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by Howard Ramos in Halifax 

Canada’s immigration system recruits the overwhelming majority of its immigrants to the country through economic pathways. 

Still, many highly educated and skilled economic immigrants struggle to find decent jobs and many end up working in the service sector, driving taxis or in other low-skill jobs to make ends meet. 

University of Windsor professor Reza Nakhaie’s research adds new insight to the debate on whether self-employment yields better economic advantages for immigrants. 

In the past, researchers found that self-employment leads to social and economic mobility. This was largely the case for immigrants who came to Canada during earlier waves of migration. Other research shows that new immigrants have low returns on self-employment and it might not pay off. 

For many immigrants starting a business remains a key strategy for pursuing their dreams of a new life in Canada.

Even so, for many immigrants starting a business remains a key strategy for pursuing their dreams of a new life in Canada and many come to the country through provincial pathways for entrepreneurs. 

Double disadvantage for ‘ethnic’ immigrants 

Published in the Canadian Review of Sociology, Nakhaie’s findings show that self-employment is not a magic solution for immigrants facing precarious work and that they are pushed into it as a survival strategy. 

Using census data, Nakhaie finds that generally immigrants who are self-employed earn less money than those who work for others through waged employment. He also finds that when comparing immigrants who are self-employed, those who are visible minorities earn significantly less than those who are not. 

This leads him to conclude that “there is a double disadvantage for minority immigrants … they are disadvantaged as visible minority and as immigrant.” 

 

"The larger the ethnic population, the more likely a need for specialized services."

His research, however, shows that there are exceptions to these findings. 

Self-employed South Asians, Southeast Asians and Arabs earn more when they run their own business and more specifically, self-employed visible-minority immigrants in white-collar professions – such as law, medicine, or finance – earn more than immigrants working for wages. 

When asked to elaborate on these findings, Nakhaie notes, “It is important to break down categories of immigrant groups.”  

He adds that “the size of an ethnic community is important. The larger the ethnic population, the more likely a need for specialized services. But there is a disadvantage if the industry is overcrowded as can be the case with ethnic restaurants, food stores, or other services.” 

The need for a long-term plan 

As an immigrant from Iran, Nakhaie also struggled in the Canadian labour market when he first arrived. 

“As an immigrant I didn’t always have job opportunities,” he recalls. “I had to drive a cab, did dishwashing, and construction. All the time my friends said that I should start a business.” 

However, the professor came to Canada as a student with the goal of getting a university degree and he wanted to see that plan through. 

[I]t is important that policies that support immigrant businesses recognize these obstacles and focus on low-interest loans.

He explains that it is important for new immigrants to set objectives on what they want to accomplish in Canada and that is key to their successful integration. 

“Immigrants need a long-term plan. You won’t normally succeed in the first five years,” he says. “On average, several studies show a minimum of three years and a maximum of 11 to integrate into the economy … My advice is to set a goal. In the long run it should pay off.” 

Support for immigrant-owned businesses

When asked if his research can offer any insight to immigrants wishing to pursue their own business versus seeking waged employment, he says immigrants “should use their human capital, they have huge amounts of it, but not necessarily ‘Canadian’ experience or connections.” 

The lack of widespread networks is an obstacle to well-paid wage labour as well as a successful business. 

For this reason, Nakhaie says it is important that policies that support immigrant-owned businesses recognize these obstacles and focus on low-interest loans and ones based on business plans over collateral. 

This approach could lead to a better payoff for immigrants who are self-employed, he suggests.


Howard Ramos is a Professor of Sociology at Dalhousie University. His research focuses on issues of social justice including the non-economic elements of immigration and examination of family and non-economic streams of immigration to Canada.

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Economy

by Marcus Medford in Toronto 

Settlement agencies in Canada’s Atlantic provinces are working closely with provincial governments to better service immigrants, but say they need federal support to attract newcomers to smaller communities.

The provinces and territories select which immigrants they want to accept based on their local economic needs. In the past 15 years, the number of immigrants settling in the Maritimes has increased, but their numbers remain the lowest of all the provinces, explained Ather H. Akbari, an economics professor at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. 

“Larger provinces are traditional destinations for immigrants and have established communities with multiple religious and ethnic institutions, which help immigrants with aspects of settlement, but [these resources] are scarce in Atlantic Canada,” he explained, while leading a workshop titled “Economic Integration of Immigrants in Atlantic Canada,” at the 18th National Metropolis Conference in Toronto earlier this month. 

The five steps of economic integration are home ownership, car ownership, citizenship, English proficiency and earning a better income said Akbari. These five things are indicators that newcomers to Canada are invested in their new destination and intend to stay. 

[R]etention rates of immigrants in Atlantic Canada are low even in regions with large ethnic communities.

Akbari noted that the retention rates of immigrants in Atlantic Canada are low even in regions with large ethnic communities. 

“If the networks are not instrumental then there is clearly a need for government policy and settlement agencies to play a larger role in immigrant settlement and integration,” he said. 

Resources for Entrepreneurs 

In New Brunswick, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) has partnered with the government to provide financial support for French-speaking immigrant entrepreneurs in an effort to retain the francophone community. 

Attracting and retaining immigrants in rural areas can be difficult admitted Paul-Emile David, senior policy analyst for ACOA. David and ACOA work closely with businesses, governments and research institutions to find and develop entrepreneurial opportunities. 

“We offer programs, initiatives and support so entrepreneurial activities can take place in these areas,” he said. 

There are more than 40 Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs) in Atlantic Canada, many of which are in rural areas. 

Entrepreneurial initiatives need access to financing, resources and business skills development courses, David explained. One example of this is Island Advance in Prince Edward Island, which stimulates entrepreneurial projects and helps immigrants recognize good business opportunities. 

For some immigrants and refugees learning English can be the most challenging part of integration.

More funding for integration supports 

As of the end of February, 25,000 Syrian refugees had arrived in Canada, and by the end of the year that total is expected to reach 50,000, making localized support for integration a key issue across the country. 

“We’re hoping that Ottawa will provide some strategic investments very soon in order to put the supports that are needed in place as soon as possible,” said Chris Friesen, director of settlement services with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. 

He said he hopes that the new federal funding plan for the provinces and territories, along with help from local agencies, will speed up the process of matching immigrants and refugees with language courses. 

For some immigrants and refugees learning English can be the most challenging part of integration. 

It can take up to 16 months for newcomers to Canada to be accepted into federally funded language courses. Some have reported feeling “trapped” because of their lack of English knowledge, meaning they can’t fully interact with society. 

One of the reasons for the long wait-times to get into language programs is a lack of funding and resources. Wait-times also tend to be longer in bigger cities. 

Challenges with government-assisted stream

Of the 25,000 Syrian refugees more than half of them are government-assisted, the others are sponsored privately or with some support from the government. 

For refugees and immigrants alike, one of the most important steps to settling into Canada is finding a job and becoming economically independent. 

[F]or some immigrants and refugees, finding a job isn’t just a matter of earning an income.

Approximately 14 per cent of government-assisted refugees find work within their first year of being in Canada compared to more than 50 per cent of those who are privately assisted. 

“One of the unique challenges for government-assisted refugees is that they’re funded by the federal government for one year,” explained Nabiha Atallah, communications and outreach manager at the settlement agency ISANS (Immigration Services Association of Nova Scotia). “After that they need to support themselves or go on social assistance, but they want to work. They really want to work.” 

Atallah spoke during the workshop about strategies for economic integration for immigrants. 

She explained that for some immigrants and refugees, finding a job isn’t just a matter of earning an income, but helps with overcoming the depression, frustration and feelings of loss of self or status that can accompany relocating. 

Even highly skilled immigrants with work experience, education and English proficiency are experiencing difficulty finding jobs, Atallah said. 

ISANS works with several companies to understand their employer needs and to develop training curricula so that immigrants and refugees know what it takes to work at a particular business or organization. 

Matching clients’ interests, skills and abilities with the right employers and planning with end goals in mind are some of the keys to successful job searching, Atallah explained. 

“We also do a lot of work with interview skills because a lot of that is culture-laden. In some countries they don’t have interviews at all and if they do, they don’t look like ours.”


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Economy

by Danica Samuel in Toronto 

Focusing on developing immigrants’ soft skills may be one solution to increasing the hiring and retention of newcomers in the workplace. 

This was just one of several strategies to come out of discussions on the first day of the 18th National Metropolis Conference at the Westin Harbour Castle hotel in Toronto this past week. 

“Twenty-two per cent of employers said soft skills is the reason that newcomers are not able to retain work,” explained Nadil Jamil, policy strategist for Peel Newcomer Strategy Group, during a workshop titled “Multi-Sectoral Collaboration: Towards Innovative Strategies for the Employment Retention of Newcomers”. “This was also the second highest reason we found in our research.” 

Jamil said the group’s 2015 employment survey found that even if newcomers are able to secure employment, job retention continues to be a problem due to a lack of soft skills. 

