Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Does Employment in Precarious Work Lead to Wage Disparities for Canadian Immigrants?

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Does Employment in Precarious Work Lead to Wage Disparities for Canadian Immigrants?

Article excerpt


Labour force participation with an adequate income by all citizens of a country is fundamental to that country's economic success. With the increasing arrival of migrants from non-European countries, Canada's ethnic diversity appears to be expanding. According to a report by Statistics Canada (2013b), over 1 million foreign-born individuals arrived in Canada between 2006 and 2011 making up 17.2 percent of the total foreign-born population in this country (Statistics Canada 2013b). The majority of these individuals arrived from Asia and are some of the most educated immigrants in Canada's history. Given that higher education is assumed to lead to better jobs with higher earnings, it is reasonable to assume that educated immigrants' earnings would equal those of Canadian-born individuals with similar credentials. This does not appear to be the case, as immigrants continue to lag behind their Canadian-born counterparts in terms of economic success. Based on this, Morissette and Picot (2005) state that although the workforce has become more experienced and better educated over the two decades leading up to their report, the proportion of low-paid employees actually increased among certain groups such as recent immigrants. This assertion is also reflected in the work of Green and Worswick (2010) who found that sizeable reductions in returns to foreign work experience were paramount in declines in entry level earnings among Canadian immigrants.

Many studies have highlighted the steady increase of precarious work in Canada (Fudge and Vosko 2001; Shellenberg and Clarke 1996; Vosko, Zukewich and Cranford 2003). As Canadian companies adapt to changing global economies and a subsequent increase in the diversity of labour markets, work has become flexible and therefore precarious. Earning an adequate income is particularly problematic for immigrants engaged in precarious employment. For instance, earnings represent not only whether the newcomers can provide for themselves and their families, but also whether they earn enough to save for their retirement and to educate their offspring. The primary goal of this analysis, then, is to examine the role played by precarious work in making immigrant earnings lower than those of their Canadian-born counterparts. This analysis is especially important as there is no previous research that looks at the role of precarious employment in determining the earnings of Canadian immigrants.

Currently, a majority of research on economic outcomes among Canadian immigrants focuses on wages (Aydermir and Skuterud 2005; Bannerjee 2009; Frenette and Morrisette 2005). These researchers argue that lack of credential recognition and discriminatory hiring practices lead to low wages. I maintain that, in part at least, it is being employed in precarious jobs that create an immigrant earnings deficit. I also recognize that the combination of discriminatory hiring practice and discounting foreign education and work credentials may lead to precarious work, which in turn leads to low wages.

Discourse surrounding the economic integration disadvantages faced by Canadian newcomers identifies low immigrant wages as a probable outcome. In fact, a sizeable number of researchers recognize low income among Canadian newcomers as the key source of low economic integration among them. An extensive study using Canadian census data by Aydemir and Skuterud (2005) speaks to immigrant wage disparities across regions of Canada. Furthermore, Aydemir (2003) argues that not only have the earnings of newcomers been deteriorating, but so have their employment and labour force participation rates. As such, Aydemir states that, even though recent Canadian immigrants are more educated than previous cohorts, they are still not faring as well in Canada's labour markets (Aydemir 2003).

Immigrant wages are also examined by Bannerjee (2009), highlighting entry wage and ability to catch up to the wages of the Canadian-born. …

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