Almost every month for the past six years, I have been in Toronto taking cabs to meetings. And in every immigrant cab driver, I meet the death of the Canadian immigrant dream. Doctors, engineers, accountants and many more. All professionals.
Of late I have been meeting more engineers and I am puzzled. With a demand for engineers in Western Canada, why go to Toronto? In May this year, I did a five-city speaking tour in India speaking to visa ready immigrants and learnt that to most immigrants Toronto is Canada!
That has been changing rapidly. Whilst Ontario is still the no. 1 province for immigration, actual numbers have gone down by 21 per cent from 148,640 in 2001 to 118,114 in 2010. In the skilled immigrant category the numbers are more alarming, dropping from 89,079 in 2001 to 36,939 in 2011.
As a direct result of this, the last two years saw a decline in funding for Ontario, mainly as the support services to Western Canada increased. For the past month, several politicians, educationalists and experts have weighed in on the new Ontario immigration plan with a much publicized media push talking about raising immigration numbers. Ottawa, the report says, wants to raise immigration to 1 per cent of population, which is substantially higher than the Canadian national average of .8 per cent.
In addition to the obvious skilled labour force advantage, immigrants also bring cash. While no figures exist, it is estimated to be $2 -3 billion a year! No wonder the Ontario government wants a chunk of this!
Wanting to increase immigration numbers in itself is not bad. Until one looks at immigrant outcomes. Less than 25 per cent of immigrants who came to Ontario are working in their field and Ontario’s newcomers earned 23.2 per cent less than their Canadian counterparts in 2011 and had a jobless rate of 15.7 per cent. Why? What does the province intend to do about improving these outcomes? More is NOT better!
When an immigrant to Canada fails, three things happen:
- Canada loses a potential earner.
- The professional ends up as a security guard or drives a cab. Imagine for a minute the loss of self-esteem for that person and his family.
- The source country loses a productive member of society!
While one can talk about hiring barriers being a contributory factor to immigrant unemployment, one cannot assume all immigrants have equal skills!
Research points to language skills and age being contributory factors for successful immigrant outcomes. The proposed changes by the federal government are in complete alignment with this and should help us have an immigration system that factors outcomes on the same level as skills!