Finding a job a challenge for immigrants, study reveals

By Meagan Fitzpatrick, CanWest News ServiceSeptember 24, 2008

OTTAWA — Canada lives up to the expectations of most immigrants, a new study reveals, but finding a job remains the biggest challenge for new residents.

Two reports released by Statistics Canada on Monday examine immigrants’ assessments of life in Canada and the difficulties they face here.

Four years after arriving in Canada, the majority of new immigrants — 84 per cent — were positive about their decision to come here.

The study, using data from 2005, asked whether life in Canada is better than expected, about what they had expected or worse than they had expected.

About two-thirds said that life in Canada has lived up to their expectations.

When asked what the single-most important reason for settling permanently in Canada was, quality of life was No. 1. Thirty-two per cent cited it as the most important factor, followed by the desire to be close to family and friends (20 per cent), the future prospects for their family in Canada (18 per cent) and the peaceful nature of the country (nine per cent).

While most immigrants are happy they came, it’s not all smooth sailing once they get here, the survey showed.

New immigrants were asked what had been their biggest difficulties since arriving in Canada and finding an adequate job was the biggest challenge for 46 per cent, followed by learning English or French (26 per cent).

The majority of job seekers reported that they experienced a problem, often more than one, when searching for employment.

“New immigrants often experienced multiple problems when looking for work. For example, almost two-thirds of job seekers who reported a language problem also reported that lack of work experience was a difficulty,” Statistics Canada said.

In addition to language barriers and lack of experience, foreign credential recognition is a big problem and a lack of contacts in the job market was another difficulty faced by immigrant job-seekers.

But the percentage of employed immigrants did grow substantially over time, the data showed. For example, the employment rate of immigrants aged 25 to 44, the prime working-age group, went from 51 per cent six months after arrival to 65 per cent two years after arrival. Four years after arrival, it had reached 75 per cent.

The ability to speak English or French is considered a huge asset in looking for a job, Statistics Canada said.

“More specifically, immigrant's whose self-reported level of spoken English was good or very good were more likely to have a high-skill job, a job in the intended field, a job similar to the one held before immigrating and a job related to training or education,” the report said. “They also had higher wages, compared to immigrants whose spoken English level was not as good. This was true six months, two years and four years after immigrants' arrival in Canada.”

It’s a different story in Quebec however, where the level of French spoken by immigrants was not found to be related to their chances of having an “appropriate” job.

The survey covered about 7,700 immigrants who were interviewed for a third time since arriving in Canada four years earlier.
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