[T]he varying definitions [of soft skills] are where the problem ultimately lies.

“What does ‘soft skills’ mean?” she asked audience members. Skills like the comprehension of hierarchy and simple workplace courtesy were some of the responses. Jamil concluded that the varying definitions are where the problem ultimately lies. 

She emphasized that it’s also very important to ask, “How can soft skills for newcomers be improved without imposing on specific cultural norms?” 

Who is the ‘right fit’? 

The workshop went on to explore the perceptions of newcomers and the cultural norms of employers. 

“Why aren’t immigrants considered integral when it comes to the hiring process?” asked Sangeeta Subramanian, senior manager in workplace development for British Columbia’s Immigration Employment Council (IEC). 

She addressed the idea of a ‘right-fit’ and described it through an employer’s lens, which often means hiring someone who reflects their own image.

She went on to say that sustaining collaborative partnerships with recruiters working with immigrants specifically can help attract, hire, and retain them in the labour markets. 

[S]trategically challenging the language employers use when seeking new hires will lead them into changing their perspective.

Workshop panellist, Rodel Imbarlina-Ramos, who is the manager of employer relations at the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), agreed that strategically challenging the language employers use when seeking new hires will lead them into changing their perspective. 

Ramos said that it’s a matter of pitching new concepts to employers, without specifically mentioning words that may bring attention to race, diversity and newcomer inclusion. 

“All of a sudden we have changed the language by taking the cultural component out so it isn’t about whether someone is a student, a new grad or new to the workplace, nor is it about if an individual is new to Canada, it’s about trying to get the most out of people in the workplace.” 

Anita Sampson Binder, vice-president of ARES Staffing Solutions, calls this employer language tactic “soft educating.” 

“We don’t want to nail employers that we are trying to have on board. We want to encourage them to take the right steps forward in including immigrants and racialized people,” she explained during another workshop titled “Employer Strategies to Support Immigrant Employment”, which discussed the integration of immigrants in the workplace and employers’ perception of ‘foreign’ faces. 

Governments to play a role also 

Director of the Equity, Diversity and Human Rights Office, Uzma Shakir, said getting employers and government officials to listen is the frustrating part. 

“Twenty-seven years later, and I’m still talking about this,” she stated. 

Shakir explained that government bodies, like the City of Toronto, are just as responsible as any other employer for the hiring of newcomers. 

Her four-step module is just a start in creating a better environment for immigrants, racialized groups, aboriginals and people with disabilities. 

It includes the implementation of an employment equity policy, the Accessibility Of Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA), a human rights and anti-harassment/discrimination policy and legislation to ‘expand’ protection to all residents with or without documentation and the Toronto Newcomer Strategy, which applies a newcomer lens to all activities. 

“We’re trying to steer away from blaming the newcomer and focus on how we can engage employers ..."

Newcomers not to blame

Julia Ramirez, project coordinator of the Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) of Fredericton, introduced a strategy not only for employers and policy makers, but for immigrants and citizens as well. 

Her Newcomer Service Map is a new strategy that the LIP of Fredericton plans on using to integrate the community’s feedback and knowledge to facilitate immigration settlement. 

“The idea is to enhance the collaboration and partnership around community members.”  

Ramirez also suggested that there needs to be a change in the employers’ perception of skilled immigrant workers. 

“It’s not that [immigrants or newcomers don’t] want to do the work,” explained Ramirez. “It’s that the company doesn’t want to receive them.” 

“We’re trying to steer away from blaming the newcomer and focus on how we can engage employers in a way that solves this ongoing problem,” Jamil added. 

Results of Peel region’s soft skills research study will be released in May 2016 and the LIP of Fredericton’s Newcomer Service Map will launch later this month.

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Economy
Tuesday, 16 February 2016 19:58

Myth Busting in Nova Scotia

Commentary by Howard Ramos in Halifax 

With a rapidly aging population and low birth rate, Canada’s Atlantic provinces have turned full force towards immigration. 

Nova Scotia, for instance, has nearly doubled its allocation of provincial nominees and Premier Stephen McNeil has been a vocal supporter of immigration as a solution to the province’s problems. 

This being the case, it is worth asking how immigrants fare there. 

Individuals such as Globe and Mail columnist, John Ibbitson, believe that, “Immigrants avoid the Maritimes because of the lack of economic opportunities and because they tend to gravitate toward communities that already have newcomers.” 

