Atlantic Canada employers need more applicants, study finds

Mohanad Moetaz
Published: July 27, 2021

Many employers across Atlantic Canada find it difficult to hire because there are not enough applicants with the necessary experience or skills.

This is according to a report by The Harris Centre at Memorial University in Newfoundland titled ‘Employer Attitudes Towards Hiring Newcomers and International Students in the Atlantic Provinces’.

The report investigated employers’ attitudes and perceptions, to better understand the difficulties associated with newcomer integration in Atlantic Canada’s labour market.

Atlantic Canada refers to the four easternmost provinces in Canada: New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

More than half of Atlantic Canada employers who received applications from immigrants and international students ended up hiring an immigrant or international student.

In addition, a whopping 88 per cent of employers surveyed said they had positive experiences with immigrant workers. They had a positive impression on immigrants because they found that international workers who they previously hired were “hard-working, skilled, and reliable.”

This positive impression shows that employers in Atlantic Canada are keen to hire immigrants. However, the provinces find it difficult to retain immigrants in the region.

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Low immigration rates in Atlantic Canada

There is a population crisis in Atlantic Canada. The region is facing declining fertility rates and an aging population. In addition, many international students who come to study in the region end up leaving in search for more job opportunities that match their aspirations.

In fact, the main reason why immigrants leave the region is because of employment. As a result, governments, employers and learning institutions have been developing strategies to attract and retain more immigrants, international students and temporary workers to the region.

In 2010, the region welcomed about 3 per cent of newcomers to Canada, even though its population is 6.5 per cent of Canada's. In 2016, this increased to 5 per cent. The Canadian federal government launched the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP) in 2017 as an additional tool for immigration. Since then, immigration to the region has been increasing considerably. There was a 22 per cent increase in immigration in 2018, and a 26 per cent increase in 2019.

Despite this, Atlantic Canada has the lowest immigration and retention rates in Canada. Many immigrants tend to choose larger cities such as Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal over Atlantic Canada.

What should Atlantic Canada do to retain immigrants?

The study highlighted a few recommendations to make it easier for immigrants and international students to integrate into the region’s labour markets.

One is to introduce immigration policies that meet the needs of employers across the region. Employers need to hire, but there is a lack of applicants. A straightforward solution to this is to align immigration policies to fill these labour needs.

Another recommendation is to introduce intercultural training for immigrants and employers to make it easier to communicate at work. This is particularly important because the main concerns that employers have are about language proficiency, cultural and workplace differences, as well as retention.

This leads us to another one of the study’s recommendations: change workplace practices to help immigrants and improve retention.

There are signs of improvement. Earlier this year, Canada's immigration department found that immigrant retention rates are improving in the region.

Surveyed employers also suggested that the governments, settlement agencies and non-governmental organizations should do more to support things like spousal employment, children’s education, affordable housing, accessible healthcare as well as improve social connection activities.

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