Newcomers selected under B.C. Provincial Nomination Program fare the best, study says

Mount Robson, Mount Robson Provincial Park, Br...
Mount Robson, Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to earning potential, not all immigrants to British Columbia are equal, according to a new study by author Haimin Zhang.
Zhang, a PhD student of economics at the University of B.C., found a "surprising" wage gap between newcomers who immigrated as federal skilled workers between 2002 and 2008 and those selected under the B.C. Provincial Nomination Program (BCPNP).
Using Statistics Canada data collected from landing information and tax records, the study determined B.C. provincial nominees earned, on average, three times as much as immigrants classified as skilled workers after one year of their arrival. The wage advantage declined with the length of stay in Canada, but remained significant, according to the study, which was published in April on the Metropolis BC website. After four years, B.C. provincial nominees still earned twice as much as skilled workers in the province, the study said.
The federal skilled workers program selects immigrants based on their ability to become economically established in Canada over the long-term. Points are assigned to applicants based on their skills, education, and experience.
The selection process of the B.C. Provincial Nominee Program, meanwhile, requires applicants to have a job offer in hand before they enter the country. The program, launched in 2001, is designed to satisfy province-specific, short-term labour market demands.
Zhang, an immigrant herself who came to Canada from China as a master's student, said the purpose of the study was not to suggest one stream of immigration selection is better than another.
Rather, it's to better understand the wage gaps between immigrant groups and how they will evolve over the long term.
In the study, she poses three possible explanations for the differences in earning levels:
-- Canadian experience: Using data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Zhang found that 70 per cent of provincial nominees in B.C. had previously worked or studied in Canada, compared to less than 20 per cent of federal skilled workers.
-- Job-offer requirement: The prearranged job requirement of the provincial nomination program helped immigrants establish in B.C. faster, offered better protection from a bad labour market and, therefore, contributed to their earning advantage.
-- Possible "cream skimming": The significantly shorter processing time of the provincial nomination program may have attracted the most skilled immigrants who would have otherwise qualified under the longer, more arduous federal program.
Zhang also raised the possibility of discrimination at play on the part of employers, noting that B.C. provincial nominees accepts a larger portion of immigrants from English speaking, developed countries, namely the United Kingdom, United States and Australia, compared to other parts of the world.
"It could be a coincidence," Zhang said, adding, "Maybe discrimination is too strong a word, but a preference between different people from the country of origin."
"That is just a personal concern I note. I don't think the data itself can speak directly to this, but I think that it should be pointed out," she said.
Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland questioned the data source used in Zhang's study, calling it old and potentially flawed because many workers earn more money than they declare.
But, he said, the conclusions are sound.
"They got to the right destination, but the wrong way," he said in an email.
Kurland said fast processing times illustrated by the BCPNP will be mirrored under the new federal skilled worker program, "giving more successful outcomes in the labour market, (and) making more earnings for new immigrants."
Zhang acknowledged the findings were compromised by a lack of data that include an occupational breakdown.
"One of the reasons I put this study online is so more people can see the shortage of this paper and that more information would help better address this question," she said.
Zhang said her findings echo those of a 2011 national report by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. According to that study, it took on average five years for federal skilled workers to catch up to the salaries earned by provincial nominees.

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