Canada’s skills gap continues to widen, according to study

According to a new study from global recruiting firm Hays PLC, which surveyed the skills gap in 30 developed countries around the world, Canada ranks ninth for the severity of its skills shortage, and its score deteriorated in the past year.

Countries such as Japan, the United States, Germany and Sweden top the list in skilled worker shortage.

Study shows that Canada ranks 9th in the developed world in shortage of skilled workers

The report highlights two key findings

First, the state and the efficiency of a labour market in any particular country is not necessarily driven by the state of the economy in that point in time. Rather, the data suggests through the index that the efficiency of the labour market is driven by more structural factors. That said, the governments can introduce reforms to improve those structural factors, regardless of where they are in the economic cycle.

The second key finding that the index illustrates is that there is a very strong link between the efficiency of an educational system and the ability of that economy to produce the talent that the nation’s industries require both today and in the future. Making sure that business and the educational systems are in sync to produce sufficient numbers of the right quality graduates in the right areas for future talent. That’s the fundamental part of what drives the efficiency in any particular market.

As the global economy recovers and as the Canadian work force continues to age, without a change in policy, the situation in Canada and other developed countries will likely get worse. Canada is falling behind in implementing enough changes to meet the demand for highly skilled migration.

How to improve the skilled worker shortage and avoid disaster in the future

As according to Alistair Cox, the chief executive of Hays PLC, there are three areas where business and the governments can work together to strengthen these labour markets and reduce these inefficiencies that we see in some of these economies:

The first is for the government to foster a business environment of flexibilities, where businesses can build the work force they need for the future. This can be achieved through flexible working arrangements and skilled immigration.

The second method is to make sure that the educational system in an economy are really tuned into what businesses are going to need in the future in terms of the number of right skills.

The third is for businesses to look at their own policy in terms of attracting and retaining staff. Not just younger staff but also retaining and retraining older staff within their own work force.

Immigration Canada making changes

It’s not yet known how effective it will be, however, Canada is working on some changes in the system that are expected to be implemented in late 2014. Last year, Immigration Canada and the provinces, reached an agreement on the future of Canadian immigration system. The system will give the provinces a central role in immigrant selection. This new system will be based on a model called Expression of Interest (EOI).

The EOI model is an immigrant selection process which requires those seeking to immigrate to first file a simplified application, with immigration authorities. From that pool of applicants, the most promising candidates, based on the immigration department’s selection criteria, are then selected, and invited to submit a full application which includes documentation to prove their claimed qualifications.

Canada’s Iranian Immigrants Could See Reprieve As EU Court Strikes Down SWIFT Embargo

A branch of Bank Saderat in South East Iran. In two rulings over the last week, the EU General Court found there was insufficient evidence that Bank Saderat and Bank Mellat, the two largest private banks in Iran, were involved in Iran’s nuclear program, and ordered the EU sanctions against them to be lifted

According to an article by Jon Matonis in Forbes, the General Court of the EU has ruled that European Union sanctions against two of Iran’s largest private banks, Bank Mellat and Bank Saderat, must be reversed, due to lack of evidence that they are involved in Iran’s nuclear program.

If the ruling stands, it would allow Iranian-Canadians to once again send and receive money to and from family members in Iran using the international banking system.

EU sanctions forced the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, to eject Iran from its global financial messaging service, which almost all bank wires around the world use.

It effectively isolated Iranians from the global financial system and prevented Iranian students from receiving money from their parents while studying in Canada, and Iranian-Canadians from sending money to elderly parents in Iran whose pensions have been hit by the devaluation of Iranian currency.

While many in the Iranian diaspora, including in Canada’s Iranian immigrant community, are critical of Iran’s current government and its human rights record, the sanctions against the country have drawn criticism for their unprecedented broadness, and the apparently exceptional treatment Iran is receiving among the world’s countries.

Many see the fact that even countries charged with committing genocide have been allowed to stay in the SWIFT financial network, while Iran was ejected, as evidence of a double standard against Iran, and an attitude that Iranian civilians are acceptable collateral damage to achieve geopolitical aims.

Their claims have been validated by some of the statements made by U.S. political representatives, like Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), who wrote in October 2010: “Critics also argued that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that.”

In a statement in December 2012, Canada’s Foreign Minister, John Baird, announced new Canadian sanctions targeting the Iranian economy:

“Canada’s measures also target economic sectors that indirectly support or provide funds for Iran’s nuclear program: oil and gas, mining, metals, and shipping. The amended regulations further isolate Iran from the global financial system.”

The sanctions include an exemption for transfers of $40,000 or less between family members in Canada and family members in Iran.

Illegal Immigration in Canada Expected to Surge in 2015

temporary foreign worker

Over 190,000 temporary foreign workers entered Canada last year. Many of those whose work permits are set to expire in April 2015 are expected to remain in Canada illegally (CICS News)

The number of people in Canada illegally is expected to increase substantially in April 2015, when a large contingent of foreign workers see their work permits expire.

Their work permits will expire on April 1st 2015 because of a rule enacted on April 1st, 2011, that created a four year limit on cumulative time a foreign national can spend in Canada as a temporary foreign worker.

The rule change was made to reduce the perceived over-dependence of Canadian employers on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to meet their permanent labour needs.

The number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has increased from approximately 100,000 in 2002, to over 300,000 today, which some have criticized as a subsidy for business at the expense of Canadian workers.

Setting limits on how long a temporary foreign worker can work in Canada was seen as a way to limit the use of the TFWP to its intended role: to temporarily meet labour shortages until a permanent solution could be found.

People familiar with visa and immigration controls expect a significant percentage of those whose permits will expire on April 1st 2015 to over-stay their visa and reside in Canada illegally, leaving Canada with a problem that Americans are more familiar with: a sizeable illegal immigrant population.

The immigrant magnets of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto are expected to host the majority of those illegal migrants, which will likely put pressure on their infrastructure, public transit and policing resources, which are already being strained by rapid population growth.

Costs vs Generosity

Canadians are a generally generous people, who don’t like deporting individuals whose only crime is to stay in a country that affords them a better quality of life, but that generosity has to contend with the reality that unskilled foreign workers represent an economic cost for Canada.

Each additional person living in Canada comes with additional set costs in government spending, that can only be compensated if the person pays taxes that are at the Canadian average – something low-wage unskilled workers do not.

Allowing any of the literally hundreds of millions of people who would choose to immigrate and work in Canada if they could, to do so, would, in real terms, result in skyrocketing government spending levels and lower wages / higher unemployment rates for less skilled Canadians who would have to compete with the entrants in the labour market.

This means that immigration controls, and their integrity, are important for the economic well-being of Canada. Nevertheless, an extensive policing campaign that deports thousands of illegal immigrants, many of them living as families in Canada, would spark public outrage and would also be logistically difficult.

How Canada deals with the surge in the illegal immigrant population in 2015 remains to be seen.

Scam Targeting New Canadians By Threatening Deportation

The Palais de justice, a courthouse in Montreal, Canada. Montreal police told an intended target of the scam, Siddharth Kashyap, that there was nothing they could do because no crime had been committed since he had not sent the fraudster money (Jean Gagnon)

According to a report by the CBC, a new fraud is being perpetrated against new Canadians by scam-artists pretending to be lawyers with the Supreme Court of Canada.

The scam involves fraudsters contacting recent immigrants by phone and telling them that they had failed to fill out a form during their immigration application, and were therefore facing charges of immigration fraud that would result in their deportation.

The scam-artists then tell the intended victims that their court hearing had already been scheduled in Ottawa in a few days, and that before the court hearing, they would have to travel to India and fill out the form they had missed before, or wire money to a lawyer at the Canadian consulate in India to do it for them, or face conviction for immigration fraud and eventual deportation.

