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Expanding Our Routes To Success

The Final Report By Ontario's Expert Roundtable On Immigration


Why an Immigration Strategy? Why Now?: Background

Ontario has long been a top destination for immigrants. However, over the past ten years, immigrant outcomes in the province have worsened and Ontario now faces greater competition for immigrants with other jurisdictions. The design of an immigration strategy requires balancing a number of short- and long-term objectives. Ontario requires a strategy that will allow it to attract the right people to the province, in the right number, and to use the most appropriate tools and programs to ensure that immigrants succeed, prosper, and integrate across Ontario in both the short- and long-term.

Key facts

  • Immigrants make up 30 per cent of Ontario's current labour force.
  • Recent and very recent immigrants1 accounted for 8.2 per cent of Ontario's labour force in 2010.2

This section briefly outlines the challenging context within which Ontario is developing its immigration strategy, and the major issues upon which the Roundtable focused in providing its advice.

Immigration & Ontario's Transforming Economy

Ontario is in the midst of an economic transition. Many of the industries that were the foundation of its prosperity for generations are struggling. Jobs in the manufacturing sector as a share of all Ontario jobs have declined by 35 per cent in the last decade.3 Other sectors, such as the service and mining industries, are growing their shares.

This shift has contributed to a decline in employment opportunities for those with lower skills or limited English language fluency, and has made it more challenging for recent immigrants to find secure employment at decent wages. This has, in turn, contributed to both an absolute decline in real wages of immigrants and a decline in wages comparable to their Canadian-born counterparts. The situation is particularly acute for very recent immigrants to Ontario, whose average weekly wages were 23.2 per cent below those of Canadian-born workers in 2011 (compared to 21.6 per cent for recent immigrants to Canada overall).4 Post-secondary education and core skills for the knowledge economy (including advanced analytical, literacy, numeracy, interpersonal communication, and digital competency skills) are becoming more important for labour market success and for economic growth in Ontario. Regrettably, internationally-acquired education, skills, work experience, and networks are often undervalued.

Immigrants should be supported as they bridge to the Ontario labour market and build the professional networks needed to navigate it. Without concerted action on this front, immigrants end up in jobs that may not be commensurate with their previous education, training, and past employment. Many end up in poorly-paid, precarious employment.

Demographic Trends

A natural decline in the relative size of Ontario's working age population-due primarily to aging and low fertility rates-will put pressure on public finances as fewer workers support more retired Ontarians. Without any further immigration to Ontario, it is anticipated the working-age population will begin to decline by 2014.7

Key facts:

  • It is estimated that Ontario will face a shortage of 364,000 skilled workers by 2025.5
  • Immigration would need to be more than 2.5 times greater than it is today to offset the decline in Ontario's labour force growth being caused by its aging population.6

Higher levels of immigration to Ontario will help increase the working age population and improve the province's long-term economic and fiscal prospects. However, data show that immigrants are experiencing difficulty integrating into Ontario's labour market and communities. This reinforces the need for a strategy that will attract economic immigrants to Ontario and also help them find appropriate employment that uses their skills, education, and networks.

Decline in Economic Immigration

While the past decade has seen relatively little change in overall immigration to the country, Ontario's share has declined. From 2001 to 2011, Ontario's share of immigrants to Canada dropped by almost a third, from a 59.3 per cent peak in 2001 to 40 per cent in 2011.8 This is Ontario's lowest share in at least 30 years (but consistent with its share of the Canadian population).

Key facts:

  • Over the last 10 years, Ontario's share of economic immigrants has declined by 19 per cent.
  • In 2011, Ontario received 57.1 per cent of refugees to Canada, an increase of 6.1 per cent since 2001.

At the same time, the profile of immigrants to Ontario has changed. The percentage of economic class immigrants coming to Ontario has dropped by nearly 20 per cent, from 64 per cent in 2001 to 52 per cent in 2011. This figure is the lowest in the country; on average, 71 per cent of immigrants arriving to provinces outside Ontario were economic.9

Ontario now receives a higher share of recent immigrants through the family class and humanitarian streams than in the past. These types of immigrants typically experience greater difficulty in the labour market and require more settlement supports after arrival.

