Parochialism is harming Canadian productivity and innovation -- and holding back the potential of well-educated newcomers.
Many employers are stubbornly refusing to hire immigrants who don’t have Canadian experience -- and firing them first during economic downturns. The result is that newly arrived immigrants have an unemployment rate that is twice as high as that of the Canadian-born population, in spite of being better educated.
A new report by Deloitte is calling on Canadian employers to focus on an employee’s core skill set and qualifications -- instead of on their accent and cultural background. A more diverse work force is not only better for society, it fosters creativity and innovation. Two good examples in Canada are Xerox and Toronto’s Steam Whistle Brewery, which have broadened their markets, thanks to a diverse work force.
While lingering biases in recruitment may not be intentional, they definitely persist. A recent study by University of Toronto researcher Philip Oreopoulos showed that job seekers with anglophone names in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are 47% more likely to receive callbacks than those with Indian or Chinese names -- even if their work experience, education and language proficiency are the same. Employers perceive that it will take more time to train foreign-born workers, or that they won’t fit into the company’s culture. But group think isn’t good for business, and differences can strengthen an organization.
Canada needs immigrants to fuel economic growth. But this goal won’t be achieved if newcomers can only get “survival jobs”. Canada’s immigration model is recognized for its excellence, both in selecting the best and brightest, and for making the path to citizenship painless. However, the model will lose its credibility if employers cannot address the challenge of immigrants’ persistent under-employment.
Employers must broaden their thinking, and integrate skilled people who may not have Canadian experience, but who offer something even more valuable: global experience.