Dicko: Is the uncertain economic climate a threat to Canada’s immigration targets?

More promotion than neutral and objective analysis:

The federal government plans to welcome 1.4 million immigrants by the year 2025. These ambitious targets reflect a national consensus on immigration’s long-term economic value. With one million job vacancies and an estimated 40 per cent of small- to medium-sized businesses reporting staff shortages, Canada needs immigrants.

Since setting these targets, inflation in Canada has spiralled and the rising cost of living has stretched the finances of many Canadian households. A recent report reveals that 64 per cent of Canadians is concerned about their ability to pay off debts, while 59 per cent state that further increases will lead them to financial difficulties. 

Financial planning and budgeting are accompanied, for many people, by apprehension and anxiety— especially when the person in question is a newcomer to Canada.

An immigrant’s skills and experience earn them enough points for permanent residency in Canada. However, they soon find that the reality of living and working in Canada is different from what they anticipated. 

Immigrants compete for jobs and housing with an average of 10 per cent less pay than Canadian-born workers. If they are skilled and university-educated, they receive an estimated 20 per cent less than their Canadian counterparts each month. 

This immigrant wage gap costs our economy $50-billion each year.

Seventy-two per cent of immigrants recently surveyed by Léger for the Institute for Canadian Citizenship said that “Canadians don’t understand the challenges immigrants face.” Thirty per cent of young newcomers, aged between 18-34, revealed that they are likely to leave Canada in the next two years. 

It’s understandable, in the current climate, why many young newcomers would want to take their skills and experience elsewhere. Far too many immigrants arrive to find that their experience and credentials are not recognized in Canada. If they need a license, the cost of getting licensed could cost tens of thousands of dollars. 

Immigrants also come up against another barrier—lack of Canadian experience—which is not something they can control or overcome. Some find themselves in low-skilled survival jobs because of these barriers. 

It’s a vicious cycle: they arrive in Canada with no credit history and without it, they are not eligible for a career loan from a financial institution. This keeps them stuck in the survival job, moving further and further away from the career they once had in their home country. 

Navigating life in a new country can induce stress and anxiety. Research shows that immigrants and refugees are more susceptible to mental health challenges. 

Our client Elda experienced anxiety as a newcomer to Canada. As a skilled psychotherapist with years of experience back home in the Philippines, she was unable to practice as a psychotherapist in Canada unless she got re-licensed. Elda wanted to continue her career but it came at a significant cost. With a young family to feed, she needed financial support. She wasn’t sure how she could pay her bills and also return to what she loved to do. 

One of these solutions is microloans offered through national charities, like Windmill Microlending. A microloan makes it possible for someone like Elda to get re-licensed while covering living expenses during the process. 

Today, Elda is a licensed psychotherapist who helps others manage their mental health struggles. Internationally-trained mental health professionals like Elda are in high demand.  

Helping immigrants contribute at the level that our economy needs could help ease pressures on our health-care system.

The Windmill team supports over thousand immigrants like Elda every year as they transition into careers that align with their skills and experience. We recognize that the current economic climate could deter newcomers from applying for a career loan, so we recently introduced a fixed-rate interest loan of 5.95 percent for a limited time. 

Offering loans at this below-prime rate ensures that funds remain accessible and affordable to newcomers. We hope that this measure will help newcomers fulfill their career goals and utilize their full potential while also reducing Canada’s labour shortage. 

As we welcome more immigrants in the coming years, Canada must remain a desirable destination for skilled workers around the world. We have much to gain by getting the best and brightest skilled immigrants into roles where they can make a difference. 

When skilled immigrants are allowed to leverage their skills and experience, Canada reaps the benefits. 

Oumar Dicko is national director, Stakeholder Relations of Windmill Microlending, a national charity that empowers skilled immigrants to achieve economic prosperity through microloans and supports.

Source: Is the uncertain economic climate a threat to Canada’s immigration targets?

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.

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