November 18, 2021

Temporary Residents and Immigrants Over-Represented in the Essential Workforce – Practical Solutions?

Posted by Athena Portokalidis - Bellissimo Law Group PC

In a study conducted by the Conference Board of Canada, it was found that immigrants, who make up 23.8% of the overall workforce, are over-represented in key essential industries including food manufacturing (34.9%), truck transportation (29.7%), and nursing and residential care facilities (29.2%).[1] Disappointingly, overqualification is common in essential work given Canada’s economic immigration system favours highly educated applicants with skilled work experience, but as the study found “this does not always correspond with the labour demand in essential sectors.”[2] This leaves many immigrants or temporary residents (such as international students, temporary workers, etc.) forced to accept employment that is often undervalued, underpaid, and unsafe.[3] This also presents challenges for employers, as perceived overqualification can lead to lower job satisfaction and higher intention to leave that employment.[4]

This problem comes as no surprise as the narrative of the highly skilled immigrant working a low-skilled job after landing is one many of us are familiar with – whether it be through stories told by family or friends, stories we hear on the news, or even depictions in film or television. Importantly, how can this be addressed? The Conference Board of Canada has made several recommendations[5] in this regard, including:

  1. Bring Essential Workers as Permanent Residents.
  2. Turn Essential Jobs Into Quality Opportunities.
  3. Improve Recognition of Credentials and Work Experience.
  4. Analyze the International Mobility Program and Its Economic Impact.
  5. Adopt an Intersectional Policy Lens.
  6. Expand Career Advancement and Mobility Pathways.

While the recommendations are insightful, we certainly hope the government of Canada, specifically the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, is listening.