Survey suggests how Canada can improve economic outcomes for immigrants

Shelby Thevenot
Published: January 18, 2021

Many immigrants lost their job and were not able to support themselves financially during the coronavirus outbreak in Canada, according to a new survey.

Immigrants have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and not just in Canada but around the world. Migrants are overrepresented in essential services, and industries that have been hardest hit by coronavirus prevention measures, according to Statistics Canada.

World Education Services (WES), an educational credential assessments provider, conducted a survey to look into the economic well-being of recent migrants to Canada. The results came from 7,496 responses across three surveys conducted in April, June, and August 2020.

Findings show that many newcomers have lost their income and cannot meet their basic needs. About 14 per cent have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, and 13 per cent are working reduced hours or at reduced pay. About 17 per cent have temporarily lost their primary source of income, another 6 per cent report that they have lost it permanently. One in five is having trouble affording housing, but when looking at just international students it becomes one in three. One out of 10 is having difficulty affording essentials like groceries and medicine.

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More than half of those who lost their jobs or income did not benefit from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which was created to address the urgent economic needs of people who were impacted by the pandemic. About 48 per cent received the CERB or Employment Insurance and the rest did not. Permanent residents were most likely to have received the benefit.

The survey also found that many immigrants are not accessing employment or settlement help from social service agencies. Many permanent residents and temporary workers are not interested in contacting these services. Nearly half of international students and temporary workers do not think they are eligible for services. About 19 per cent of permanent residents have contacted an agency, and about 12 per cent would but they do not know how.

The results of the report point to three specific actions that could improve economic recovery prospects for migrants. Starting with providing more pathways to permanent residence for temporary workers, who may be at greater risk because their status does not provide them with full legal protections, or it makes them ineligible for economic supports.

The pandemic has also drawn attention to the need for settlement and employment service interventions specifically for temporary workers and international students. These become increasingly important as more temporary residents transition to permanent residence. The survey also indicates that all classes of migrants need to be made more aware of what supports they are eligible for and how to access them.

Finally, the report calls for policy interventions aimed at addressing the systemic issues that have caused migrants to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

"Viewed holistically, the economic vulnerability of the respondents in this study is linked to their employment in precarious, low-wage, and often essential work, reflecting the impact of gender, racialization, and the devaluing of international education and experience in the labour market," the report says. "Policy interventions aimed at addressing these systemic issues across the Canadian economy—in the context of the pandemic, the recovery, and beyond—will contribute towards mitigating disproportionate negative impacts on immigrants, temporary workers, and international students."

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