Immigrants’ Barriers to Labor Opportunities in Canada

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It has been argued that job opportunities in Canada, especially for immigrants, are availed to persons according to their racial background. In indeed Canada is one of the multicultural countries in the world. This includes migrants who have, in the recent past, increased in number. Over 15% of the Canadian population consists of immigrants. Of this, about 50% are minorities (Herding 311).

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Some of the races include blacks, and whites. Whereas racism still exists in many parts of the world, Canada included, it cannot be said to be a reason for discriminating people against jobs. This is because Canadian employment itself is more reliant on factors such as language and educational requirements and is often stifled by the systematic procedural requirements that immigrants have to fulfill (Brennan). This paper analyses the important factors that determine the ability of people especially immigrants to secure jobs in Canada and seeks to disqualify the assertion that there exist barriers to labor opportunities in the country based on race.

Canada regulates employment through its law. The Canadian Human Rights Act protects all people in Canada and gives the right to every person to equal access to employment opportunities without considering the race, tribe, physical appearance, and religion. Neither should family status, sexual preference including level of fertility, prison record and even disability be used to select against persons. Section 8 of the same Act posits to illegalize any act that involves the production and disbursement of information about employment, or getting involved in acts of employment by advertising or inquiring and (or) expressing a restriction against certain persons in a way that will simply be locking them out on the basis of their racial, religious or physical background. It forbids restrictions against equal access to employment opportunities and instead recommends competitive recruitment practices. This law is meant to protect all persons living within the federation of Canada.

As such, all government sectors, corporations and other companies licensed to operate within the country must comply with the law (Canadian Human Rights Commission 4-5). In this regard, it is visible that the Canadian society headed by the government is committed to ensuring that no discrimination based on race or other factors is entertained. As such, discrimination becomes illegal and punishable by law. The most telling fact is that the number of litigations on racial discrimination during recruitment is dismal (Viola-Schnepf 539).

Requirements for particular jobs are often misconstrued to be a form of discrimination. Some essential duties require someone to be physically tall, fit, be of specific gender and have certain linguistic capabilities. Workers in a construction company or cement factory should be strong-bodied while social workers need to master local languages. This cannot be discrimination. It is meant to select persons who can perform the required job perfectly (Canadian Human Rights Commission [CHRC] 4).

Other jobs require one to have good eyesight for efficient judgment like in medical and engineering fields; hence, blind people may be excluded from among the applicants. The need for a specified skill or physical requirement is only meant to select the best for the job; it is considered a criterion, not as a tool for discrimination. Height, perseverance, language and religious backgrounds should however come after judging whether the person can still work well. In this case, all races should be allowed to compete before determining their individual capacities (CHRC 5).

It has often been a belief that races have different mental capacities; hence, people may be tempted to recruit a particular race even when applicants have similar qualifications. If this happens, then it becomes racism (Reitz 409). However, such incidences may not warrant the conclusion that some people are unemployed because they come from particular races. In any case, they are rare if not illegal practices.

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Canadian educational sector has often attracted many foreigners to take up higher education. Between 2004 and 2005, about 70,000 immigrants entered the country in search of higher education. Every year, about half of this number graduates from tertiary institutions. As a result, the number of foreign job seekers has been increasing (Casey 40). Moreover, over half of those coming for education want to advance their stay upon graduation (Spencer-Rodgers 510). However, several obstacles stand in their quest for a better life. They include language requirements, cultural barriers, procedural paperwork details and other qualifications. Moreover, the varying needs of students and immigrants in general offer a challenge for them to gain employment (Casey 40).

Education is a barrier to immigrant employment (Brennan). Quite often, it is believed that the kind or level of education that one acquires determines the kind of jobs one will get. This in turn affects the income in that higher-paying jobs mean more income and vice versa. Adam smith once posited compensation proportionate to the kind of work a person does. A person dealing with a risky, more engaging type of work needs to be paid more. However, it is the level of skill and duration of acquiring that skill that matters for our discussion.

A person who has pursued education to a high level, says PhD, is likely to possess more skills and competency than a mere high school graduate. Similarly, a person who has diversified their studies in various fields is likely to be more skilled than a person who has been dealing with a specific area. For instance, a law graduate who has also studied for his Masters degree in journalism can fit well in legal reporting than a person whose studies were just in either of the areas (Casey 40). This means that such a person will possess skills from both fields, an edge over other applicants who have specializations.