Bar Chart<br/>
2001: Economic Class 64%, Family Class 26%, Refugees 10%<br/>
2011: Economic Class 52%, Family Class 28%, Refugees 16%, Other 4% Bar Chart by Province<br/>
Nunavut 33%, Northwest Territories 51%, Ontario, 52%, Newfoundland and Labrador 57%, British Columbia 63%, Nova Scotia 66%, Alberta 67%, Quebec 70%, New Brunswick 75%, Manitoba 82%, Saskatchewan 86%, Yukon 87%, Prince Edward Island 92%<br/><br/>
Chart shows an average of 71% outside Ontario

The Shift Away from Human Capital

Those selected to fill particular jobs may do well in the short-term, but the evidence is clear that immigrants selected on the basis of their education, skills and experience-or their human capital-do better over the long-term. Citizenship and Immigration Canada's 2010 evaluation of the Federal Skilled Worker Program found that higher levels of post-secondary education and greater official language capacity result in better economic outcomes for principal immigration applicants.11 Those selected on the basis of their human capital also appear to enjoy stronger earning potential. "Nationally, earnings of the federal skilled worker class grow faster than those of provincial nominees. By the first year after landing, federal skilled workers' annual earnings are on average $2,000 to $7,000 higher than those of provincial nominees."12

Key facts:

  • In 2001, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, which selects immigrants on the basis of their human capital, represented 77.1 per cent of all economic immigrant admissions to Canada. By 2011, only 36.7 per cent of economic immigrants entered through this program.10

Despite strong evidence that selection based on human capital produces better long-term results for immigrants, recent shifts in federal selection policy, such as expanding opportunities for provinces to nominate immigrants for specific jobs and the introduction of a priority occupations list to filter applicants to the Federal Skilled Worker Program, have resulted instead in selection policies that emphasize narrow and often outdated occupation-based criteria. This focus has come at the expense of overall human capital, and has subsequently contributed to worse long-term outcomes for immigrants.

Bar Chart<br/>
2001: Federal Skilled Workers 77%, Provincial Nominees 1%, Quebec Skilled Workers 11%, Business Class 9%, Live-In Caregivers 2%<br/>
2011: Federal Skilled Workers 37%, Provincial Nominees 25%, Quebec Skilled Workers 20%, Business Class 7%, Live-In Caregivers 7%, Canadian Experience Class 4% Bar Chart and Line Graph (all figures are estimates)<br/>
Employment Earnings Bar Chart:<br/><br/>
All Immigrants, approximately $24,000<br/>
Skilled Worker PA, approximately $38,000<br/>
Provincial Nominee PA, approximately $32,000<br/>
Others, approximately $22,000<br/>
Live-In Caregiver, approximately $22,000<br/>
Landed in Canada Refugee, approximately $22,000<br/>
Family, approximately $20,000<br/>
Skilled Worker SD, approximately $19,000<br/>
Business SD, approximately $18,000<br/>
Private Sponsor Refugee, approximately $16,000<br/>
Provincial Nominee SD, approximately $15,000<br/>
Refugee Dependents, approximately $13,000<br/>
Business PA, approximately $12,000<br/>
Government Assisted Refugee, approximately $12,000<br/><br/>
Incidence of Employment Earnings Line Graph:<br/><br/>
All Immigrants, approximately 63%<br/>
Skilled Worker PA, approximately 95%<br/>
Provincial Nominee PA, approximately 80%<br/>
Others, approximately 55%<br/>
Live-In Caregiver, approximately 55%<br/>
Landed in Canada Refugee, approximately 55%<br/>
Family, approximately 50%<br/>
Skilled Worker SD, approximately 48%<br/>
Business SD, approximately 47%<br/>
Private Sponsor Refugee, approximately 40%<br/>
Provincial Nominee SD, approximately 38%<br/>
Refugee Dependents, approximately 35%<br/>
Business PA, approximately 30%<br/>
Government Assisted Refugee, approximately 30%

Worsening Immigrant Outcomes

Outcomes for recent immigrants to Ontario have been worsening. While working age immigrants are, on average, better educated than the Canadian-born, they experience higher rates of unemployment and are significantly less likely to work in the fields for which they were trained. For many immigrants arriving in Canada, the greatest barriers to employment in their fields are lack of Canadian experience, lack of recognition of their international credentials, and unfamiliarity with Canadian professional cultures and business language. In 2010, only 24 per cent of internationally trained immigrants in Ontario were working in professions for which they were trained (compared to 62 per cent of the Ontario population).15

Key facts:

  • In 2011, Ontario's unemployment rate for very recent immigrants was the second highest in the country (15.7 per cent) and double Ontario's overall rate (7.6 per cent).13
  • The Conference Board of Canada estimates that the cost of not recognizing the credentials and skills of Canadians, notably immigrants, is between $4.1 and 5.9 billion annually.14
The result is that many recent immigrants take lower paying jobs for which they are overqualified, greatly underutilizing their human capital. The failure to integrate highly skilled immigrants is and will continue to be a challenge for Ontario's workforce.

Coming out of the recession, there is an additional cause for concern as unemployment for very recent immigrants remains twice that of the Canadianborn. This is compounded by the major structural shifts in Ontario's economy, which are having a significant and continuing impact on immigrants.

Bar Chart by Province<br/><br/>
Atlantic Canada: Unemployment rate for very recent immigrants was 1.1 times that of the Canadian-born; recent immigrants 0.6 times that of the Canadian-born<br/><br/>
Alberta: Unemployment rate for very recent immigrants was 1.5 times that of the Canadian-born; recent immigrants 1.2 times that of the Canadian-born<br/><br/>
Manitoba: Unemployment rate for very recent immigrants was 1.7 times that of the Canadian-born; recent immigrants 1.4 times that of the Canadian-born<br/><br/>
British Columbia: Unemployment rate for very recent immigrants was 1.8 times that of the Canadian-born; recent immigrants 1.6 times that of the Canadian-born<br/><br/>
Saskatchewan: Unemployment rate for very recent immigrants was 1.8 times that of the Canadian-born; recent immigrants 0.8 times that of the Canadian-born<br/><br/>
Ontario: Unemployment rate for very recent immigrants was 2.0 times that of the Canadian-born; recent immigrants 1.3 times that of the Canadian-born<br/><br/>
Quebec: Unemployment rate for very recent immigrants was 2.8 times that of the Canadian-born; recent immigrants 1.5 times that of the Canadian-born Line Graph (all figures are estimates)<br/><br/>
Very recent immigrants (5 years or less):<br/><br/>
Unemployment rate ranges from a low of 11% to a high of 21% between 2006 and 2012, with dates noted as follows:<br/><br/>
March 2006, approximately 11%<br/>
January 2007, approximately 12%<br/>
November 2007, approximately 12%<br/>
September 2008, approximately 13%<br/>
July 2009, approximately 17%<br/>
May 2010, approximately 19%<br/>
March 2011, approximately 16%<br/>
January 2012, approximately 14%<br/><br/>
Recent immigrants (5 to 10 years):<br/><br/>
Unemployment rate ranges from a low of 7% to a high of almost 18% between 2006 and 2012, with dates noted as follows:<br/><br/>
March 2006, approximately 7%<br/>
January 2007, approximately 9%<br/>
November 2007, approximately 8%<br/>
September 2008, approximately 10%<br/>
July 2009, approximately 17%<br/>
May 2010, approximately 12%<br/>
March 2011, approximately 9%<br/>
January 2012, approximately 9%<br/><br/>
Established immigrants (10 years or more):<br/><br/>
Unemployment rate ranges from a low of 5% to a high of 10% between 2006 and 2012, with dates noted as follows:<br/><br/>
March 2006, just under 6%<br/>
January 2007, approximately 5%<br/>
November 2007, approximately 5%<br/>
September 2008, approximately 6%<br/>
July 2009, approximately 10%<br/>
May 2010, approximately 9%<br/>
March 2011, approximately 8%<br/>
January 2012, just over 7%

The Expansion of Temporary Migration

The Federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program was originally designed to enable Canadian employers to hire foreign high-skilled and skilled trades workers on a temporary basis to fill immediate skills and labour shortages when Canadians and permanent residents are not available. Over time, the program has grown rapidly in size. Between 2002 and 2011, the number of temporary foreign workers present in Canada rose by 196 percent, from 101,259 to 300,111. Of the total temporary foreign workers in Canada in 2011, 35.6 per cent (106,849) were in Ontario.16.

In addition, despite the program's intended purpose, many employers now use it to bring in low-skilled workers to fill positions on an extended basis. In 2000, 51 per cent of foreign workers in Canada were high-skilled (what the program refers to as National Occupational Levels 0, A, or B). By 2011, this number had dropped to only 29 per cent.17.

Line Graph by Province (all figures are estimates)<br/><br/>
Ontario – approximately 48,000 in 2000 with growth to approximately 105,000 in 2011, with each year estimated as follows:<br/><br/>
2000: 48,000<br/>
2001: 50,000<br/>
2002: 50,000<br/>
2003: 55,000<br/>
2004: 60,000<br/>
2005: 65,000<br/>
2006: 75,000<br/>
2007: 80,000<br/>
2008: 90,000<br/>
2009: 95,000<br/>
2010: 100,000<br/>
2011: 105,000<br/><br/>
British Columbia – approximately 15,000 in 2000 with growth to approximately 70,000 in 2011, with each year estimated as follows:<br/><br/>
2000: 15,000<br/>
2001: 18,000<br/>
2002: 20,000<br/>
2003: 22,000<br/>
2004: 28,000<br/>
2005: 30,000<br/>
2006: 37,000<br/>
2007: 45,000<br/>
2008: 60,000<br/>
2009: 70,000<br/>
2010: 69,000<br/>
2011: 70,000<br/><br/>
Quebec – approximately 13,000 in 2000 with growth to approximately 40,000 in 2011, with each year estimated as follows:<br/><br/>
2000: 13,000<br/>
2001: 14,000<br/>
2002: 13,000<br/>
2003: 17,000<br/>
2004: 19,000<br/>
2005: 20,000<br/>
2006: 22,000<br/>
2007: 25,000<br/>
2008: 28,000<br/>
2009: 30,000<br/>
2010: 38,000<br/>
2011: 40,000<br/><br/>
Alberta – approximately 10,000 in 2000 with growth to approximately  65,000 in 2009 and then dropping again to just under 60,000 in 2011, with each year estimated as follows:<br/><br/>
2000: 10,000<br/>
2001: 10,000<br/>
2002: 10,000<br/>
2003: 11,000<br/>
2004: 15,000<br/>
2005: 18,000<br/>
2006: 21,000<br/>
2007: 40,000<br/>
2008: 60,000<br/>
2009: 65,000<br/>
2010: 59,000<br/>
2011: 59,000<br/><br/>
Atlantic Canada, Manitoba and Saskatchewan all followed a similar growth curve with approximately 1,000 in 2000 with growth to approximately 5,000 for Manitoba in 2011, 7,000 for Saskatchewan in 2011 and 10,000 for Atlantic Canada in 2011. Line Graph by Province (all figures are estimates)<br/><br/>
All provinces have little to no growth between 2002 and 2005.<br/><br/>  
Saskatchewan and Manitoba grow slightly to approximately 2,000 in 2009 and then dip back down in 2011.<br/><br/> 
Alberta and Quebec follow a slow growth curve from approximately 1000 in 2007 to 2000 in 2009 and a high of approximately 2500 in 2011.<br/><br/>
Growth is steady in Ontario from approximately 2000 in 2006, 2500 between 2008 and 2010 and approximately 3500 in 2011.<br/><br/>  
British Columbia’s growth is approximately 1000 in 2007, about 4000 in 2008 and almost 6000 in 2009 before declining to approximately 4000 in 2010 and 2500 in 2011.<br/><br/>
Alberta growth begins to increase in 2005 at approximately 1000 and grows to about 2000 in 2006, increasing to approximately 10,000 in 2007, 20,000 in 2008 and peaking at 24,000 in 2009 before declining to around 18,000 in 2010 and 17,000 in 2011.

Measuring the Return on Investment in Settlement & Integration Services

Key facts:

  • The Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigrationwill invest over $112.1M in settlement and integration services in 2012-13.
  • Since the end of the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement, the allocation from Citizenship and Immigration Canada varies by year; it is set at just under $315M in program spending for 2012-13.

Settlement and integration services play a key role in helping immigrants adjust to their new lives in Canada. Settlement service agencies fulfill an invaluable role in helping immigrants find employment and housing, and connect to their new communities. The Ontario and federal governments have made significant investments in settlement and integration services but it is difficult to assess the outcomes and value for money using existing data and outcomes measurements. Governments need to work together to better measure and assess which programs yield the best results and warrant continued or increased investment.

In light of the poor economic outcomes of newcomers, many organizations providing settlement services have popped up over the years. However, the patchwork way in which services are delivered such as language training programs has resulted in uneven outcomes for newcomers.
- Craig Alexander et al., Knocking Down Barriers Faced by New Immigrants to Canada, TD Economics, 2012

Increased Competition for Skilled Workers

Key facts:

  • A 2012 Gallup poll places Canada as the third most popular destination for potential immigrants, next to the US in first, and the UK in second.18

Canada is in a "race for talent" with other traditional immigrant-receiving countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, and many continental European countries. At the same time, countries that have traditionally been major sources of immigrants, such as China and India, are undergoing rapid economic development, better enabling them to retain highly skilled citizens and even to entice members of their diaspora communities to return. Ontario is also facing increased competition for highly skilled workers from other provinces, in particular those experiencing resource-fuelled booms and labour shortages.

The growing intensity of knowledge means that all countries have a greater need for highly skilled workers who are able to access, understand and use knowledge for technological and economic development. The global competition for this talent pool is on the rise.
- The Global Competition for Talent, OECD Policy Brief, 2009

Recent Federal Developments

The Government of Canada recently announced its intention to significantly change both the administration and the focus of Canada's immigration programs, with the aim of building a faster and more demand-driven immigration system that will respond to specific labour market needs. Many of these changes will have a major impact on the types of immigrants coming to Ontario.

Some of the most important proposed changes include the elimination of the large backlog of pre-2008 applicants to the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the introduction of a new employer-driven Expression of Interest selection model (similar to what has been adopted in both Australia and New Zealand), and the termination of devolved settlement services in British Columbia and Manitoba.

Many important components of the programmatic architecture are yet to be defined. The Roundtable sees tremendous opportunity for federal-provincial collaboration in order to achieve these governments' shared objectives.

Key Facts
  • The 2012 federal budget announced a number of significant changes to the immigration system that will have an impact on Ontario's programs and its immigrants.
  • The elimination of the Federal Skilled Worker Program applicant backlog potentially impacts 280,000 people who have been waiting years for a decision on their immigration application status.
  • It is estimated that 70 per cent of the applicants in the Federal Skilled Worker Program applicant backlog were destined for Ontario.

1. "Very recent immigrants" have resided in Canada for less than five years. "Recent immigrants" have resided in Canada for between five and 10 years. "Established immigrants" have resided in Canada for more than 10 years.

2. Interministerial Coordinating Group, Shifting Focus, 2011.

3. Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities. 2011. [Labour Market Trends. October 21, 2011. http://www.tcu.gov.on.ca/eng/eopg/publications/20111021_sdag_employment_trends.pdf]

4. Statistics Canada, Longitudinal Immigration Database, 2008.

5. Conference Board of Canada. 2007. Ontario's Looming Labour Shortage Challenges. September 2007. Ottawa: Conference Board of Canada. http://www.workforcecoalition.ca/downloads/conference_board_report.pdf.

6. C.D. Howe Institute Commentary. 2009. Faster, Younger, Richer? The Fond Hope and Sobering Reality of Immigration's Impact on Canada's Demographic and Economic Future. July 2009.Toronto: C.D. Howe Institute. http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/commentary_291.pdf

7. Ontario Ministry of Finance, 2012.

8. Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Permanent Resident Data System, 2011.

9. Ibid.

10. Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Permanent Resident Data System, 2011.

11. Alboim, N and Maytree. 2009. Adjusting the Balance: Fixing Canada's Economic Immigration Policies. July 2009. Toronto: Maytree Foundation. http://www.maytree.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/adjustingthebalance-final.pdf.

12. Commission on the Reform of Ontario's Public Services. 2012. Public Services for Ontarians: A Path to Sustainability and Excellence. Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Finance. http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/reformcommission/chapters/report.pdf.

13. Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, January 2012.

14. Downie, M. 2010. Immigrants as Innovators: Boosting Canada's Global Competitiveness. Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada. http://kaimeramedia.com/peelnewcomer//images/articles/11-074-immigrantsasinnovators-web.pdf.

15. Zietsma, D. 2010. Immigrants working in regulated occupations. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2010102/article/11121-eng.htm#a5.

16. Citizenship and Immigration Canada.n.d. "Facts and Figures." http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/statistics/menu-fact.asp.

17. Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, January 2012.

18. Globe and Mail. 2012. Canada must actively recruit the best and brightest immigrants. 4 May.


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