However, a recent report for Pathways to Prosperity (P2P) by Yoko Yoshida, Madine VanderPlaat and myself of Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s universities, in partnership with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), suggests that immigrants do well in Nova Scotia. 

Debunking myths

The report busts a number of myths. The first is that immigrants don’t find work in the province. 

This may have been the case a couple of decades ago, however, recent economic immigrants who arrived in Nova Scotia between 2010 and 2012 out-performed newcomers in other parts of Canada. 

Immigrants to the province actually have higher rates of employment one year after arriving (76 per cent) compared to Canada as a whole (73 per cent). 

[I]n Nova Scotia, economic principal applicants’ average earnings are $44,000 compared to $36,000 nationally.

Another busted myth is that immigrants will be underemployed compared to other parts of the country. 

The report finds that one year after landing in Nova Scotia, economic principal applicants’ average earnings are $44,000 compared to $36,000 nationally. 

Changes in policy and the success of settlement organizations, such as ISANS, have clearly worked at better integrating recent cohorts of immigrants to the province. This is largely because of the work they do in terms of language training, employment and interview coaching, and bridging programs that link immigrants to specific job sectors.

One more busted myth is that immigrant spouses and partners do not fully contribute to the economy. 

The report shows that 96 per cent of spouses and partners who come with economic immigrants and 91 per cent of family sponsored spouses and partners are of “prime” working age, between 20 and 55 years old. 

The majority of spouses and partners are also employed one year after arrival and over a third have a university degree. 

When spouses and partners immigrating to Nova Scotia are compared to immigrants settling across Canada we find that rates of employment are about the same, however, when earnings are examined the report again shows an advantage for family sponsored spouses and partners in Nova Scotia. 

For those landing between 2010 and 2012, average earnings were $26,000 one year after arriving compared to $22,000 for immigrants across Canada. Policy makers should not underestimate the economic potential of sponsored family immigrants. 

Emerging trends 

Such findings show that the federal government’s decision to increase the cap on immigrants to the province is well justified and that Nova Scotia is right to continue to ask for more immigrants. 

[M]ore autonomy in crafting immigration policy ... could be a way to stem population pressures and even grow the economy.

If the trends identified in the report continue, more autonomy in crafting immigration policy to the region with a broader mix of immigration pathways could be a way to stem population pressures and even grow the economy. 

The report, however, also identifies some trends that should be examined further and that need policy attention. 

In particular, when a comparison is made between economic and family-sponsored stream immigrants, interesting findings emerge. 

For instance, among cohorts of immigrants landing in Nova Scotia in the 1990s and early 2000s, family-sponsored spouses and partners rivalled and even outperformed economic-stream principal applicants, which suggests that there is an important role for the family stream in the immigration mix. This is a trend unique to the region and one that has shifted in recent years. 

[I]t is important for Nova Scotia to continue to invest in researching immigration.

Also worth policy attention are the noticeable differences identified in the report between economic versus family-sponsored spouses and partners. 

The economic successes have been greater for spouses and partners coming through the family pathway rather than those who come with economic principal applicants. It is unclear why this might be the case and this should be a focus of future analysis. 

A need for more research

Questions like these mean that it is important for Nova Scotia to continue to invest in researching immigration. 

It is through investigation and critical review that strong evidence-based policies can be developed. 

Such policies combined with quality efforts by settlement organizations are what have led to the dramatic shift in how immigrants fare in Nova Scotia. 

Premier McNeil and Immigration Minister Lena Diab, who is the daughter of first generation immigrants herself, are right to encourage immigrants to come to Nova Scotia. They will likely be successful in integrating into jobs and making meaningful contributions to the province. 

It is now time to let the rest of Canada in on the secret: immigrants do well in Nova Scotia.


Howard Ramos is a professor of sociology at Dalhousie University. His research focuses on issues of social justice including the non-economic elements of immigration and examination of family and non-economic streams of immigration to Canada.

Published in Commentary
Thursday, 08 October 2015 16:03

Family Reunification: The Economic Cost

by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver

As the date of the federal election draws nearer, political candidates have begun to consider the costs of reuniting immigrant families – both economically and socially. 

On September 25, Justin Trudeau announced that if elected, the Liberal government would double the number of applications allowed for parents and grandparents to 10,000 each year, speed up permanent residency applications for spouses and raise the age limit for dependants.

“Making it easier for families to be together here in Canada makes more than just economic sense. When Canadians have added supports, like family involvement in child care, it helps drive productivity and economic growth,” Trudeau stated.

