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Guest Blog: Fang on Immigrant Workers in Canada

I have noted before how difficult it is for new immigrants to Canada to get jobs.  My colleague Tony Fang from the new School of Human Resource Management here at York was in the news this week in relation to an interesting study he did examining the under utilization of immigrant worker skills.   (Here’s the research paper.)  Tony dealt with the problem of immigrants who do get jobs, but jobs for which they are overqualified.

Professor Fang found that 52 per cent of new immigrants are in jobs they are over-educated for, which is nearly double the proportion of Canadian-born workers.  And for that, they earn $2 an hour less than Canadian-born workers.  

I asked Professor Fang to explain the study and his policy implications as “Guest Blog”:

The study addresses overeducation of recent immigrants in the Canadian labour market by using data from the 1999-2005 Workplace and Employee Survey (WES), a nationally representative survey of over 20,000 employees within more than 6,000 workplaces.  The WES survey was conducted by Statistics Canada. Compared to Canadian-born workers, recent immigrants are found to have a relatively high incidence of overeducation and to earn relatively low returns for surplus schooling which are shown to be major contributors to the earnings gap between recent immigrants and workers born in Canada.

These findings lead to a number of policy recommendations including suggested changes to the method of selecting skilled immigrants and suggested improvements to labour market information.   The Canadian immigrant selection system is premised on the human capital approach. A simple modification to the point system would be to vary the points awarded to education attainment according to factors determining the likelihood of over education, such as skill requirements of arranged employment, language proficiency and literacy.

Numerous commentators have suggested improved credential assessment processes as a means to facilitate the transferability of immigrant skills, ranging from credential assessment as part of admission process, having provincial governments maintain complete databases of program equivalencies or
establishment of a central agency for credential assessment.  

Several complementary initiatives may reduce underemployment of those already in the Canadian workforce.   A potential action for government policy makers is the improvement of labour market information. A question pertaining to the perceived over-qualification or to the minimum educational requirement of the job could be inserted in the Labour Force Survey.      From the immigrant point of view, given the greater awards toward official language proficiency and Canadian experience, potential immigration applicants should expose themselves to Canadian experience as much as possible.   They should also acquire skills and training that are unique to the Canadian labour market (including language training) as well as target specific organizations for pre-arranged employment.   In doing so, future Canadian immigrants may be able expedite their assimilation into the Canadian labour market and maximize their success in Canada.

The relationship between immigration laws and policies and labour markets is a fascinating area of inquiry, and of crucial importance to a country like Canada, which so strongly depends upon immigration.  Thanks Tony.


One Response to Guest Blog: Fang on Immigrant Workers in Canada

  1. Magdalena Mazur Reply

    November 3, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Professor Fang makes a valid case for the need for adequate recognition of foreign credentials in this country. Since immigration plays such an integral role in the Canadian labour market, perhaps the government should think about implementing a system of undergraduate/graduate degree programs/internships around the world that facilitate the recognition of foreign credentials.

    Presently, a university in Poland has successfully implemented this initiative in their Faculty of Medicine as of 2007. The program is accredited by Polish, European Union and North American standards and is instructed strictly in English. Graduates are eligible to seek employment anywhere in Europe, Canada and the U.S. The link for this program can be accessed at hpp://

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