March 4, 2009
Hey Cabbie, or Sorry, Should I Say Doc?
Does the emphasis on transferable skills in the long run, appear to benefit new immigrants?
According to the Toronto Star, six out of ten recent immigrants in the City of Toronto are currently not employed in the field for which they were trained. Since IRPA was passed in June 2002, Canada appears to have a shortage of skilled trades’ people and a surfeit of professionals who are experiencing great difficulty entering the job market. Clearly, there is a discrepancy between the type of immigrants to which Canada is permitting entry and the type of jobs that are available to these new immigrants.
The Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada conducted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and Statistics Canada cited similar findings. The Survey reports that difficulty finding viable employment as a chief concern of new immigrants. Specifically, 70 per cent of newcomers trying to enter the workforce encountered at least one problem in the process – either inability to transfer foreign qualifications, lack of contacts in Canada, language barriers and a deficit of “Canadian experience” (a rather ephemeral concept that can be translated as meaning no experience working in Canada). Of those who were employed at the time of the survey, six in ten were not working in the same field as they had before their arrival in Canada. Those who found work within six months of arrival were employed in sales and service and in processing and manufacturing occupations, whereas prior to coming to Canada, the most common occupational groups were natural and applied sciences and management, business, finance and administration, as well as social science, education, government services and religious occupations. When 76 per cent of new immigrants possessed at least one type of foreign credential according to the survey, this is unacceptable.
Clearly, there is a paradox at work in the system – immigrants cannot find suitable employment without Canadian experience and they cannot gain Canadian experience without suitable employment. Under these conditions integration into a new country becomes fraught with difficulty and apprehension. After years of avoiding the problem, it’s time for the federal and provincial governments to sort out the mess over how long it takes for foreign-trained doctors, engineers and other professionals to work in Canada. Rather than focusing on the intake of economic immigrants, CIC must place more emphasis on integration and absorption. Canada needs to value the qualifications, experience and innovative thinking that newcomers bring to this country. CIC must also provide a balanced view of the job market to prospective immigrants before they disturb their settled life in their own countries.