Trichur: Why Danby’s CEO is worried about refugee sponsorship as Canada teeters toward a recession

Of note, including the warning regarding the impact of a possible economic slump:

At a time when business leaders are bracing for a recession, Jim Estill is concerned about more than just his company’s bottom line.

The chief executive officer of Danby Appliances, a Guelph, Ont.-based manufacturer and distributor of household appliances, is also worried that an economic slump will further complicate efforts to sponsor and settle refugees.

Not only is the Canadian economy slowing, it has shed jobs for three consecutive months. Companies are still hiring, but the unemployment rate has climbed to 5.4 per cent.

That’s why Mr. Estill – who in conjunction with Danby, has sponsored hundreds of refugees since 2015 – is watching the cooling labour market with trepidation. After helping people from all over the world – including Syria, Congo, Myanmar, Venezuela, Afghanistan and Ukraine – he knows a recession will make it harder for refugees to find work and start new lives in Canada.

“If we end up with an unemployment rate that was higher, I could see people in the general population resenting refugees‚” he said during an interview at The Globe and Mail’s Growth Camp event for Canada’s top-growing companies.

As Mr. Estill points out, he and others faced little societal resistance to bringing in refugees when this country appeared to be swimming in unfilled jobs.

“Nobody was coming and taking your job. Because, okay, did you want the job at McDonald’s? No, there’s no lineup to take the job,” Mr. Estill said.

But social sentiments can shift during tougher economic times.

Sure, some of it is rooted in racism – but those people would have a problem with refugees even if GDP growth was going gangbusters.

Other folks, though, worry about the availability of jobs and affordable housing for their relatives and friends in a sputtering economy. That means a widely expected recession is shaping up to be a critical moment for refugee sponsorship and settlement in Canada.

History teaches us that newcomers often struggle to find and keep jobs during economic contractions. The COVID-19 downturn, for instance, disproportionately affected immigrant women in low-wage jobs.

“Immigrants often have more negative labour market outcomes during recessions than those born domestically,” a 2022 study by Statistics Canada states. It also notes that entering the labour market during a recession can result in a “scarring effect” that hurts immigrants’ earnings for years.

There’s not much research that focuses on refugees. But a 2019 Statistics Canada studydid track outcomes for 830,000 refugees from 13 countries.

Although it found “substantial” employment rates five years after their arrival, it also concluded their earnings varied based on their countries of origin.

“Ten years after entering Canada, the refugee groups with the highest earnings (i.e., from the former Yugoslavia, Poland and Colombia) earned roughly double what those with the lowest earnings did (i.e., from Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China),” the study said.

separate Statscan paper, published in 2020, found that privately sponsored refugees – such as those helped by Mr. Estill – tend to have higher employment rates and earnings than government-assisted refugees – even if they have lower levels of education.

Although Mr. Estill does not permanently employ every adult he sponsors, Danby’s 90-day program provides them with short-term work, English lessons, assistance with résumé writing and finding job coaches.

”It’s not government money that is that is paying for these people, it’s private money. It’s my money that’s paying to settle them, so it doesn’t cost taxpayers,” Mr. Estill said.

That underscores the importance of private refugee sponsorships, including those undertaken by individual entrepreneurs and corporations.

Danby is not alone in its efforts to help displaced people.

Companies including Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., National Bank of Canada, Bombardier Inc., KPMG Canada and Stingray Group Inc. have committed to sponsoring Ukrainian refugees displaced by the Russian invasion – but so many others also need help.

Mr. Estill, for one, is calling on the federal government to allow more refugees to enter the country.

Canada was the first country to introduce a private sponsorship program more than 40 years ago. But even so, getting privately sponsored refugees into the country can take years, which is why Mr. Estill advises other executives the program will not address their company’s short-term hiring needs.

He’s right to encourage others to think about the long-term benefits to Canada.

After all, some former refugees, such as Rola Dagher, a Lebanese-Canadian who is currently global channel chief at Dell Technologies, have gone on to make great strides in the business world. She came to Canada via Cyprus.

That brings us back to Corporate Canada. Which companies will be next to offer refugees a lifeline during these uncertain times?

“My problems are very first-world problems,” Mr. Estill explains. “It’s that we might be going into a recession. Oh no, my sales might not be as high as I’d like them to be. But they’re first-world problems.”

Thank you, sir. Well said.

Source: Why Danby’s CEO is worried about refugee sponsorship as Canada teeters toward a recession

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: