Canada’s immigration system is designed to fill labour shortages, and yet the current system is not keeping up with the demand for essential workers.
One of the reasons is that Canada has a number of immigration pathways for workers in “skilled occupations,” which do not always include jobs that are in-demand. Also, the process for regulated industries, such as nursing, result in fewer qualified workers being able to work in the field that they trained for.
The Conference Board of Canada recently released a study offering recommendations on how policy can improve the situation for the Canadian labour market, and for immigrants who find themselves underemployed. The study is called Valued Workers, Valuable Work: The Current and Future Role of (Im)migrant Talent, and it is written by Dr. Yilmaz Dinc.
Immigrants make up nearly a quarter of Canada’s workforce, with high percentages working in food manufacturing, truck transportation, nursing and residential care facilities.
Canadian-born workers generally avoid essential occupations, as these jobs are often undervalued, offer low compensation, and lack career mobility. As a result, newcomers tend to take on these jobs, even though they may be overqualified. For example, about 40 per cent of newcomers working as childcare providers and support workers are overqualified, meaning they have university degrees, yet these occupations do not require advanced education.
Overqualification is a problem for both immigrants working in essential jobs, and employers. If immigrants are underemployed they are not making the best use of their education and skills, which limits their earnings, career prospects, and economic contributions. It is a problem for employers because overqualification is associated with lower job satisfaction, which makes it difficult to retain employees.
What follows is a summary of the study’s recommendations on how to fix the gaps in essential sectors, and improve outcomes for immigrants.