An immigrant-focused financial recovery plan should be at the forefront of Canada’s post-pandemic goals.
This need is highlighted in a recent study conducted by the World Education Services (WES). In June, WES surveyed 1,800 permanent residents, international students, and temporary foreign workers in Canada to understand COVID’s impact on their economic health.
WES is one of the main providers for Educational Credential Assessments (ECAs). ECAs are used to verify that foreign credentials are equivalent to Canadian ones. They are often required by immigration candidates when they submit economic class applications to the federal government or a province or territory.
According to the study, 15 per cent of all respondents lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of them also found it difficult to afford rent or make mortgage payments.
Just under a quarter (24 per cent) of permanent residents had lost their main source of income. For temporary workers, that percentage was 22 per cent.
For international students, 34 per cent found it difficult to afford rent or utilities.
As such, eligible permanent residents, temporary foreign workers and international students, applied to receive emergency benefits that were aimed to offset loss of income due to the pandemic. This includes the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and Employment Insurance (EI).
The CERB was accessible for employed as well as self-employed Canadians and permanent residents. The CERB was introduced after the start of the pandemic.
On the other hand, EI offers temporary benefits for eligible individuals who lost their jobs. EI is not bound by the pandemic, and some form of employment-related benefit has been available for 80 years.
In addition, many permanent residents who are also students were eligible for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), an emergency benefit specific to Canadian and permanent resident students.
In June, around a third of those who claimed to have been eligible for EI had received the benefit. This is a significant increase from April, when it was only 13 per cent.
Around a half (48 per cent) of those who claimed to have been eligible for the CERB had received the benefit in June. This also spells a significant increase. In April, this was just 19 per cent.
The WES survey found that those receiving EI or CERB were largely made up of permanent residents and temporary workers (90 per cent).
Few international students were likely to receive either benefit. This is because of the eligibility requirements of these programs. To be eligible for the CERB, international students must have earned more than CAD$5,000 in 2019.
The CERB is scheduled to end in October and eligible individuals will receive EI instead.
This means that many freelancers and “gig economy” workers will not be able to receive benefits. This is because many of these workers do not qualify for EI.
To address this, the Canadian government will be introducing a transitional benefit. This is good news for immigrants and students, many of whom had unstable employment and therefore do not qualify for EI.
Canada’s economy has rebounded in recent months with some 2 million jobs lost by the pandemic since recovered.
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