Special Guest Blog Post by Cyrus Gearhart Sie

Even by relaxed standards, most Canadians probably agree that Canada is significantly impacted by immigration. But how much do we know about it? For example, how many people knew about the Immigration Loan Program (ILP) before last year? By now, you might be familiar with the ILP and STAND Canada’s opposition to it. This post is simple in its objective: to outline barriers to immigrants’ achievement of economic success in Canada and to compare it with characteristics of ILP loan recipients.

The main factor to consider here is that immigrants earn less than native-born Canadians.

Understanding why immigrants earn less requires sifting through the academic research language of demographers, statisticians, geographers, economists, social workers, policy makers, urban planners, etc., the key points of which I summarize below:

  1. Refugees. Very succinctly, refugees earn less money than most other immigrant classes.
  2. Fluency in English and/or French. Simply put, immigrants that cannot speak English or French do not earn as much money. It is a limiting factor that curtails opportunities in employment, education, investment, taxation, etc.
  3. Imperfect labour substitution within education groups. In other words, an immigrant with the same education as a native-born Canadian is seen as “less qualified.”
  4. Devaluation of foreign labour market experience. Essentially, employers do not value work outside of Canada as much as work inside Canada. Two researchers studying data sets from 1966 to 2000 even found valuation of foreign experienceto be decreasing through the years.
  5. Visible minority groups are more likely to be unemployed. That is to say, the labour market is plagued by racism, affecting not only visible minority immigrants but also visible minority Canadians.

How does this compare to the typical loan recipient? According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)’s evaluation of the ILP:

  1. 97.8% are refugees.
  2. 53.5% do not speak English or French upon arrival.
  3. 62.3% have not attained higher than a high school diploma.
  4. 73.4% were new workers.
  5. 78.3% were from one of West Central Asia, the Middle East, or Western, Eastern, Central, or Southern Africa.

Based on the aforementioned factors, it is obvious that loan recipients are not in a strong position to earn income, let alone secure employment. All qualities observed among immigrants with low earnings apply to at least half of all loan recipients in every category. This is particularly alarming because the ILP dictates that payments begin 30 days after arrival in Canada, never mind settlement in permanent housing. In my humble experience, it takes more than 30 days to find a new job, even with a university education, Anglophonic and Francophonic ability, and work experience. How a loan recipient- and in this case, almost certainly a refugee- is expected to accomplish that feat is beyond me.

The CIC’s survey results confirm what the numbers predict: that most of all recipients have an incredibly difficult time repaying their loans. Many are simply unable to find work they are able to do without having fully adjusted yet- a process that probably takes longer than 30 days-, leaving many at risk of drifting into poverty. Is this reason to advocate receiving fewer refugees then? Of course not. Politically, this is part of our international obligation. Economically, the long-term rewards for doing so far outweigh the short-term costs. And socially, this is part of our heritage, not unlike hockey and maple syrup. So instead, STAND Canada strongly urges the Government to amend the ILP so that it truly reflects and supports the lived experiences of immigrants.

Take Action! Sign STAND Canada’s e-petition with the Government of Canada to reform the ILP program! Click here to show your support.

Works Cited

Abbott, Michael G. and Charles M. Beach. “Immigrant Earnings Mobility by Immigrant Admission Category in Canada.” Thinking Outside the Box: Innovation in Policy Ideas (eds. Keith G. Bating, Richard P. Chaykowski, and Steven F. Lehrer). McGill-Queen’s University Press (2015).

Aydemir, Abdurrahman and Mikal Skuterud. “Explaining the Deteriorating Entry Earnings of Canada’s Immigrant Cohorts, 1966-2000.” The Canadian Journal of Economics / Revue canadienne d’Economique, Vol. 38 (2): May 2005. Pp 641-671.

Block, Sheila and Grace-Edward Galabuzi. Canada’s Colour Coded Labour Market: The gap for racialized workers. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. March 2011.

Card, David. “Immigration and Inequality.” The American Economic Review, Vol. 99 (2): May 2009. Pp 1-21.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Evaluation of the Immigration Loan Program. September 2015.

Haan, Michael. “The Place of Place: Location and Immigrant Economic Well-being in Canada.” Population Research and Policy Review, Vol. 27 (6): December 2008. Pp 751-771.

Hou, Feng and Garnett Picot. “Annual Levels of Immigration and Immigrant Entry Earnings in Canada.” Canadian Public Policy / Analyse de Politiques, Vol. 40 (2): June 2014. Pp 166-181.

McDonald, James Ted and Christopher Worswick. “Unemployment Incidence of Immigrant Men in Canada.” Canadian Public Policy / Analyse de Politiques, Vol. 23 (4) : December 1997. Pp 353-373.

Nadeau, Serge and Aylin Seckin. “The Immigrant Wage Gap in Canada: Quebec and the Rest of Canada.” Canadian Public Policy / Analyse de Politiques, Vol. 36 (3) : September 2010. Pp 265-285.

Picot, Garnett, Feng Hou, and Simon Coulombe. “Poverty Dynamics among Recent Immigrants to Canada.” The International Migration Review, Vol. 42 (2): 2008. Pp 393-424.

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