Canadian immigrants face the same challenges. Many of them lack the skills needed to secure jobs. The main reason is the different educational curriculum they were subjected to back home (Rootman and Ronson 14). The level of literacy also determines what promotion a person gets. For instance, a managerial position may need a person with certain education qualifications in communication and management. Many immigrants fall short of these requirements. In 2005, many immigrants in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, for example, were found to be working with level three in communicative literacy; the lowest appropriate skill that can help a person to cope with the pressures of the day. In fact, poverty and joblessness were connected with illiteracy, not racial background (Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills 5).

Education bars people from employment due to the cost and the time required to attain. In Canada today, the cost of education has continued to rise. Thus, most immigrants who came in with low education are locked out from improving their skills as they are low-income earners and some require a complete change of career choices in order to remain relevant. The high cost also impedes immigrant parents from supporting their children through higher education a basic prerequisite for securing well-paying jobs in Canada. Hence, the dynamic labor market may find skills possessed by immigrants from their respective countries as invalid to competitive jobs. It should be noted that different countries have different educational qualities, which may not necessarily be applicable to Canadian labor market (Viola-Schnepf 543-544). Educational qualifications of the immigrants, especially in fields like medicine, may be viewed as substandard leading them to be denied the jobs.

Another obstacle for immigrant employment is linguistic barriers. After immigration paperwork is completed, obtaining a job in Canada often involves job searching as well as positioning oneself against barriers of language. Job searching itself involves good communication skills. First, most Canadian public’s to date communicate in English so every foreign student or immigrant must confirm excellent English articulation (Reitz 409). Unfortunately, most immigrants are still poor speakers of the local language.

Whereas they may have attained acquaintance with the language, they often have problems with the general syntactic rules of English. Canadian employers usually value great skills in communication. Even in fields that involve a lot of technical knowledge like physical sciences, mastering the language is often an important tool to communicate. Immigrants who lack this skill are often locked out of jobs. The Conference Board of Canada specifies the ability to communicate in the local language and interact well with others as necessary skills to all workers (Spencer-Rodgers 512). Obviously, one has to communicate with clients, staff mates, and their bosses in order to offer excellent service. The fear among employers is that those who fail to have excellent communication may be poor workers.

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Canadian workplace culture also puts most immigrants excluded from their jobs. While immigrants may have come from where emphasis is placed on what one has studied than what one has experienced; the Canadian environment may consider otherwise. It is more often vital to have the necessary experience than academic skills (Viola-Schnepf 535). Most immigrants do not have the experience of the Canadian labor environment so employers find it difficult to hire them.

Quite often, immigrants face a cultural shock on arriving in Canada. As observed earlier in this discussion, Canada is a multicultural federal nation; many parts of the country have different values that they consider as important- based on communities’ historical backgrounds. North American culture is often a case of individualism; capitalism and self-reliance. This may conflict with immigrants from the Far East who consider modesty and communal respect as important values. Quite often, these immigrants do not get a chance to learn from ordinary Canadians how to integrate their values with those in the Canadian society because there have been few programs to enhance that (Spencer-Rodgers 513).

And because the educational curriculum does not include such initiatives, the gap between foreign and Canadian cultures may still remain wide. In this case, immigrants are seen as unfit to work in Canada even when they may have attained the required competency. Although immigrants are important to Canadian labor, their market performance has been negated by cultural differences from that of Canada. One’s culture determines the extent to which a person can bargain in the job market (Viola-Schnepf 536). This means that immigrants who arrive at a tender age and try to adapt to the ordinary North American culture can easily shun their previous cultural tags. Most Canadians have got different attitudes towards certain cultures around the world; such attitudes make most Canadian employers prefer citizens because foreigners are in conflict with the Canadian employment cultures (Casey 40).

Hence the earlier an immigrant forgets his culture the easier it is to settle and find a job in the country. Additionally, the immigrants themselves tend to be a barrier because once they arrive; they often prefer to associate with communities that have cultures akin to theirs. In this case, they even seclude themselves from the possible adaptabilities for the new culture. Therefore, they find it difficult to break this barrier and explore what employers in Canada want. In general, cultural differences between immigrants and Canadian society make it difficult for them [immigrants] to get jobs because Canadian employers view them to be outside the ordinary Canadian society (Casey 40). Failure to adapt to the North American customs limits them from using their skills for the job market.

