
  • 85 cents: How much a male immigrant who landed in the late 1970s earned for every dollar earned by his Canadian-born counterpart.  Within 25 years, the gap had closed to 98 cents. (Statistics Canada Census.)
  • 61 cents: How much a male immigrant who landed between 2000 and 2004 earned for every dollar earned by his Canadian-born counterpart. (Statistics Canada Census.)
  • 80 per cent: The proportion of recent immigrants in 2006 whose mother tongue was neither English nor French, compared to 52 per cent of recent immigrants in 1981. (Statistics Canada Census)
  • 450,000: The estimated backlog of applications under the federal skilled worker program.
  • 110,000: The approximate number of immigrants admitted into Canada under the federal skilled worker program each year for the past 10 years. However, the number of provincial nominees has increased 15-fold and the number of temporary foreign workers has increased from 120,000 to 180,000.
  • 280,000: The number of permanent residents admitted to Canada in 2010. Of those, 186,913 were admitted under the economic class, 60,220 were admitted under the family class, 24,696 were refugees and 8,845 fell under “other.” (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)
  • 351: The number of named occupations, such as doctors and nurses, allowed under the federal skilled worker program before 2008. In an effort to target the needs of the labour market and reduce the application backlog, it was restricted to 38 occupations in 2008 and 29 in July 2011.
  • 4,000: The number of temporary foreign workers and international students granted permanent status under the Canadian Experience Class in 2010
  • $600 million: The amount of funding the federal government provided to settlement services in 2011 (excluding Quebec), up from $200 million in 2006.
  • 93 per cent: the proportion of employed Canadian Immigrant Integration Program graduates who found a job within the first six months of arrival and 60 per cent were working in their field or a related field. Also, 22 per cent of employed graduates were at an equivalent or higher level than they were in their countries of origin.

Read the full report: Knocking Down Barriers Faced By New Immigrants to Canada