Featuring the work of students in Economics and Media at UBC Okanagan

The challenge for Kelowna’s immigrants

By: Ari Aman Prayogi

According to the 2016 Census[i], 7.5 million foreign-born people immigrated to Canada between 1981 and 2016. These immigrants represent more than 1 in 5 Canadian residents. Kelowna is not that different from this trend, as 13.9 percent of the city’s population emigrated from another country[ii].

With large geographical area and considerably low population, no wonder Canada is having a shortage of worker. Based on a 2018 Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) survey, 39 percent of entrepreneurs in Canada had difficulty hiring new employees[iii]. This shortage may eventually limit the growth of the economy.

Boosting immigration could be a very effective way to easing the shortage and improve the economy. However, immigrants encounter obstacles when entering the Canadian labour force. Mohsen Javdani, an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of British Columbia explains that “Skills and education that (immigrants) obtain abroad are not easily transferable, the problem is recognizing the credential and evaluating the credential.”

According to Statistic Canada[iv], more than half of the newcomers had a university degree at the time they arrived in Canada during 2011 to 2016. Among these, 82 percent held degrees in fields of study in high demand by Canadian companies.

Unfortunately, some of these skilled immigrants cannot work in their field of expertise, because of the lack of transferability of credentials professor Javdani mentioned. A problem for Canadian employers is that, credentials from other countries may not be compatible with the requirement for similar credentials in Canada. Lina, an immigrant living in Kelowna said “I have a Master’s degree in Accounting from university in Indonesia. However, I have not found the job that is based on my degree, as a corporation in Kelowna needs a credible Canadian certificate or experience. That is why, I enrolled in an accounting class at Okanagan College.”

Beyond employability, immigrants may also receive lower pay. As Professor Javdani describes, “Big part of the gap that immigrants face is because they receive lower return to foreign education and foreign labour market experience.” Even though he “would argue that some of these immigrants have the same quality or even higher quality in education or experience than is required in Canada.”

To ensure immigrants are employed to full potential, Professor Javdani suggests “The Government could probably play a role by providing the opportunity for the credential of the immigrants to be systematically evaluated.” This would allow immigrants to be granted the Canadian credentials corresponding to their experience and education.

[i] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2017028-eng.htm

[ii] https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/as-sa/fogs-spg/Facts-cma-eng.cfm?LANG=Eng&GK=CMA&GC=915&TOPIC=7

[iii] https://www.bdc.ca/en/documents/analysis_research/labour-shortage.pdf

[iv] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/171129/dq171129a-eng.pdf

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