CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Think-tank urges new immigrant skills criteria

Canada should revamp the criteria it uses to decide who it lets into the country, says a study released last week by a think tank concerned that recent immigrants earn less than those who arrived 30 years ago.

The CD Howe Institute is calling on the federal government to revise the "skilled worker category" -- a tool used to select immigrants based on the likelihood of work success -- to ensure new Canadians don't become a drain on society.

The institute was responding to data that shows immigrants have not done well in the working world. This despite the fact that Canada is admitting more and more applicants for their economic potential rather than reasons such as family reunification or to escape oppression.

"It is especially surprising to see the decline in immigrant earning shortly after arrival in Canada given this shift towards accepting immigrants with credentials that are expected to enable them to be especially successful in the Canadian labour market," writes Christopher Worswick in a study that calls for a new way to evaluate prospective immigrants.

Such measures could include awarding more points for education and work experience recognized as equivalent by Canadian employers and placing greater emphasis on employer sponsorship, meaning immigrants should already have a job lined up here.

Currently, all types of education and work experience are treated equally by Ottawa, even though that same experience may be regarded with suspicion by Canadian employers.

As a result, "we're seeing a lot of highly educated people arriving in Canada and becoming very frustrated because they can't get their credentials recognized," said Worswick.

A system that rewards experience considered to be equivalent to Canadian standards could get around that problem, he said.

"This information could be made available to employers and to the immigrants, making it more difficult for employers to justify discrimination on the false grounds of inferior educational credentials," said Worswick, an associate economics professor at Carleton University.

The 2001 census counted 805,000 immigrants who arrived over the last 10 years and, while 40 per cent of that group had a university education, statistics showed they lost ground financially.

Worswick also argues for a points system that awards younger immigrants, noting that currently, preferred applicants are those between the ages of 21 and 49.

He suggests lowering the upper threshold to allow immigrants more time for training and to help shore up the workforce when the baby boom generation retires.

-- CP

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