Media Releases

Educated immigrants having difficulties accessing high-skill occupations

March 14, 2014

TORONTO, ON — High­ly edu­cat­ed immi­grants to Cana­da are fac­ing more dif­fi­cul­ties in access­ing pro­fes­sion­al and man­age­ment occu­pa­tions than in the mid-1990s, say Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to researchers.

In a recent study pub­lished by the Jour­nal of Inter­na­tion­al Migra­tion and Inte­gra­tion, soci­ol­o­gist Jef­frey G. Reitz and doc­tor­al can­di­dates Josh Cur­tis and Jen­nifer Elrick ana­lyzed trends in the suc­cess of immi­grants with uni­ver­si­ty degrees in cen­sus data from 1996, 2001, and 2006.

They dis­cov­ered that although recent immi­grants are much more like­ly to have uni­ver­si­ty degrees than ear­li­er immi­grants, low­er pro­por­tions are obtain­ing high-skilled jobs.

In 1996, 50.4 per cent of recent­ly immi­grat­ed men with high­er edu­ca­tion suc­ceed­ed in obtain­ing a high-skilled occu­pa­tion, as com­pared to 70.7per cent of edu­cat­ed, native-born men. In 2006, only 43.5 per cent of edu­cat­ed immi­grant men had these occu­pa­tions, while the per­cent­age for native-born men remained the same.

Edu­cat­ed immi­grant women fared even worse, with their suc­cess rate in obtain­ing high-skilled jobs decreas­ing from 34.6 per cent in 1996 to 34.4 per cent in 2006. Mean­while, the suc­cess rate for native-born women with sim­i­lar edu­ca­tion lev­els increased from 64.5 per cent in 1996 to 66.9 per cent in 2006.

Fur­ther­more, the researchers found that the pro­por­tion of uni­ver­si­ty-edu­cat­ed immi­grants work­ing in low-skill occu­pa­tions, like sales and man­u­al labour, has steadi­ly increased since 1996.

Reitz, Cur­tis, and Elrick cal­cu­lat­ed the total val­ue of work lost from the Cana­di­an econ­o­my as a result of this skill under­uti­liza­tion has increased from $4.80 bil­lion in 1996 to $11.37 bil­lion in 2006.

“These fig­ures indi­cate that while we have begun to address the prob­lem of immi­grant ‘brain waste,’ the growth of the prob­lem has out­stripped our efforts to address it”, explains Reitz, who is the Direc­tor of Eth­nic, Immi­gra­tion and Plu­ral­ism Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Munk School of Glob­al Affairs.

Since 1996, Cana­di­an pol­i­cy-mak­ers have tar­get­ed immi­grant skill under­uti­liza­tion through pro­grams like cre­den­tial assess­ment, career bridg­ing, and men­tor­ing. These pro­grams aim to help immi­grants adjust to new work envi­ron­ments and gain “soft” skills, while also con­nect­ing them with employ­ers and col­leges.

How­ev­er, these find­ings show that bar­ri­ers for immi­grant skill uti­liza­tion still per­sist.

A sum­ma­ry of the study can be found at: Pop­u­la­tion Change and Life­course Strate­gic Knowl­edge Pol­i­cy Brief #14, The Under­uti­liza­tion of Immi­grant Skills: Trends and Pol­i­cy Issues.


Media Con­tacts:

Jef­frey G. Reitz
Pro­fes­sor; Depart­ment of Soci­ol­o­gy
Direc­tor; Eth­nic, Immi­gra­tion and Plu­ral­ism Stud­ies
Munk School of Glob­al Affairs.

Chris­tine Elias
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Fac­ul­ty of Arts & Sci­ence
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to