Wednesday, January 31, 2007

340,000 immigrants can't get credentials recognized, landmark study says


A recent report tells us that foreign credentials of 340,000 Canadians or permanent residents of visible minorities have not been recognized, and Canada is losing $4.1b every year because of that.

CIC accepts about 90,000 skilled workers every year. So the number of immigrants who could not have their credentials recognized equals to an skilled worker inventory of 4 years.

The report was a one-year work dubbed "INCLUSIVE, ACCESSIBLE AND RELEVANT WORKPLACE LEARNING: A Position Paper On Visible Minorities And Workplace Literacy", and was completed by the National Visible Minority Council on Labour Force Development.

One of the stunning conclusions this report has made is that "racism and discrimination continue to be identified as a contributing factor to the unemployment and underemployment of visible minorities and their lack of advancement in the workplace."

Visible minorities have higher education than Canadian-born, but immigrants are less fortunate:

Visible minorities are faced with a multitude of socio-economic inequities. Even though studies have shown that attaining post-secondary education is a critical component of professional development and workplace success in Canada, educated visible minorities continue to have higher unemployment rates than the total population. Statistics show that 47.5% of Canadian-born, visible minority workers, aged 25 to 34, have completed university, compared to 26.6% of Canadian born, non-visible minority workers.

But immigrant unemployment rate is much higher than national average. Immigrants obviously have not enjoyed the economic prosperity and low employment rate other Canadians have been enjoying these years.

However, the national immigrant unemployment rate hovers around 30% while the national unemployment rate remains steady at around 7%. Whether Canadian-born or immigrant, visible minorities' access to the labour market can be challenging. In addition, even when gainfully employed, a glass ceiling often prevents advancement for visible minorities.

The natural consequence of ramping unemployment rates is poverty:

It is not surprising, therefore, that the 2001 Statistics Canada census reported that 36% of all visible minority persons in Canada lived in poverty in comparison to 20% of the Canadian population.

The percentage of unattached visible minorities living in poverty was recently polled at 52.9% compared to the national rate of 38%. The percentage of visible minority families living in poverty was 26% compared to the national average of 12.9%. One in five visible minorities with post-secondary education are among the poorest 20% of the nation's population. In such cases, attaining post secondary education has not had a positive impact on economic independence.

The report writers blame the failure of foreign credentials recognition as the heart of all problems:

The higher rate of poverty in visible minority communities is due, in part, to 340,000 ready, able and well-educated individuals being unable to access the labour market. The problem is that their credentials were earned outside Canada and are not recognized by employers, sector councils, government accreditation bodies and human resources departments in this country. In addition to this colossal loss of human resource potential, the non-recognition of foreign credentials represents an annual, national, economic loss of $2.7 to $4.1 billion in earnings.

The report says newer immigrants are earning less and less than their predecessors, which is an alarming situation.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The following recommendations are being made to relevant stakeholders for discussion
and action:

A) Developing a National Workplace Learning Strategy for Visible Minorities

(1) NVMCLFD recommends that:

* The Government of Canada, in consultation with NVMCLFD and other relevant stakeholders develop a National Visible Minority Workplace Learning Strategy that takes into consideration local differences and community needs.
* The Government of Canada provides the necessary funding to implement this National Strategy at a level that will meet future challenges due to demographic changes and labour market skill shortages.

B) Addressing the Needs of Visible Minorities
(2) NVMCLFD recommends that the Provinces and the Government of Canada, in partnership with relevant stakeholders, respond to the specific training needs of visible minorities in the workplace.

(3) NVMCLFD recommends that the Provinces and the Government of Canada make an ongoing commitment to funding a comprehensive approach to language training programs for visible minorities in the workplace, that include both advanced levels as well as basic level literacy training.

(4) NVMCLFD recommends that:

* Sector Councils, the Provinces, and the Government of Canada recognize the plight of the many visible minorities who work in certain seasonal and casual construction, manufacturing, mining, agricultural industries andbaddress their needs for workplace training; and
* All levels of government, unions and employers ensure that seasonal and casual workers are covered under provincial and federal labour codes in order to protect their basic rights as workers.

(5) NVMCLFD recommends that Sector Councils, the Provinces, and the Government of Canada recognize that many visible minorities and immigrants work in non-unionized workplaces.

(6) NVMCLFD recommends that Chambers of Commerce, Business Councils, Sector Councils, Provinces and the Government of Canada undertake an initiative to provide bridging opportunities for the many visible minority immigrants who are prevented from obtaining employment commensurate with their qualifications due primarily to a lack of Canadian experience.

(7) NVMCLFD recommends that:

* The Provinces and the Government of Canada, in particular HRSDC and NLS, ensure workplace learning programs are funded on a long term and sustainable basis; and
* Funding selection and allocation criteria be made public and transparent.

C) Involving Employers

* The Chambers of Commerce, the Provinces, the Government of Canada and other related stakeholders implement a nation wide program to educate;
* Employers, particularly small and medium size businesses on the economic and social advantages of offering workplace learning programs; and
* The Provinces and the Government of Canada develop tax and other incentive for businesses that develop and provide workplace learning for their workers.

D) Promoting “Workplace Learning”
(9) NVMCLFD recommends that:

* The Provinces and the Government of Canada, in particular HRSDC and NLS, utilize the term “workplace learning” instead of “workplace literacy”;
* The Government of Canada expand the Essential Skills Framework toinclude socio-cultural competencies.

E) Recognizing Foreign Credentials and Prior Learning
(10) NVMCLFD recommends that regulatory bodies, the Provinces and the Government of Canada develop plans and strategies to accelerate the recognition of foreign credentials in all occupational areas.

(11) NVMCLFD recommends that the Provinces and the Government of Canada provide financial support to offset the cost of translation and evaluation of the foreign credential documents for those immigrants with job skills that are needed in Canada.

(12) NVMCLFD recommends that employers, educational institutions and all levels of government establish a consistent approach to evaluating prior learning when evaluating the skills and abilities of visible minorities.

F) Learning from the Current Project
(13) NVMCLFD recommends that the Government of Canada, particularly HRSDC and NLS, provide funding for NVMCLFD:

* To convert the lessons learned from the current project into training and reference material for other stakeholders to assist employers in implementing effective workplace learning programs for visible minorities;
* To continue its work in areas that are identified in the above recommendations.

G) Combatting Racism as a Significant Barrier
(14) NVMCLFD recommends that:

* Chambers of Commerce, Business Councils, Provinces, the Government of Canada, unions, employers and all other stakeholders recognize the reality of the negative economic impact on the country of racism and its deterrence to the full utilization of visible minorities in the workforce; and
* All levels of government, unions and employers provide “unlearning of racism” and diversity training to all employees.

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It's not only "visible" "minorities" who struggle to find work in the laboUr markets of this wild, wild, west. The Irish endured open discrimination in the labour markets not so long ago in our shared history.

I'm sure that many who find themselves classified as visible minorities do understand that it's not only they who struggle with discrimination and racism. You must realize that our population in Canada is growing at an ever accelerating rate and that the societal changes are quite likely upsetting to older Canadians especially.

Those who are slow to adapt are finding themselves obsolete in a highly competitive laboUr market. All they know is that the price of everything is rising and their property taxes becoming unreasonable to the point of ridicule given the often lacking services.

It's a very good thing to cast light on these issues, however, just because I'm an eighth generation Canadian without a degree (yet) doesn't guarantee me a job! I certainly admire the entrepreneurial spirit and optimism of many of the newcomers I've encountered here.

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