Canadian immigrants also face red tape. Becoming a legal immigrant or citizen requires a circuitous process, often discouraging. For foreign students, getting any employment is not easy. They are required to prove that whatever they seek to do is in correspondence with what they have studied in school, unlike Canadian students who can be employed in any organization regardless of their educational background (Reitz 409). Moreover, before foreign students get admission to further education, they have to show proof of potential employment. Other limitations are the show for financial sources to support them, the duration in which they intend to stay in the country, the kind of studies they have pursued, identity validations, verification on whether the immigrant is a security hazard and even the kind of associates that they have in the country. This means that Canadian structures limit foreign students even in the pursuit of further education (Spencer-Rodgers 513-514).

Until recently, there were no guidelines to show whether jobs on offer were discipline-specific. That is, whether the jobs on offer required one to have studied in a specific field. As a result, those who immigrated into the country had difficulties in securing employment. They could even be put off from further search for jobs because of the deterrent legal paperwork. This was resonated by a survey conducted in 2005 on Canadian immigrant employment; less than 15,000 foreigners received licenses to work in the country, yet over 30,000 graduates annually from Canadian higher learning institutions (Viola-Schnepf 529-30).

Employers also contribute to limitation of immigrants’ employment. They are usually aware of the procedural steps involved in getting work permits and often get reluctant to offer jobs to immigrants because it may plunge them into the same legal process. That is, the Canadian government is yet to involve employers in making them know how immigrants can improve the economy if their skills are utilized, in fact most employers still think that hiring foreigners is illegal. However, some companies still want to hire workers of foreign origin but the regulations on how to do so often frustrate such ventures (Viola-Schnepf 530).

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The Canadian immigration policy does not prioritize the country’s need for labor resources. It often bases on the financial prowess of the immigrants. The criterion for selecting qualified immigrants often ignores the fact that Canada faces labor shortages in various sectors (Brennan). It also disregards the fact that every Canadian region has got specific labor requirements.

For example, only a handful of Canadians prefer to study fields related to fish preservation yet the government bottlenecks corporations involved in their quest to outsource labor from foreign countries. By way of example, Ocean Choice Lobster processing plant in Souris, Prince Edward Island has always been faced with such shortages. The stringent measures by the federal government have discouraged the ambition of this company to hire workers from other countries (Reitz 409). Hence the systematic procedures required of immigrants reduce chances of being accepted into employment.

All these factors are still in play to date. The mismatch in educational skills possessed by foreigners in comparison to the demands at the Canadian workplace is still rampant. The linguistic barriers still define the ability of able immigrants to get jobs in the country. Non-English speakers are the worst affected. Again, the cultural barriers continue to breed discomfort among employers.

It is thus clear that limitation of foreigners to secure employment is are not pegged on race but rather other factors in play and which seek to ensure competence of workforce as well as the smooth flow of work processes. It is however notable that most of these considerations may lead to skewed employment statistics in terms of race. The most important consideration here is that it is not necessarily the intention of the Canadian society to discriminate on race. White is better placed to take advantage of the requirements for employment due to the fact that most of them are born and educated in Canada or come from developed countries with similar job markets.

Works Cited

Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills. Towards a fully Literacy Canada: Achieving National Goals through a Comprehensive Pan-Canadian Literacy Strategy. Ottawa: Movement for Canadian Literacy. 2005.

Brennan, Richard. “Cost of Education ‘a barrier’”. The Star. Web.

Canadian Human Rights Commission. “A guide to Screening and Selection in Employment.” Canadian Ministry of public works and Employment Services. 2007. Web.

Casey, Warman. “Ethnic Enclaves and Immigrant Earnings Growth. The Canadian Journal of Economics.40.2 (2007): 40.

Herding, Robert. “The Media, Aboriginal People and Common Sense.” The Canadian Journal of Native Studies. 25.1(2005):311-335. Web.

Reitz, Jeffrey. “Tapping Immigrants’ Skills: Knowledge Economy.” Land and Business Review of the Americas. 11.3(2005): 409.

Rootman, Irving, and Barbara, Ronson. “Literacy and Health: Where are We and where should we go? Canadian Journal of Public Health. 95.2(2005): 11-16.

Spencer-Rodgers, John and Cortijo, Annette. “An assessment of the Career Development Needs of International Students. Journal of College Student Development. 39.5(1998): 509-513.

Viola-Schnepf, Sylke. “Immigrants’ Educational Advantage: An examination Across Ten countries and three surveys. Journal of Population Economics. 20.3(2007): 527-545.

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