Ep.52: When Your Boss is an Algorithm
With Emily Guendelsberger and Sean O’Brady
Many highly skilled immigrants in Canada are working well below their potential. The country does a good job of attracting immigrants, but after welcoming them, many immigrants face barriers to finding job opportunities commensurate with their skills, experience and education. One sees it all the time — perhaps it’s the economist who’s driving for Uber or the nurse who’s working the checkout at Loblaws. And regardless of where they have ended up trying to make a living, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened their lot even more.
But international credential recognition and the unequal socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on the immigrant population are just two of the issues involved in what is a growing problem for Canada’s economy. The coronavirus forced the government to temporarily halt immigration, a major disruption for a country that usually welcomes hundreds of thousands of newcomers yearly. This will need to be remedied as a part of Canada’s post-pandemic economic rebuilding efforts. After all, Canada has a low birth rate, and more than eight million baby boomers will be exiting the country’s workforce in the coming years. Immigrants represent a critical source of population growth and remain one of the key solutions to Canada’s skilled labour shortage.
Just as the country must consider the lot of existing immigrants when rebuilding, it must also reexamine its relationship with international students — many of whom have stayed home this year — and its temporary foreign workers (TFWs), who have limited rights and poor working conditions and some of whom were involved in COVID-19 outbreaks while working here in 2020.
The policy areas this report examines include international credential recognition, skills training for immigrants – especially those who’ve suffered job loss in the pandemic – and the possibility of anti-immigrant sentiment stemming from disenfranchised Canadians who fear that newcomers may threaten their already-precarious jobs.
In studying the problems immigrants face, World Education Services discovered that those with more experience and education tended to have lower rates of employment in Canada. Those surveyed complained about a lack of professional connections as one barrier. In addition to a dearth of connections, we already know that those with “foreign-sounding names” are less likely to advance in the hiring process. Similarly, a University of Waterloo study showed that the employment rate of university-educated Canadian-born women dropped by five percent between May 2019 and May 2020, but that of immigrant women dropped by 13 percent. One has to wonder if the latter were employed in sectors, such as hospitality, that were disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
Some things government should consider as they plan how to rebuild:
Calls to action include:
Skills for the Post-Pandemic World series is funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Program
With support from