The Conservative response to this statement was critical. “The previous Liberal governments made all of the same kinds of promises, and they left a system with seven and eight-year wait times,” said Jason Kenney, Conservative candidate and former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, at a news conference.

Kenney toted the Conservative government’s accomplishments, stating that they have increased overall immigration levels by over 20 per cent, admitting 258,000 new permanent residents per year.

The majority of these individuals, however, are classified as economic immigrants – individuals who are sought after for their applicable skill sets – not members of the family class Trudeau spoke of.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) figures, 63.4 per cent of new permanent residents were economic immigrants in 2014, while 25.6 were family class and 8.9 were refugees.

“The government has made it clear that they want to favour economic immigration, so they’re putting an emphasis on making that part of things work.”

“The main issue is that [family reunification is] just not [a] priority for government,” says Janet Dench, the Executive Director of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “The government has made it clear that they want to favour economic immigration, so they’re putting an emphasis on making that part of things work.”

Express entry

On January 1 of this year, the government announced its new policy of express entry, which expedites the application process for qualified economic immigrants.

Under express entry, applicants to the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program and the Canadian Experience Class may enter Canada in as little as six months. 

Kenney recently referred to express entry as “a system that’s fast, that connects people to the labour market so they can realize their dreams and fulfill their potential upon arrival in Canada.”

The system compares candidates against one another, ranking their skills and experience levels using a points-based system. Those who receive the highest scores are then invited to apply for permanent residency. 

In 2014, the number of economic immigrants who came to Canada was 165,088, the largest number in 12 years, except for a spike in 2010. Compare this with the 66,659 family class immigrants brought to Canada in 2014. 

“If you try to attract the more knowledgeable immigrants, then our market is going to globally be more advantaged over time and more competitive.”

Marc Yvan Valade, a PhD candidate in policy studies at Ryerson University, explains that the government has prioritized these workers over families because they provide a skilled and capable workforce to Canadian employers. 

“If you try to attract the more knowledgeable immigrants – those who have diplomas, who have experience – then our market is going to globally be more advantaged over time and more competitive,” he says.

By allowing entry to those able to financially support themselves, the government also reduces costs associated with resettlement, welfare and health programs, he said.

However, he feels this belief is “short-term” as well as unverified. According to Valade, the skilled immigrant workers he has encountered during his research say that the skills they were brought to Canada for are not being valued once they enter the country. 

“Most of them are saying, ‘Well, we found out in a difficult way that our lack of Canadian experience on the market was a big hurdle and most employers didn’t want to hire us because they felt insecure with what we were bringing,’” he shares.

“They feel kind of cheated, forced into survival jobs of which they often remain prisoner,” he adds.

Refocus on the families

For Dench, this focus on economic interests distracts from those who are the most at risk – families and children seeking reunification.

“Children who are waiting to be reunited with their parents in Canada can routinely wait two, three, four years for the processing,” says Dench. “In the case of refugees in particular, the children are often left behind in a very dangerous situation.” 

According to the CIC, spouses, common-law partners or dependent children (under 19 years of age) applying to be reunited with their families in Canada can wait between six months and four years for their applications to be processed. The minimum wait time increases significantly for parents and grandparents, adopted children, children to be adopted, orphans and other family classes.

For refugees, the wait times are also exorbitantly long. 

“It’s cruel to ask spouses to wait far longer in war zones than we ask skilled workers to wait.”

Laura Best, an immigration and refugee lawyer with Embarkation Law Corporation, works with individuals attempting to bring their family members to Canada on a daily basis. 

“It’s very frustrating and difficult to explain to people that if their partner applied to come to Canada through a skilled worker program, they could be here much faster than applying through a family class to reunite with their loved ones,” she says. “It really speaks to the priorities of the government.” 

She continues: “It’s cruel to ask spouses to wait far longer in war zones than we ask skilled workers to wait.”

Policy changes moving forward

The federal government recently announced that it was increasing its resources aimed at resettling refugees from Syria and Iraq, doubling the number of employees at the Winnipeg processing centre where all refugee applications are handled and sending more immigration officers abroad.

While Dench is happy to see that the government is going to try to reduce the red tape surrounding resettlement and immigration for refugees, she is disappointed that there haven’t been any measures specifically addressing family reunification.

“Why are not all [of] these families priorities?” she asks. “Reuniting children with their parents, that should be a priority and there’s really no excuse for Canada to be routinely taking more that six months for those children to come to Canada.” 

“It doesn’t need to all be about narrowly answering Canada’s economic needs, but reuniting families and protecting refugees are important and valid objectives that also need to be responded to,” she concludes.


