Integration of Internationally-educated Immigrants into the Canadian Labour Market: Determinants of Success

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by Johanne Plante

Section 1

Executive summary

Unlike the waves of immigrants who arrived in the 1950s and 1960s, those arriving in Canada since the 1970s have possessed relatively high educational levels, making an enormous contribution to the pool of individuals in Canada with postsecondary qualifications. Upon their arrival however, many immigrants initially face difficulties finding employment related to their field of study as well as finding jobs that pay relatively high wages.

The successful integration of immigrants in the Canadian labour market is of interest to the Canadian public and to current and potential immigrants, alike. While different measures can be used to assess what would be considered a 'successful' integration for these immigrants, the present report focused exclusively on the following two 'positive' employment outcomes: 1) working in an occupation corresponding to their field of study or in an occupation requiring similar or higher skill levels, and 2) having earnings at or above the national median earnings calculated for the occupation corresponding best to their field of study.

In the context of this report, there is no attempt in trying to define 'precisely' what should be considered a 'successful' or a 'poor' integration for these immigrants into the Canadian labour market. The interpretation is left completely to the discretion of the reader as, in the opinion of the author, such a concept is arbitrary and subject to debate.

Logistic regression analysis produces odds ratios, which, in this study, are used to assess whether, other things being equal, internationally-educated immigrant paid workers with specific characteristics are more or less likely to successfully integrate in the Canadian labour market compared to those in another (reference) group. Using the 2006 Census, the logistic regression analysis reported in this report first considers the contribution of 'given' characteristics to the probability of achieving the two above-mentioned employment outcomes. 'Given' characteristics correspond to the following: immigrant status by period of landing and region of education.

Other variables are then added progressively in order to assess both their independent effects and whether they modify the effects of previously-added variables. These additional variables are: sex and age group, marital status and presence of children, level of education and major instructional program, province, territory and area of residence, language ability, visible minority status and, in the case of Employment outcome #1 regarding the likelihood of having a good education-job skills match, a variable defining the full/part-time and full/part-year status of employment.

The logic behind this approach is that immigrants possess certain 'given' characteristics (i.e., they either completed their highest level of education in Canada or abroad, and they landed in Canada during different time periods). Their outcomes in the Canadian labour market (positive or not) can then be influenced by various socio-demographic characteristics (i.e., sex, age, marital status, presence of children), educational characteristics (level of education and major instructional program), geographical location (province, territory and area of residence), as well as by their language ability in one of the two official languages, whether they belong to a visible minority group, and, in the case of Employment outcome #1, by the full/part-time and full/part-year status of employment.

Given the purpose of this report, which is to identify the factors and determinants most likely leading to a 'successful' integration of internationally-educated immigrants in the Canadian labour market, only individuals in the core working-age group of 25 to 64 with a postsecondary education who reported not attending school in 2006 and working for pay were included. To determine if these individuals were working in their field of study or in an equivalent occupation, only those who reported having completed their postsecondary education in one of the instructional programs leading to the targeted occupations as identified by the Foreign Credential Recognition (FCR) Program at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) were selected (see Data and methodology section for more details).

As shown by the 2006 Census, internationally-educated immigrant paid workers were generally less likely than Canadian-born paid workers with a postsecondary education to report a good education-job skills or education-employment earnings matches. Internationally-educated immigrant paid workers were also less likely than their counterparts educated in Canada to report working in their field or in an equivalent occupation. Such comparison was not possible with regard to the likelihood of having a good education-employment earnings match as results were not statistically significant for full-time full-year immigrant paid workers with credentials from Canada.

Regions from which credentials were obtained had a clear impact on the likelihood of being employed in associated or equivalent occupations for these paid workers. Other than for immigrants with credentials from countries in Northern Europe (and Oceania, in the case of education-employment earnings match), immigrants who completed their highest level of postsecondary education in all other regions outside Canada were less likely than paid workers born in Canada to report 'positive' labour market outcomes.

Time elapsed since landing also figured among the characteristics and determinants more closely associated with 'positive' labour market outcomes for internationally-educated immigrant paid workers in 2006. In fact, those established in the country for more than ten years were generally more likely than their recent and very-recent counterparts to be working in the best corresponding or an equivalent occupation or to report a good education-employment earnings match. Factors noted in the literature that help to explain this finding include the discounting in the Canadian labour market of skills developed abroad and recognition that new immigrants, especially those arriving without pre-arranged employment, face a period of cultural and economic adjustment. One should note, however, that although these difficulties seem to ease over time, internationally-educated immigrant paid workers established in the country for more than ten years were still generally less likely than their counterparts born in Canada to report such 'positive' outcomes.

Results from the 2006 Census showed that paid workers who studied in programs where there was a clear relationship between educational credentials and the ability to meet the requirements to work — such as for most regulated occupations and trades — generally had a higher likelihood of reporting 'positive' labour market outcomes than those who had studied in a field for which this relationship was not as clear. Paid workers who graduated from instructional programs leading to health occupations (i.e., mostly regulated occupations) were, for example, almost two times (194%) more likely than those with credentials in business, finance and administration to report working in their field of study or in an equivalent occupations. With regard to the second labour market outcome discussed in this report, full-time full-year paid workers who graduated from instructional programs leading to trades, transport and equipment operators and to health occupations were, respectively, 313% and 147% more likely than those with credentials in business, finance and administration to have earnings at or above the median for the occupation corresponding best to their field of study.

Provincially, paid workers living in Alberta and the territories were more likely than their counterparts in Ontario and the other provinces to report working in the best corresponding or an equivalent occupation or to report a good education-employment earnings match. On the other hand, paid workers residing in the Atlantic Provinces, followed closely by those in Quebec, had the lowest probabilities of having such 'positive' outcomes in the Canadian labour market.

Finally, the analysis found that the likelihood of having good education-job skills and education-employment earnings matches was higher for paid workers having knowledge of English only (and of both official languages in the case of the education-job skills match), compared to those with other language profiles. Being a man, living in a married or common-law relationship, having pre-school children, living in population centres, and working on a full-time full-year basis in the case of the education-job skills match, also figure among the characteristics and determinants more closely associated with a 'positive' integration of paid workers in the Canadian labour market. The influence of age and the fact of being a member of a visible minority group were not as clear when analyzed throughout the eight selected occupations and could not be generalized.

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