Ignoring international talent costs Canada billions

Costs of underemploying immigrant professionals include $1.5 billion in lost tax revenue
By
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/24/2002

Studies show that the non-recognition of immigrant credentials is costing Canadians more than $2 billion every year, notes World Education Services, the authorized credential evaluation service of the government of Ontario. The organization is challenging Canadian employers to fully recognize the value of foreign-trained skilled workers and professionals.

"Failure to recognize foreign credentials costs all Canadians," says Timothy Owen, director of World Education Services. "Studies show underemployed immigrants are losing $5 billion in annual income. That lost income would generate $1.5 billion in income taxes alone, assuming a 30 per-cent tax rate. When you factor in income support and re-training costs due to lack of skills recognition, a serious skills shortage in several key knowledge-based industries, you can see we have a big problem. And this doesn't take lost productivity into account, adding hundreds of millions of dollars."

World Education Services says the cost of providing income support to 5,000 foreign-trained workers would be $60 million, and retraining 10,000 people would cost taxpayers $10 million. This, at a time when the Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates there are 265,000 vacant jobs among small and medium-sized enterprises in Canada, 186,000 of these having been vacant for four months or more, and nearly 40,000 highly skilled immigrants have been arriving in Ontario annually for years.

Several studies have emphasized the need to better utilize the talents of immigrant professionals and skilled workers, particularly in the skills short sectors of technology, health care provision and engineering. Fifty eight per cent of immigrants to Canada in 2000 were skilled workers or professionals. Many were selected by an immigration policy based on education yet many employers discount their credentials.

"The fact is that more than 75 per cent of foreign credentials in the engineering, health care and IT fields we evaluated in the past year are equivalent to or exceed Canadian standards," says Owen. "We analyzed 341 academic degree programs from five countries and compared them to similar programs offered at institutions in Ontario. It is clear that employers looking for skilled labour could benefit from using the type of analysis we can provide to them, as it gives them the answers on specific candidate’s academic background."

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