This is part one of a two-part series looking at family reunification policy. The second instalment will focus on the pros and cons of family reunification.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Policy

by Prof. Parvati Nair, UNU-GCM, United Nations University in Barcelona

A child should not have to die to mobilize governments into credible action. 

The photograph of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi's body washed ashore, which has mobilized international responses to the ongoing migration crisis in the Mediterranean over the past week, signals two inter-related tragedies: firstly, that of the human loss and suffering that is ongoing in this context, and secondly, that of the dire shortcomings of global and regional good governance of migration. 

As the EU prepares to address this issue in the run-up to the High Level Side Event on Migration planned at the UN on 30 September, there is an urgent need to reflect on how best to swiftly and competently address the mounting crisis in migration to Europe. 

[M]igration is a fact as old as the history of humanity itself.

While Italy and Greece are overwhelmed as receiving points of migration from across the Mediterranean, there is every indication that the numbers of refugees who have entered Europe form only a small proportion of those who are already displaced and making their tortuous ways via Libya, Turkey, Eastern Europe and other routes in search of a safe and dignified life. 

Multiple causes for migration

There are some important facts that must be taken into account in this context: firstly, a condition for positive dialogue among global leaders is the understanding that migration is a fact as old as the history of humanity itself. 

Secondly, the flows coming into Europe today are mixed. It would appear that certain world leaders may favour hosting refugees (if only because there is a certain historical and political kudos to be found in the idea of Europe as a place of shelter), but reject the thought of offering hospitality to 'economic migrants' as those coming to take advantage of European wealth. 

In reality, there are multiple causes that displace populations and trigger migration. Refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants move shoulder to shoulder along networks and routes to Europe. 

Thirdly, the vast and growing underworld of smugglers and traffickers (at times it is hard, if not impossible, to disentangle the one from the other) thrive off existing European border policies and practices. The denial of visas and the building of fences with ever more razor wire foster the business of smugglers and force migrants down unsafe and undignified terrains of illegality. This is not the way forward. 

Relieving burden on Greece, Italy

Governments must understand that for as long as vast global inequalities that relate at once to questions of wealth, well-being, freedoms, rights, peace, security and democracy exist between Europe and other parts of the world, there will be both the absolute need and the overwhelming desire to access Europe. 

Against this backdrop, global leaders need to respond proactively in the short, medium and longer terms in order to safeguard lives and diminish suffering. 

As a first step, European leaders must establish a common asylum policy that sets procedures whereby residency and benefits are on offer equally across European states. 

For governance to be credible, what is needed is an approach that is proactive, not responsive.

Perhaps Europe could look back at that other image of a suffering child that once mobilized a similar response – the girl fleeing napalm in Vietnam – and work towards a resettlement plan that is shared and that takes into account not solely those already in Europe, but also the many more on their way. Europe has room for them. 

The current burden on Greece and Italy needs urgently to be relieved. It also seems imperative to open legal channels for migrants, so that they do not surrender their safety into the hands of smugglers. 

A common asylum policy with applications processed along transit routes would enable legal, safe and managed migration into Europe. While this is being implemented, governments need urgently to contribute funds to the many agencies that are currently providing for the basic needs of migrants. 

In the medium term, European leaders need to engage with governments in Turkey and the Gulf. 

While Turkey currently hosts large numbers of Syrian and other refugees, the granting of residence and employment rights via visas would enable them to both contribute positively to local economies and ensure their safety and dignity. The Gulf countries too could engage in settlement programmes – if the political will were present. 

In the longer term, there is much that remains to be done. The ending of conflicts, greater development, and the ending of political oppression are all necessary for well-being, democracy and dignity. For governance to be credible, what is needed is an approach that is proactive, not responsive, and that acts always within the larger frame of human rights. 


by Dr. Melissa Siegel, UNU-MERITUnited Nations University in Maastricht

With migrants arriving – and dying – every day in Europe, countries like Sweden and Germany have been stepping up and giving a good example to their European neighbours; but sadly this example is not being readily followed.

The general lack of coordination at EU level is simply unacceptable and frankly embarrassing for a region that prides itself on upholding principles of human rights.

[R]efugees are resilient, hardworking people trying to make a better life for themselves.

As EU leaders prevaricate over the 200,000 refugees they have agreed to take over the next five years, countries neighbouring Syria have seen their populations rise by as much as a quarter.

