Canada failing to put immigrant skills to work: RBC report

'Poor recognition of foreign credentials is the primary obstacle'

Canada failing to put immigrant skills to work: RBC report

Immigrants tend to do worse when it comes to finding a suitable job compared with non-immigrants, according to a report from RBC.

On one end, immigrants have – or should have – a lot working for them. 

For example, over one-third of immigrants have advanced degrees, like a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to just over a fifth for non-immigrants.

And 42.6 per cent of non-permanent residents and 29.8 per cent of immigrants have a degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry. Only 4.6 per cent of non-immigrants can say the same.

“Despite being younger and more academically accomplished, immigrants tend to do worse when it comes to finding a suitable job,” say Nathan Janzen, assistant chief economist, and Claire Fan, economist, at RBC. “In other words, more of them tend to work in occupations that require education that’s below their current level.”

In Canada, Over 57 per cent of workers aged 25 to 64 have a college or university credential, while almost one in four working-age people had a college certificate or diploma or similar credential in 2021, more than any other G7 country, according to a previous report.

Almost one-third of the working-age population, or 6.4 million people, reported having a bachelor's degree or higher in 2021, which is up 4.3 percentage points over 2016. Immigrants make up nearly half of that growth, but are still more likely to be overqualified for the jobs they have.

Increased immigration

By the end of November 2022, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada had processed roughly 4.8 million immigrant applications – nearly twice the 2.5 million processed during the same period last year, according to the federal government.

Nearly 90 per cent of all population growth in Canada in 2021 was driven by higher immigration, and this would jump to 100 per cent by 2050, Statistics Canada predicts.

“Higher levels of immigration alone won’t ‘fix’ longer-run structural labour supply issues — but they’ll help. They could help even more if immigrant skillsets were better utilized,” say Janzen and Fan in the Proof Point: Canada is failing to put immigrant skills to work report.

“And there are a range of reasons to put them to use. Indeed, new immigrants can fill open positions, but they also increase demand for housing and consumer goods which in turn raises demand for labour.”


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