ICYMI: Montreal aims to break down barriers for immigrants in the workplace

Once again, contrast between Montreal and the regions:

Mayor Valérie Plante stood in front of 10 red doors inscribed with messages like: “Let’s open doors to employment for them,” “We hold all the keys” and “We can all play a role.”

The life-size doors on display at Complexe Desjardins aim to illustrate the barriers that still face immigrants in the job market and to urge employers to hire them.

“Sixty per cent of immigrants arriving in Quebec choose to settle in Montreal but unfortunately, even today, the doors to employment are still mostly shut rather than open for immigrants,” said Plante, as she launched a month-long public awareness campaign with Shahir Guindi, national co-chair of the Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt law firm and chair of the board of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.

While unemployment is at a historic low of five per cent, it is much higher among newcomers, despite the fact that 40 per cent of immigrants are university educated and 10 per cent hold graduate degrees, Plante said.

Montreal ranks fifth among the North American metropolitan regions that attract the most immigrants, according to Canadian and U.S. immigration numbers. However, it lags behind other Canadian cities in helping them integrate and find jobs.

The unemployment rate among newcomers to Montreal was 9.8 per cent in 2016, compared with 5.9 per cent for residents who were born in Canada, according to the Canadian Index for Measuring Integration (CIMI), coordinated by the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS).

More than 22 per cent of immigrants in Montreal live below the poverty line, compared with 12 per cent of Canadian-born citizens, it shows.

Overall, the city ranks 30th out of 35 among Canadian cities for immigrants’ economic performance compared to the rest of the population, according to CIMI.

Plante said she met with about 50 business leaders and officials with the provincial immigration department last year to chart a strategy to improve outcomes for newcomers.

The awareness campaign has support from 18 executives at the National Bank, Métro, Deloitte Canada, Mouvement Desjardins, as well as public or non-profit organizations like the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), Centraide and the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Its French-only website encourages employers to favour diversity in their workforces by making it a company value and requiring managers to implement inclusive policies. It also calls on average Montrealers in the workforce to become aware of their own prejudices and to reach out to immigrants in their work and social circles by sharing contacts and helping them with their CVs.

However, ACS president Jack Jedwab said that while the initiative was praiseworthy, it did not address the negative message the Quebec government has sent by reducing the number of immigrants to Montreal by 24 per cent in 2019 over the previous year.

“We should do what we need to do to encourage and help people to improve their skills, so that they are in line with the needs of the economy,” he said.

“But the bigger messaging from the government isn’t as positive,” Jedwab noted.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government’s rationale for slashing immigration despite the current labour shortage was that newcomers are not integrating sufficiently into Quebec society, he said.

“You are sending a message that suggests that there is a problem out there,” he said.

Greater Montreal received 28,900 immigrants in the first 10 months of 2019, the last period for which numbers are available, compared to 38,315 for the corresponding period in 2018, Jedwab said.

The city received a total of 43,795 newcomers in 2018 and 44,725 in 2017, he said.

In 2019, Vancouver surpassed Montreal for the first time as a destination for newcomers, with 34,095 immigrants from January to October 2019. It received 35,265 immigrants in 2018 and 29,830 immigrants in 2017.

Toronto received 102,965 immigrants in the first 10 months of 2019. The number of newcomers was 106,460 in 2018 and 86,580 in 2017.

“Toronto is reaping a lot of the benefits of immigration in terms of its economy,” Jedwab said, noting that immigration “is the single source of growth for our population.”

In Toronto, the unemployment rate among immigrants in 2016 was 7.5 per cent, compared with 7.7 per cent among the Canadian-born population. However, immigrants in Toronto had higher rates of poverty than the native-born population, with 19 per cent of newcomers living below the poverty line compared with 11 per cent of people born in Canada.

Source: Montreal aims to break down barriers for immigrants in the workplace

Japanese firms resist hiring foreign workers under new immigration law – poll

Significant culture change:

Only one in four Japanese companies plan to actively employ foreign workers under a new government immigration scheme, a Reuters poll found, complicating Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to ease the country’s tightest job market in decades.

And the bulk of the firms that may hire these immigrants do not plan to support them in securing housing, learning Japanese language skills or getting information on living in Japan, the Reuters Corporate Survey showed.

The survey results underscore the challenge for Japan to cope with its dwindling and ageing population that has put pressure on the government to relax tight foreign labour controls. Immigration has long been taboo here as many Japanese prize ethnic homogeneity.

The lack of language ability, cultural gap, costs of training, mismatches in skills and the fact that many foreign workers cannot stay permanently in Japan under the new system were among factors behind corporate wariness about hiring foreign workers, the Reuters poll showed.

The law, which took effect in April, creates two new categories of visas for blue-collar workers in 14 sectors such as construction and nursing care, which face a labour crunch. It is meant to attract up to 345,000 blue-collar workers to Japan over five years.

But the survey suggests the government may struggle to get the workers it needs to ease the country’s labour shortage where there are now 1.63 jobs available for every job seeker, the most since the beginning of 1974.

“Taking education costs, quality risks and yields into account, costs will go up” by hiring foreign workers, wrote a manager at a rubber-making company, who said the firm has no plans to hire foreign workers.

“We have failed in the past by employing foreign workers who could not blend in with a different culture,” a manager of a metal-products maker wrote.

Some 41% of firms are not considering hiring foreigners at all, 34% are not planning to hire many and 26% intend to hire such foreign workers, the survey conducted from May 8-17 showed.

Of those considering hiring foreign workers, a majority said they have no plans to support them in areas such as housing, Japanese language study and information on living in the country, it showed.

The survey, conducted monthly for Reuters by Nikkei Research, polled 477 large- and mid-size firms, with managers responding on condition of anonymity. Around 220 answered the questions on foreign workers.

Under the new law, a category of “specified skilled workers” can stay for up to five years but cannot bring family members. The other category is for more skilled foreigners who can bring relatives and be eligible to stay longer.

While foreign workers are generally viewed as cheap labour in Japan, 77% of firms see no change in wage levels at Japan Inc as a whole, when hiring specified skilled workers. Some 16% expect wages to decline and just 6 percent see wages rising.

Foreign workers “will help ease the labour crunch, bringing down overall wages,” a steelmaker manager wrote in the survey.

Abe, whose conservative base fears a rise in crime and a threat to the country’s social fabric, has insisted that the new law does not constitute an “immigration policy.”

Japan has about 1.28 million foreign workers – more than double the figure a decade ago but still just 2% of the workforce. Some 260,000 of them are trainees from countries such as Vietnam and China who can stay three to five years.

Source: Japanese firms resist hiring foreign workers under new immigration law – poll