Canada’s educated immigrants stuck in low-skilled jobs

Could Canada be addressing its skill shortage by looking to immigrants who are already in the country?

Canada is a world leader in integrating new immigrants, but the rest of the world is catching up and there is still room for improvement according to a new international report card.  

Canada sits near the top of most categories in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study, which measures integration of immigrants in 34 wealthy countries. It compared outcomes for immigrants and their children looking at factors such as income, health, education and civic engagement.

Canada ranked first in the world on the percentage of immigrants who take up citizenship (75%), and does well on the equality of opportunity available to children of immigrants. It also has the highest percentage of immigrants with a post-secondary degree, 52% , and the lowest proportion of immigrants considered to be low-educated.

“Canada is doing quite well. That should not come as a surprise,” said Jean-Christophe Dumont, head of the International Migration Division of the OECD. “Overall, the finding is that immigrants are well-integrated in the labour market and have fairly good results in health, education and civic engagement.”

He said the type of migrants Canada receives compared to other OECD countries, was quite different with  a focus on skilled migrants, more migrants from Asia, who tend to perform quite well and whose children perform quite well.

“The other element is that the labour market situation is much better overall in Canada than it is in a number of European countries,” he said.

But results are less favourable in other areas. Canada has many highly educated immigrants working in low-skilled jobs, the report found. Income was significantly lower for immigrants than it was for the native-born. The country also had a poor score on housing affordability, partly because of its high prices and partly because publicly subsidized housing was much more prevalent in Europe. The relative disadvantage of immigrants has been increasing, rather than decreasing, since 2000.

The federal government has announced it will introduce a new system for selecting immigrants designed to improve economic outcomes, but it will not be in place until 2014.

Australia was very close to Canada on most rankings, due in part to a similar history as an immigrant-selecting country. But Canada’s best results seem to be on the measures of integration for the second generation, the children of immigrants.

“Canada is above Australia and all other countries in this respect,” Dumont said. “If there are problems, they don’t necessarily go from one generation to the next. It obviously takes time to settle in the country of landing, but in Canada after one generation and even before, most of the integration is on a good track.”

The children of immigrants have very high educational achievement and an unemployment rate two percentage points lower than the children of the native-born, the study found.

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