Immigrant Skill Utilization: Trends and Policy Issues

  • Jeffrey G. ReitzEmail author
  • Josh Curtis
  • Jennifer Elrick


Since 1996, the problem of underutilization of immigrant skills in Canada has grown significantly. University-educated immigrants are more numerous, and census analysis shows their access to skilled occupations in the professions and management decline between 1996 and 2006. The decline in access since 2001 coincided with increased program efforts, including foreign credential assessment, bridge training, and others. Policy differences among provinces, or in occupational groups targeted, also have had little impact on aggregate trends. The value (in today’s dollars) of work lost to the Canadian economy grew from about $4.80 billion annually in 1996 to about $11.37 billion in 2006.


Immigrant employment Human capital analysis Skill utilization Canada Credential assessment Policy assessment 


  1. Alboim, N. 2010. ‘Planning for the Future: Immigration and Labour Market Trends.’ Paper presented at the Making Connections: Labour Market Integration, Immigration and Essential Skills, sponsored by the Connect Strategic Alliances. Toronto, 4 October.Google Scholar
  2. Alliance of Credential Evaluation Services of Canada, Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials, and C. Council of Ministers of Education. 2009. Pan-Canadian Quality Standards in International Credential Evaluation. Toronto. Accessed 29 May 2011 at
  3. Aydemir, A., & Skuterud, M. (2005). Explaining the deteriorating entry earnings of Canada’s immigrant cohorts, 1966–2000. Canadian Journal of Economics, 38(2), 641–671.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Birrell, B., & McIsaac, E. (2006). Integrating immigrants in Canada: addressing skills diversity. In Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Ed.), From immigration to integration: local solutions to a global challenge (pp. 101–144). Paris: OECD.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bonikowska, A., Green, D. A., & Riddell, W. C. (2008). Literacy and the labour market: cognitive skills and immigrant earnings. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Catalogue no. 89-552-M No. 020.Google Scholar
  6. Bonikowska, A., Hou, F., & Picot, G. (2011). A Canada–US comparison of labour market outcomes among highly educated immigrants. Canadian Public Policy, 37(1), 25–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Canadian Council of Professional Engineers. 2004. From consideration to integrationfinal report from phase II, recommendations to help integrate international engineering graduates into the canadian engineering profession and workforce. Ottawa: Canadian Council of Professional Engineers. Accessed 29 May 2011
  8. Canadian Council of Professional Engineers. 2008. Engineering International-Education Assessment Program. Accessed 29 May 2011 at
  9. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. 1997. Performance report: for the period ending March 31, 1997. Ottawa.Google Scholar
  10. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. 2006b. Facts and Figs. 2005: immigration overview permanent and temporary residents. Ottawa at
  11. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. 2010a. A commitment to foreign credential recognition: Government of Canada Progress Report 2009. Ottawa.Google Scholar
  12. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. 2010b. Departmental Performance Report: for the period ending March 31, 2010. Ottawa.Google Scholar
  13. Esses, V. M., Dietz, J., & Bhardwaj, A. (2006). The role of prejudice in the discounting of immigrant skills. In R. Mahalingam (Ed.), Cultural psychology of immigrants (pp. 113–130). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  14. Ferrer, A., Green, D., & Riddell, W. C. (2006). The effect of literacy on immigrant earnings. Journal of Human Resources, 41(2), 380–410.Google Scholar
  15. Frenette, M., & Morissette, R. (2005). Will they ever converge? Earnings of immigrant and native-born workers over the last two decades. International Migration Review, 39(1), 228–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Health Canada. 2005 Integration of internationally trained health professionals: backgrounder. Accessed 1 Oct 2010 at
  17. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. 2005. Skills for the 21st century: foreign credential recognition program. Backgrounder HIP-020-2-07-05. Accessed 26 Apr 2011 at
  18. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. 2012. ‘Essential skills profiles.’ Accessed 17 Feb 2012.
  19. International Organization for Migration. 2011. ‘Canadian orientation abroad: helping future immigrants adapt to life in Canada.’ Accessed 29 May 2011 at
