Nova workboard

a blog from young economists at Nova SBE

Immigration, Education, and Labour Market Outcome

Canada is as a culturally diverse nation where immigration plays an important role in shaping the demographic landscape of the population and labour force. It remains however that immigrants in Canada have higher unemployment rates than native born citizens even when comparing across educational attainment levels. This raises a number of policy questions as to why immigrants with similar education backgrounds remain highly unemployed. Immigration in Canada focuses on bringing in skilled economic class immigrants based on education, skills, knowledge of national languages, and other criteria to establish them as contributors to the Canadian economy. In 2011 economic class immigrants accounted for 62.8%[1] of all newcomers which include family class immigrants, refugees, and others. 

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One component that has been suggested as a determinant of the difference in labour market prospects of immigrant and native born citizens is the recognition of foreign credentials that may not adequately assess education and skill attainments achieved in an immigrant’s country of origin. Because of this, many immigrants with high skills and education are underutilized and find themselves in low-skilled jobs. In 2006, only 24% of immigrants with a university education were employed in an occupation matching their field of study compared to 62% of Canadian citizen[2]. This has significant implications for occupations and areas where Canada faces worker shortages, since qualified labour may be deemed unqualified for a suitable job due to the difficulty in assessing foreign education and credentials from their home country.

Research indicates that the age at which a child migrates to Canada is also an important factor in determining their education and labour market outcome. Although no significant difference is seen for immigrants up to the age of 9, school completion rates are significantly lower for those arriving after the age of 13 with approximately 20% and 25% of male and female immigrants respectively not graduating from high school[3]. In 2010 Canada had an overall non-completion of high school rate of 11.6%, with the high completions attributed to requiring a high school diploma for entry to the labour force[4]. It is suggested that the difficulties stem from the challenges that older youth immigrants face in assimilating especially in respect to learning the native languages, French of English. Given the cumulative nature of education, immigrants entering Canada at earlier ages will have more time spent in the Canadian education system adopting the culture and language of their destination.

These challenges imply a number of policy implications for Canada both in terms of an efficient labour market and education system. Given the prominence of immigrants in the Canadian society, smooth transitions into society and the labour force is important and facilitated by appropriate mechanisms and government policies. For youth immigrants the focus must be on removing barriers to high school graduation and successful adoption of native languages. For immigrants entering with foreign education, quick and accurate assessment of skills and qualifications is an important component to increasing immigrant participation in the labour market. Increasing education completion and labour market outcomes for immigrants will in turn have positive effects for the Canadian economy overall. 

Jacob Macdonald 


[1] Government of Canada – Citizenship and Immigration: “Facts and Figures 2011” http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/statistics/facts2011/index.asp

[2] René Houle, Lahouaria Yssaad. Statistics Canada 2010. “Recognition of newcomers’ foreign credentials and work experience” http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2010109/article/11342-eng.htm

[3] Miles Corak. Statistics Canada 2011. “Age at Immigration and the Education Outcomes of Children” http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11f0019m/11f0019m2011336-eng.htm 

[4] Conference Board of Canada. “High School Completion” http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/details/education/high-school-graduation-rate.aspx

[Chart] Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey (CANSIM Table 282-0106)

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Author: studentnovasbe

Master student in Nova Sbe

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