Credit to Author: Canadian Immigrant| Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2019 17:43:02 +0000
Canadian immigrants must overcome labour market challenges through civic engagement
[By Sandra Lozano and Gautam Nath]
Newcomers are vital to Canada’s prosperity. As most arrive as economic immigrants, unsurprisingly many of them go on to contribute significantly to the economy by creating and filling jobs and paying taxes. We live in Toronto and in a city as diverse as ours (nearly half of the population was born outside of Canada) that proudly boasts about its inclusivity, it can be easy to take for granted our newcomer fortune, while difficult to be critical of existing challenges. But the truth remains that there is more work to be done to make this an even greater home for newcomers, and perhaps it is they themselves who must initiate the undertaking.
Key trends in immigration and employment in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) over the past 15 years were observed in a published report by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) entitled “State of Immigrant Inclusion”. The report found that at 12.5 percent, the unemployment rate for university-educated newcomers is twice that of people with a similar educational background who were born in Canada. Furthermore, immigrants with a Canadian degree are doing better than those without and immigrants are underrepresented in senior position: just 35 percent of senior managers with a university degree in the GTA are immigrants – even though immigrants make up 52 percent of the university-educated workforce. Fewer newcomer men are getting to the top of the pay scale compared to men born in Canada. And it’s worse for woman: Those with a university degree earn on average half the amount of their Canadian-born counterparts.
These are difficult numbers to accept, especially in a city that is one of the most diverse and inclusive in the world. What’s even more concerning is that while newcomers are unable to find employment that is commensurate with their education, skills, and expertise, Canadian employers are expressing difficulties in finding and retaining talent in their workplace. Everyone must pull together in order to solve the issue of underemployment and untapped talent of newcomer professionals. These efforts must be led by key stakeholders – employers, employment agencies, and newcomers – who can make the most meaningful difference. But it is also vital that change be brought upon through active civic engagement. Governments at all levels are responsible for setting an environment auspicious for the success of all residents through effective public policy and investment. And without the campaigning and implementation of smart regulations and sustainable funding the current employment trends will remain status-quo.
An elected government should reflect the people it serves. Canada continues to need eligible newcomers to bring about change by putting their skills, experiences, and visions into practice. Immigrants must consider getting more involved in Canada’s democratic process by voting and running for office. Whether at the municipal, provincial, or federal level, all decisions made by elected officials impact the country’s day-to-day life – especially as it comes to its residents securing meaningful employment.
While Canada professes diversity and inclusion, many doors are not being opened to newcomers – be it in civic life, corporate life or board level positions. This has to change. If not readily available, immigrants must purposefully seek out and create opportunities for themselves. Making up one in every five of the country’s population, their voices should be that loud, if not more powerful. But if newcomers continue to lag behind in leadership roles, whether in corporate or government levels, their voices will remain subdued.
Newcomers must get involved in campaigns, be informed of the issues, network and make contacts. The whole country can use more volunteers in riding associations; it would do well with a more diverse government. Friendly labour environment for immigrants will only be realized if newcomers engage in their community’s civic life.
[About the authors: Sandra Lozano ran as an NDP candidate in the 2018 provincial election in the riding of Vaughan-Woodbridge. She is currently a family lawyer based in Toronto. She moved to Canada from El Salvador as a teenager.
Gautam Nath was a mayoral candidate in the 2018 municipal elections. He and his wife moved to Canada from India in 2008.]