Lebanon and Jordan, with populations of 4.5 and 6.5 million, are respectively hosting more than 1.2 million and 650,000 refugees, while Turkey continues to welcome additional refugees after having absorbed 1.6 million.

Refugees as part of economic development

For too long, Europe has given aid while saying, ‘not in my backyard’; this policy is not only shameful, but also completely unrealistic.

Camps in neighbouring countries are overflowing and people have few other options than to move on.

“The deteriorating conditions in Lebanon and Jordan, particularly the lack of food and health care,” writes Harriet Grant in The Guardian newspaper, “have become intolerable for many of the 4 million people who have fled Syria, driving fresh waves of refugees northwest towards Europe and aggravating the current crisis.”

This means we are going to continue to see refugees and asylum seekers knocking on Europe’s door. If Europe really cares about the well-being of these individuals (and human rights principles more generally), then more durable solutions need to be taken at a European level. This starts with accepting more UNHCR resettles so that they do not need to make the dangerous journey to Europe themselves.

European leaders should also change their thinking about the current refugee situation and embrace it as an opportunity instead of a threat. As Professor Alexander Betts of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford puts it, we could ‘treat refugees as a development issue.’

He argues that refugees are resilient, hardworking people trying to make a better life for themselves. By doing so, they are able to greatly contribute to the development of the economy and society in their host country.

Europe, with an ageing population, should see this situation as not only a humanitarian responsibility, but also an opportunity to bring capable, resilient new people into their societies.


Re-published via Pressat Newswire

Published in Commentary
Tuesday, 01 September 2015 14:46

Research Watch #7: Enclaves and Earnings

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario

Several observers have noted that immigration is, generally, a non-partisan issue in Canada. That probably explains why it's not a topic of debate during this current federal election campaign. But, it's safe to say that the next government will inevitably be confronted with competing demands on the immigration file.

In this edition of Research Watch, we offer the next Minister of Immigration a look at two studies that highlight why federal policymakers need to understand where immigrants settle, how they integrate and factors that determine their economic success in Canada. 

The truth about ethnic enclaves

A recent study released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy challenges the notion that communities with high populations of visible-minority immigrants are rife with socio-economic marginalization and cultural isolation.

In the report “Ethnocultural Minority Enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver,” researcher Daniel Hiebert sets out to answer whether these enclaves are the so-called “ghettos” they are often perceived to be.

While the answer proves complex and varied, the key finding of Hiebert’s research is that, in Canada, this tends not to be the case.

"[I]t seems to me very relevant to have more of a municipal voice when it comes to the big questions about immigration policy and settlement policy in Canada.

This is particularly true of neighbourhoods where there is a dominant ethnocultural group (twice the size of any other group) living alongside several smaller groups.

“[In these communities] the stereotype of the poor immigrant neighbourhood doesn’t work,” Hiebert says. “Where there is one large group, there’s probably some sort of internal capacity for helping people because of the scale of that group.”

He suggests that this is the case because social capital is strong in these communities. Immigrants are more likely to find work more easily or have success in small business ventures because of shared commonalities with other residents.

In addition, the many other cultural groups in the enclave prove to be an asset, Hiebert explains, offering what he calls “bridging” social capital – the type of learning that comes from being exposed to other cultures that helps integrate into mainstream society.

Communities with a high percentage of visible minorities that tended to have more socio-economic challenges were those where no dominant group was present – rather, just several small cultural groups residing together.

For Hiebert, the findings highlight three important ideas.

First, he says, “Cultural diversity is everywhere.” He cites an example: in the past, an organization in “Chinatown” may have found it effective to exclusively serve Chinese Canadians, but with what is now known about the diverse make-up of communities, that type of exclusivity may mean some residents are left behind.

Second, it is time to re-evaluate services for immigrants overall. Hiebert points out that many present-day services were developed in the 1970s when immigrants were settling in inner-city locations rather than suburban ones, and while that is changing, agencies may not be keeping pace.

Finally, Hiebert concludes his study by stressing that in order to truly understand and serve these ethnocultural communities effectively, municipal governments must be at the decision-making table and engaged in the development and reform of immigration policy.

“If cities are the places where most immigrants are settling and integrating,” says Hiebert, “it seems to me very relevant to have more of a municipal voice when it comes to the big questions about immigration policy and settlement policy in Canada.”

Contributors to economic success

With Canada continuing to compete in the global market to attract economic immigrants, a better understanding of predicting future earnings and success here is vital.

A recently released study from Statistics Canada based on historical data observing two cohorts of immigrants from the late 1990s and the early 2000s may help in this area. 