After one of the intended targets, Siddharth Kashyap, reported the fraud attempt to the Montreal police, they told him that since he hadn’t sent money, no crime had been committed, and there was nothing they could do.

The number given by the scam-artist was based out of Colorado. A recording of a call to the fraud perpetrator by a CBC reporter posing as a scam target can be heard here.

Company Gets Fined $12,000 for Hiring Illegal Immigrants

The "Three Amigos" worked at a Shell gas station in Thompson, the largest city in northern Manitoba (Bobak Ha'Eri)

In a case more reminiscent of American immigration woes, a Manitoba company has been fined $12,000 for hiring three Filipinos in Canada illegally.

The workers, Antonio Laroya, Arnisito Gaviola and Ermie Zotomayor, began working for a Shell gas station owned by 5896941 Manitoba Limited in northern Manitoba after they were laid off from their jobs in Alberta.

The company owner, Adnan Chaudhary, attended the civil motion.

The three Filipino workers, nicknamed the “Three Amigos” in their Thompson, Manitoba community, were ordered deported from Canada in May 2011 and barred from returning for one year.

They are now attempting to get work permits to resume working in Canada.

Nearly Three Quarters of Canadians Oppose Increasing Immigration Levels

Immigrants make up 40 percent of the population of the Greater Vancouver Region (GVR), pictured above. Public opinion in Ontario and British, the provinces with the most immigrants, was the most critical of immigration, with 38 percent saying it has a negative impact on the country. (Image provided by Michael G. Khmelnitsky)

A new public opinion poll shows that 72 percent of Canadians oppose increasing immigration levels, a sign that Canada is following in suit a broader trend among Western countries of public sentiment turning against immigration.

Despite the opposition to raising the number of immigrants admitted each year, Canadians on average still view immigration as having more of a positive impact than a negative one on Canada, which contrasts with public opinion in other western countries like the UK, where 68 percent of respondents in a recent poll said they believed immigration has a negative effect on their country.

Canada has historically had the most favourable public opinion toward immigration among OECD countries, and as a percentage of its population, has the highest immigration levels in the world.

The Ipsos Reid poll used a sample of 1,101 Canadians and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points

 

Federal and Ontario Governments to Spend $57 Million to Train Immigrants

Image of Toronto at night. A total of $57 million in funding will be provided by the Ontario provincial government and the federal government for projects in Ontario that assist immigrants with integrating into the Canadian labour market

The Ontario provincial government and the federal government hope to put an end to the adage of the immigrant taxi cab driver with a PhD, by spending a combined $57 million to train new Canadians to gain the credentials necessary to work in their field of study in Canada.

Data emerging over the last few years has shown a growing income gap between recent immigrants and other Canadians which has spurred the federal and several provincial governments to launch a number of initiatives to reverse the situation.

Most notably was the formation of the federal umbrella program, the Foreign Credential Referral Office (FCRO), in 2007 which funds projects run by regulatory bodies, immigrant-serving organizations and other organizations that help recent immigrants and those looking to immigrate to Canada update their foreign credentials to qualify to work in Canada in their vocation.

The $57 million of funding will be a significant expansion of government efforts to help new immigrants integrate into the economy. The federal government will provide $22 million of the funding while the remaining $35 million will come from the government of Ontario. The funds will be allocated to 70 existing and new projects in Ontario to provide “bridge training”, a term that encompasses training, Canadian work experience and assistance in getting licensed or certified to work in Canada, to new immigrants.

Visible Minority Population of Canada Increasing

A Toronto Star story reports that the visible minority population in Canada is growing, and at a rate faster than the general population:

StatsCan projects that the visible minority population in this country will continue to be bolstered by sustained immigration and slightly higher fertility rates in the next 15 years or so.

