Adult newcomers more likely to be jobless
Canadians and younger immigrants enjoy greater success in labour markets
For years it’s been a common complaint among newcomers to Canada that the lack of recognition of foreign credentials, including schooling and job experience, has held them back in the labour market.
Now a new study out of Montreal has more discouraging news for adult immigrants hoping to cash in on the promise of a new land.
The Institute for Research on Public Policy has found that, even with postsecondary education from a Canadian institution, newcomers who arrive in Canada over the age of 18 are more likely to be underemployed, or even unemployed, than both their Canadianborn peers and those who come to the country at an earlier age.
“ The earlier in life immigrants arrive, the more their academic paths will resemble those of their Canadian-born counterparts, and the easier it will be for them to master one of the official languages in Canada,” said Maude Boulet, one of the study’s authors and an expert in industrial relations at the Université de Montréal.
Co-author Brahim Boudarbat, a former University of B. C. labour economics professor who now teaches at UdeM, said the difference comes down largely to linguistic ability and cultural integration.
“ One interesting thing that we found is that immigrants who come very young make almost the same [ education] choices as those who are Canadianborn do” when it comes to fields and levels of study, Boudarbat said.
“ It matches the native labour market.”
Adult immigrants lack that advantage.
Most must learn either French or English when they arrive, Boudarbat said. Even among those who come to the country with some level of fluency, “ the quality of the language is not the same,” he said.
“ Some people suggest that you can get a Canadian university degree with a low level of language, but maybe you cannot get a good job,” he said.
The economic news was slightly more hopeful for adult immigrants in British Columbia, where, at 89.3 per cent, the group boasted the highest employment success rate across the country, according to the study. Among Canadian-born workers in the province, the employment rate was closer to 92 per cent.
Curiously, B. C. immigrant youth were least likely to be employed compared to others in the country. The employment rate among young newcomers in the province was just 87.3 per cent, compared to 96 per cent in Ontario and 90.4 per cent in Quebec.
“ I can’t explain what is going on there,” Boudarbat said of the numbers.
Older newcomers to B. C. are also less likely than immigrants elsewhere in the country to attain postgraduate degrees.
Indeed, only 17.4 per cent pursued a master’s or PhD in B. C., compared to 45.9 per cent of those living in Montreal and 30.8 per cent in the Prairies.
“ I think this is a good thing for immigrants in B. C., to not necessarily spend a long time studying and looking for higher degrees that don’t necessarily pay in the labour market,” Boudarbat said.
Nationally, people born in Canada with college diplomas had a 91.8 per cent employment rate, the study showed. Those who immigrated as a minor had an employment rate of 92.6 per cent, and those coming to Canada as adults were employed at a 90.6 per cent rate.
For those with bachelor’s degrees, the employment rate was 91.5 per cent for those born in Canada, 94.2 per cent for those who immigrated younger than 18, and 81.6 per cent for those arriving at 18 or older.
Among those with master’s degrees or doctorates, the employment rate was 93 per cent for Canadian-born people, 89.1 per cent for those who immigrated as youths, and 88.5 per cent for those who immigrated as adults.
Boudarbat said immigrants who came to Canada as youths tend to be more flexible in the jobs they will take than those born in this country and also those who arrive later in life. But this was also thought to be a factor in the study’s finding that younger immigrants are less likely to be in jobs related to their area of education.
The study recommends that immigrants of all ages more carefully consider their fields of study based on the needs of the labour market. It also calls on the federal government to favour younger newcomers in its labour-marketbased approach to immigration. Boudarbat said this would include adult immigrants younger than 30, and also those with children. He said other studies have shown that younger adult immigrants tend to have more success in the labour market than older immigrants. The issue of Canadian employers recognizing foreign educational credentials was factored out by the study’s methodology. It was based on Statistics Canada data on the employment status of people in 2005 who had completed Canadian postsecondary education in 2000.
Download the full study at www.irpp.org.