Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Difficult to find job in own field, immigrants say

Toronto Star
But most would repeat their choice to come to Canada
May 01, 2007 04:30 AM
Nicholas Keung

Almost half of Canada's newcomers say they find it difficult to get employment related to their education and training, while one in four has problems with at least one of the two official languages.

Yet according to a longitudinal survey that tracked the progress of 7,700 new immigrants in their first four years in Canada, 72 per cent insist they would still come to the country if they had to make the decision again.

Experts say the findings of the two related reports, both released by Statistics Canada yesterday, speak to the general satisfaction of Canada's quality of life – but also underline the disconnect between the country's immigration selection policy and labour market needs.

"Overall, immigrants seem to be happy in Canada, which is great," said professor Joerg Dietz of the University of Western Ontario's Richard Ivey School of Business, an expert in immigrant employment.

"But that's not the end of the story. Our immigrants also reported that finding employment is the single largest issue. The situation will become even more critical because by 2011, 100 per cent of our labour force (growth) will be made up of immigrants."

Among the different classes of newcomers, economic immigrants – those selected for their education and professional skills – are least satisfied with their new lives. Just one-third report a level of "material well-being" better than it was prior to arriving.

In contrast, 58 per cent of family-class immigrants and 69 per cent of refugees said their lives have improved since coming here, said one of the two reports, Immigrants' Perspectives on Their First Four Years in Canada.

The second report, titled Knowledge of Official Languages among New Immigrants, found that newcomers' employment rates increased with their ability to speak English.

About one-fifth of immigrants self-reported that they were "very good in English" and some 45 per cent said they had taken language training in English since coming to Canada.

The respondents were interviewed at six, 24 and 48 months after their arrival. An "appropriate job" is defined as one that's high-skill, in a field intended by the immigrant, the same as before the migration, relevant to the individual's education and training, and the pay associated with the job.

Language proficiency is strongly linked with the kind of job new immigrants find. Those who reported speaking English well or very well were more likely to have an "appropriate" job.

The percentage of employed immigrants grew from 51 per cent in six months to 65 per cent after two years and 75 per cent at the end of the fourth year – closing in on the national average of 81.8 per cent in the same age group between 25 and 44.