  20. Li, P. S. (2000). Earning disparities between immigrants and native-born Canadians. Canadian Review Sociology and Anthropology, 37(3), 289–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Li, P. S. (2004). ‘Social capital and economic outcomes for immigrants and ethnic minorities. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 5(2), 171–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Nadeau, S., & Seckin, A. (2010). The immigrant wage gap in Canada: Québec and the rest of Canada. Canadian Public Policy, 36(3), 265–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Oaxaca, R. (1973). Male–female wage differentials in urban labor markets. International Economic Review, 14, 693–709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Office of the Fairness Commissioner. 2011. ‘Improving registration and licensing in Ontario.’ Accessed 29 May 2011.
  25. Oreopoulos, P. (2011). Why do skilled immigrants struggle in the labor market? A field experiment with thirteen thousand résumés. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 3(4), 148–171.Google Scholar
  26. Owen, T. and S. J. Lowe. 2008. ‘Labour market integration of skilled immigrants: good practices for the recognition of international credentials.’ Accessed 29 May 2011 at
  27. Pendakur, K., & Pendakur, R. (2002). Language as human capital and ethnicity. International Migration Review, 36(1), 147–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Picot, G., and A. Sweetman. 2005. ‘The deteriorating economic welfare of immigrants and possible causes: update 2005.’ Statistics Canada Research Paper 11F0019MIE–No. 262. Ottawa.Google Scholar
  29. Picot, G., and F. Hou. 2008. ‘Immigrant characteristics, the IT bust, and their effect on entry earnings of immigrants’. Statistics Canada. Catalogue. 11F0019MWE2008315. <>.
  30. Reitz, J. G. (2001). Immigrant skill utilization in the Canadian labour market: implications of human capital research. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 2(3), 347–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reitz, J. G. (2007). Immigrant employment success in Canada, part I: individual and contextual causes. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 8(1), 11–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Reitz, J. G., & Banerjee, R. (2007). Racial inequality, social cohesion, and policy issues in Canada. In K. Banting, T. J. Courchene, & F. Leslie Seidle (Eds.), In belonging? Diversity, recognition and shared citizenship in Canada (pp. 489–545). Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy.Google Scholar
  33. Reitz, J. G. (2012). The distinctiveness of Canadian immigration. Patterns of Prejudice, 46(5), 518–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sangster, D. 2001. Assessing and recognizing foreign credentials in Canada: employersviews. Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Human Resources Development Canada.Google Scholar
  35. Skuterud, M. (2010). The visible minority wage gap across generations of Canadians. Canadian Journal of Economics, 43(3), 860–881.Google Scholar
  36. Statistics Canada. (2003). Longitudinal survey of immigrants to Canada: progress and challenges of new immigrants in the workforce. Ottawa: Minister of Industry. Catalogue no. 89-615-XIE.Google Scholar
  37. Statistics Canada. (2005). Longitudinal survey of immigrants to Canada: a portrait of early settlement experiences. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, Special Services Division.Google Scholar
  38. Statistics Canada. (2010). Table 086. Labour Force Historical Review 2009. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Cat. no. 71F0004XVB.Google Scholar
  39. Sweetman, Arthur. (2004). ‘Immigrant source country educational quality and Canadian labour market outcomes’. Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series, Statistics Canada.Google Scholar
  40. TRIEC. 2006. TO employment: services for skilled immigrants in the Toronto Region. Toronto.Google Scholar
  41. Wald, S., & Fang, T. (2008). Overeducated immigrants in the Canadian labour market: evidence from the workplace and employee survey. Canadian Public Policy, 34(4), 457–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Watt, D., & Bloom, M. (2001). Exploring the Learning Recognition Gap in Canada. Phase 1 Report. Recognizing Learning: The Economic Cost of Not Recognizing Learning and Learning Credentials in Canada. Ottawa: Conference Board of Canada.Google Scholar
  43. Weiner, N. 2008. ‘Breaking down barriers to labour market integration of newcomers in Toronto,’ IRPP Choices 14(10).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey G. Reitz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Josh Curtis
    • 2
  • Jennifer Elrick
    • 2
  1. 1.Munk School of Global AffairsUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations