A major international study ranks Canada among the world's leaders in immigrant integration, but there are signs that advantage is on the wane.
Canada sits near the top of most categories in the study, which measures integration of immigrants in the 34 wealthy countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The report will be released in Paris on Monday. It compares outcomes for immigrants and their children looking at factors such as income, health, education and civic engagement.
Canada ranks first in the world on the percentage of immigrants who take up citizenship, about 75 per cent in this study, and does very well on the equality of opportunity afforded the children of immigrants. It also has the highest percentage of immigrants with a post-secondary degree, 52 per cent, and the lowest proportion of immigrants considered low-educated.
"Canada is doing quite well. That should not come as a surprise," said Jean-Christophe Dumont, head of the International Migration Division of the OECD. "Overall, the finding is that immigrants are well-integrated in the labour market and have fairly good results in health, education and civic engagement."
He said one of the main reasons for Canada's success is that for more than 40 years it has selected immigrants for their education, their language ability and their perceived ability to integrate. Immigrant integration is seen as vital to the policy agenda in most countries to ensure social cohesion, the report says.
"The type of migrants Canada receives compared to other OECD countries, particularly Europe, is quite different," he said. "Canada receives more skilled migrants, more migrants from Asia, who tend to perform quite well and especially their children perform quite well. The other element is that the labour market situation is much better overall in Canada than it is in a number of European countries."
But results are less favourable in other areas. Canada has a great many highly educated immigrants working in low-skilled jobs, the report finds. Income is significantly lower for immigrants than it is for the native-born. The country also has a poor score on housing affordability, partly because of its high prices and partly because publicly subsidized housing is much more prevalent in Europe. The relative disadvantage of immigrants has been increasing, rather than decreasing, since 2000.
The federal government has announced it will introduce a new system for selecting immigrants designed to improve economic outcomes, but it will not be in place until 2014.
Australia is very close to Canada on most rankings, due in part to a similar history as an immigrant-selecting country. But Canada's best results seem to be on the measures of integration for the second generation, the children of immigrants.
"Canada is above Australia and all other countries in this respect," Mr. Dumont said. "If there are problems, they don't necessarily go from one generation to the next. It obviously takes time to settle in the country of landing, but in Canada after one generation and even before, most of the integration is on a good track."
The children of immigrants have very high educational achievement and an unemployment rate two percentage points lower than the children of the native-born, the study found.