By 2031, Canada could be home to 14.4 million people belonging to a visible minority group, more than double the 5.3 million reported in 2006. The rest of the population, in contrast, is projected to increase by less than 12 per cent during that period, the federal statistical agency projects.

Immigration has drastically changed Canada's major cities. Nearly 20 percent of the Greater Vancouver Region's population is of Chinese origin. (City of Vancouver)

The StatsCan projections predict that by 2031, South Asians will make up the largest visible minority ethnic group in Canada, with a population of 4.1 million, and the Chinese population will be the second largest, at 3.5 million.

Immigration has transformed Canada’s major cities in recent decades. Chinese immigration has increased the percentage of the Vancouver metropolitan area’s population that is of Chinese origin to nearly 20 percent.

In Canada’s largest city, Toronto, visible minorities now make up nearly 47 percent of the total population, and nearly 50 percent of the city’s residents are foreign born.

BBC Article asks “What does it mean to be Canadian?”

An article published last Thursday in the BBC asks what it means to be Canadian, and explores the role immigration plays in it:

Canada is anything but a homogenous Commonwealth state; nearly one million indigenous people rub shoulders with immigrants from around the world, including many from Asia. What does it mean to be Canadian now? What are the traits which help make up modern-day Canada?

Canada's regional differences and ethnic and linguistic diversity make finding a common Canadian trait elusive. Image of Canadian Parliament (Library of Parliament / Tom Littlemore)

The piece, by Lorraine Mallinder, describes Canada’s unique identity as a heterogeneous nation, with vast regional differences and multiple large linguistic and ethnic minorities. Mallinder asks: what does a French-speaking Quebecer have in common with a West Coast Anglophone Vancouverite?

It quotes John Ralston Saul, an author of books on Canadian culture, who says “[Canadians] accept that difference is actually quite interesting. What makes it possible to live together is agreement on things like ethics and public policy. Not agreement on accents and religion”.

Mallinder describes Canada’s situation as a bilingual nation, with 200 additional languages being added to the mix due to immigration, largely from Asia. Canadians are generally tolerant toward immigration, writes Mallinder, but views have become more mixed recently, with more Canadians preferring a US-style melting pot, with a unified culture, over Canada’s more mosaic multiculturalism.

Canadians have a generally high standard of living, continues the article, with a large percentage of them connected to the internet and involved in social networking sites. Crime is low, but Canadians on the average have grown more concerned about crime, with about half supporting the Harper government’s plan to build more prisons.

The issues that are most important to Canadians now are the economy and jobs, ahead of healthcare and the environment, which has helped the Conservatives win elections on a platform promising economic growth and more jobs, writes Mallinder.

She adds that Canadians are generally generous, with the adult population having given more than two billion hours to volunteer work in 2010.

The article quotes Noah Richler, author of a book on Canadian identity, in its conclusion on what defines Canadians: ”The defining trait of being a Canadian is understanding our good fortune, knowing that we’re not actually better than anybody else”.

 

 

 

Private Companies to join Federal Internship for Newcomers Program

The FIN program seeks to match new immigrants with internship and permanent positions at Canadian organizations (Federal Government of Canada)

The FIN (Federal Internship for Newcomers) program is a Citizenship and Immigration Canada-led initiative that seeks to place new Canadian immigrants in internship positions in Canadian organizations. On Friday, CIC announced that private companies would be joining the program as employers for the first time.

CIBC, one of Canada’s largest banks, and the CGI Group Inc, a technology and business services company, will become the first private-sector partners in the immigrant internship program, and will receive information on newcomers who have applied to and been found qualified for employment by the FIN program.

CIC has been looking at ways of improving immigrants’ economic state in recent years, as data has emerged showing that newly arrived Canadian immigrants have higher average unemployment rates and lower average incomes than natural-born Canadians and longer-term immigrants.

The FIN program is part of CIC’s Foreign Credential Recognition Office (FCRO) initiative, that seeks to better integrate immigrants in the Canadian job market.