I'd like to thank the committee for inviting me to contribute to this discussion.
I've been conducting research on immigrant integration for about 10 years now, with a particular concentration on economic integration of immigrants. Today I'd like to expand on some of the findings from a study that I conducted at the University of Waterloo. I outlined the main results of this study in a brief that I submitted to the committee, so I'm just going to expand upon this and address five of the main issues that came up from that research.
The first is with respect to the results regarding immigrants' education levels. Overall, I found that immigrants who held degrees at master's level or higher were more likely to obtain employment in their desired occupation than were those who held a bachelor's degree. This may be due to the hiring practices of employers. We've heard a bit about this already. To potential employers, a higher-level degree often acts as a market signal indicating the abilities of a potential employee. Immigrants with a level of education higher than a bachelor's degree may be more desirable because their credentials basically signify increased specialization, which may translate into a greater ability to learn certain technical or social requirements of a particular occupation. Even though a bachelor's degree may represent the skill level required for a particular occupation, immigrants with higher-level degrees may be given preference for these reasons. Previous research has also found that foreign bachelor's degrees are less recognized by employers than are higher-level degrees. Moreover, immigrants with higher-level degrees have less competition in the job market. Individuals with a bachelor's degree have more competition because of the increased supply of bachelor's degree holders who were educated in Canada and a preference among employers for Canadian degrees. This circumstance may contribute to some of the difficulties that immigrants with a bachelor's degree experience in the labour market.
Second, my findings support many previous studies that have found that greater proficiency in English or French leads to greater success in the Canadian labour market. The results show that higher proficiency in an official language is associated with a greater likelihood of obtaining employment in an immigrant's intended occupation, and a faster rate of doing so. Although official language training is a key focus of immigrant settlement services, previous research has indicated that there is a need for greater access to language education programs, particularly in smaller communities, and among certain types of immigrants. For example, a higher proportion of immigrant women than of immigrant men report language barriers as their greatest difficulty in finding a job. Immigrant women often have greater difficulty accessing these language services. Researchers have found that immigrant women are hindered by a number of factors with respect to this issue. They're hindered by their status as dependants, their household responsibilities, or even a lack of access to transportation to these programs. However, there have been some improvements in recent years in providing more flexible language training, particularly for immigrant women who do not immigrate under the skilled worker category.
Third, and similar to what we've heard already today, I found that immigrants living in the major census metropolitan areas, CMAs—those being Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver—experience less employment success than do those living in smaller communities. Previous research looking at differences in earnings among different communities has also found this. Although immigrants may move to major CMAs due to the large number of employment opportunities available, they may be at a disadvantage given the strong competition for jobs by new Canadian-born labour market entrants in these areas. It is also possible that immigrants integrate into less urbanized areas more quickly. There has been research suggesting that immigrants living in a smaller community may have greater opportunities to establish social networks within the local community and experience greater pressure to become more proficient in English or French. It's also possible that employers' responsiveness to immigrants varies among these areas. Smaller communities often voice concern about their economic survival, and because immigrants are typically identified as a source of new and highly educated workers, they may in fact be seen as a valuable resource for the economies of smaller cities. It is also possible that immigrants who migrate to non-CMAs may be more likely to have prearranged employment. When I tested for this in my research, I actually didn't find any significant results indicating this. There's obviously a more complex answer to these findings, and further research is needed, although I think we heard from both of the other speakers that this is an important issue.
My fourth point is with respect to the role of foreign work experience and immigrants' labour market integration. A lot of earlier studies have found that foreign work experience is not recognized in the Canadian labour market. Many researchers assess this by looking at the potential years of experience that immigrants had in their source countries as opposed to looking at the type of work experience they had. The results that I found indicated that immigrants whose jobs prior to migration matched their stated intended occupations in Canada had greater success in obtaining their desired employment following migration. While this doesn't necessarily indicate that employers formally recognize immigrants' foreign experience, it does indicate that this type of experience provides immigrants with some type of advantage in the Canadian labour market. This may be due to the type of knowledge that they develop with experience in their occupations, which they then may draw upon when identifying strategies to obtain employment they wish to pursue in a particular field. Immigrants with previous experience in the occupation may also have better familiarity with the types of companies or industries that are more likely to employ individuals in their fields of interest. Knowledge derived from previous experience may also help in the process of foreign credential recognition, or facilitate their retraining efforts.
Last, I want to talk about the finding that immigrants who were seeking higher-status occupations experienced less employment success than those seeking lower-status occupations. This suggests that immigrants looking for higher-status occupations may face more exclusionary practices than those seeking lower-status occupations. This type of closure may in part be due to the process of credential recognition or certification that is required for many higher-status occupations. Since the higher-status occupations typically require specific qualifications, training, or licensing within Canada, immigrants often have to undergo additional testing and training. Seeking employment in these types of occupations is likely to take longer. It will be a longer process than the employment process of immigrants who seek employment in lower-status occupations.
In conclusion I hope that the results I presented here are helpful in informing your study. I'd be happy to answer any questions regarding my research.