Quebec newcomers struggle to find work

Posted by admin on Sep 22nd, 2007

TAVIA GRANT, Globe and Mail Update. September 10, 2007

Newcomers are facing severe challenges finding work in Quebec, while they tend to gain employment much more easily in Manitoba and Alberta, a national study showed Monday. Immigrants throughout Canada struggle for work in the first decade they  arrive, especially in the first five years. But nowhere is the problem more acute than in Quebec, where they experience “substantially” higher unemployment rates than Canadian-born people — regardless of how long they’d been in the country, Statistics Canada said.

The government agency used immigration data gathered last year from the labour force survey to analyze the immigrant labour market, focusing on people aged 25 to 54. The resulting study paints a contrasting picture of how immigrants fare from province to province.

Most immigrants who’ve lived in Canada for a decade or longer find jobs at the same rate as Canadian-born people as they become more integrated. In Quebec, however, even established immigrants can’t seem to find work — their unemployment rate was 9.2 per cent last year compared to 6.3 per cent for the whole province.

Linguistic challenges may be one reason. “There may be a greater linguistic mismatch, the French language skills to Quebec versus the English language skills to the rest of Canada,” said Morton Weinfeld, chairman of Canadian Ethnic Studies at McGill University. He believes that “there is still a large number [of immigrants] to Quebec that speak either English, or neither…that fact alone could explain the weaker economic integration.”

Several reasons exist for the employment gap in Quebec, the study says, among them that many immigrants tend to attend school or stay home to take care of their families. “Another factor that could explain higher unemployment rates among immigrants in Quebec could be related to the countries of birth of immigrants living in Quebec compared to other provinces,” the study said, adding that the topic will be discussed in a future report.

On the flip side, the jobless rate for established immigrants in Atlantic Canada was just 4.1 per cent – less than half the region’s 8.9-per-cent rate. By last year, most of the country’s immigrants came from Asia, particularly India and China. About a fifth of Canada’s population is born outside the country, one of the highest proportions in the world.

Immigrants will take on an even greater importance in the years ahead, as Canada copes with an aging population and looming labour shortages. If current rates continue, immigration could account for virtually all net labour force growth by 2011, the report said.  First-generation immigrants may have growing pains in integrating into the Canadian work force, but the problem eases with the second generation, Mr. Weinfeld pointed out.

“By the second generation, at least in terms of educational attainment including university enrolment, there really is no difference.” Overall, newcomers to Canada are much more likely to have a university education than Canadian-born residents, Statscan said. Thirty-six per cent of working age immigrants had at least a bachelor’s degree, while among those born in Canada the proportion was just 22 per cent.

Gender differences are also stark, the report showed. “Labour market outcomes were better for immigrant men than their female counterparts, and … young immigrant women in particular have struggled,” the analysts said. Regardless of how long they’d been in Canada, immigrant women had higher unemployment rates than both immigrant men and Canadian-born women.

The unemployment rate for women who’d been here for five years or less was 13 per cent last year, higher than 10.3 per cent among men in the same group and the 4.6 per cent for Canadian-born females.

Immigrants are more likely to work in factories as well as professional and technical services, and in accommodation and food services. Immigrants who’ve been in Canada for less than 10 years, meantime, struggle to establish themselves here. Very recent arrivals have a jobless rate of 11.5 per cent, more than double the Canadian average of 4.9 per
cent.  The need to adjust to a new life in Canada, get credential recognition and get retrained are some reasons for the gap. Immigrants themselves say the most serious difficulties in entering the work force are a lack of Canadian experience, lack of recognition of their credentials and language barriers, Statscan said, citing a 2003 study.

Immigrants tend to find work the fastest in Alberta, where a strong economy has created labour shortages, and Manitoba, which has a program that matches skilled workers to employment before they land. Integration is so successful in Manitoba that even recent immigrants had higher employment rates than Canadian-born people in other provinces. Ontario is still the largest provincial destination for immigrants, with British Columbia in second spot. Among cities, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are home to most immigrants. Job-wise, newcomers tend to fair better in Toronto and Vancouver than in

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