The study shows that, in the short-term, the best predictors of earnings are Canadian work experience and official-language skills at the time of arrival.

“Basically, it appears that economic principal applicants with Canadian work experience at the time of landing are treated more like Canadians in the labour market in terms of returns to education and experience,” explains researcher Aneta Bonikowska, adding the same goes for having strong official-language skills.

But in the long-term (over a period of five to 10 years), this changes. Age and education play a factor.

In the short-term, the best predictors of earnings are Canadian work experience and official-language skills at the time of arrival.

“Even though we don’t see a big return right off the bat, the earning trajectories of higher, better-educated immigrants are steeper than lower-educated immigrants – over time you see a gap in earnings developing on average,” says Bonikowska.

There is also a correlation between all four characteristics that affects the long-term predictions of an immigrant’s earnings.

As Bonikowska explains, the economic returns on age (the younger an immigrant, the higher the earnings, typically) and education at landing depend on that immigrant’s official-language skills and previously accumulated Canadian work experience.

While the Stats Canada report is meant to be an exercise in analyzing historical data – not a forecast of the future – Bonikowska points out that, from a policy standpoint, if more detailed information was collected from arriving economic immigrants, better predictions could be made about their potential success.

She says factors like the nature of an immigrant’s study, what institution he or she studied at and what level of education was achieved prior to arriving in Canada would give a better sense of who did well from the cohorts studied.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Policy

On Friday, May 22, federal, provincial and territorial ministers of immigration met to discuss the selection of economic immigrants and the improvement of settlement and labour market...

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Published in Economy

by Yamina Tsalamlal of iPolitics.ca

A Senate committee report says the government needs to do more to attract francophone immigrants to communities outside of Quebec if it hopes to meet its own targets.

The report, which was released Tuesday by the Senate Standing Committee on Official Languages, warns that the government risks falling short of its goal of having 4.4 per cent of all francophone immigrants settle outside Quebec.

The study was commissioned in 2013 as the government was introducing the new measures to focus on economic immigrants. The same year, it also set the 4.4-per-cent target. This has not yet been met and the government now hopes to achieve this by 2018.

Senator Claudette Tardif, who chairs the committee, said she is concerned that the government will fall short.

“Government needs to take targeted positive measures to make sure it meets its immigration target and that it provides the opportunity for official minority language communities to take full advantage of immigration.”

“The important point is no one is asking for policy changes, no one is asking for exceptions be made in any way, I think it’s just recognizing that across Canada … if we’re only bringing in 2 per cent or even less francophone immigration, this does not bode well for the vitality of French language in minority communities,” Tardif said.

She adds that the existing target is pretty low and that she hopes to see the number raised.

The report made nine recommendations, including the request for a national strategy to develop minority language communities through immigration and that a francophone component be included in the new Express Entry system, which takes effect January 1, 2015.

Tardif says a national strategy is the only way to make the target because as it stands the government isn’t taking proactive steps to attract francophone immigrants. She says she isn’t sure what the plan would entail but it would include a co-ordinated effort among the federal government, the provinces and territories and municipalities.

“Government needs to take targeted positive measures to make sure it meets its immigration target and that it provides the opportunity for official minority language communities to take full advantage of immigration.”

This plan could be a combination of making employers aware of bilingual applicants and more recruitment in French-speaking countries. She also says it’s important to consult with French language community organizations.

Suzanne Bossé, executive director of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, which was consulted for the study, agrees that a co-ordinated effort is necessary for the complex issue of immigration that includes many stakeholders. She says the strategy has to range from recruitment to employment to settlement and integration.

"[...]if we’re only bringing in 2 per cent or even less francophone immigration, this does not bode well for the vitality of French language in minority communities,”

She says she is disappointed that groups like hers weren’t consulted during the making of the express entry database.

“There’s a major issue here because the express entry has been presented by the federal government as the tool that will make all the difference,” but it is seriously lacking she adds.

But the department of Citizenship and Immigration, which started consultations in September with francophone community groups, says it is looking after the francophone community.

“As part of the consultations with stakeholders, CIC is exploring how the Express Entry system could help bring more francophone immigrants to Canada,” Nancy Caron, spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said in an email.

Bossé says that the FCPC is finally meeting with the department of citizenship and immigration but it’s a little too late as the database will roll out without the input of French-speaking minority communities. She says they have been trying for two years to meet with CIC.

“The minister failed to see the opportunity to include the francophone lens,” Bossé says. 


Re-published with permission.

Published in Top Stories

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