Canadian report finds working in ethnic groups limits immigrant's opportunities

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According to a recently released internal government report, Canadian Immigrants who do not have good French or English tend to work in ethnic groups and, typically, earn less than their Canadian-born counterparts.

The report said research showed that Canadian immigrants who can speak English or French adequately have earnings comparable to their Canadian-born counterparts. However, Canadian immigrants who don't speak an official language have a tougher time in the labour force and often end up working in immigrant communities in major cities. Several studies have shown jobs in these immigrant communities are mostly in the lower-paying service industries.

The federal report was prepared in early 2011 to assess minimum language standards for immigrants coming to Canada under the provincial nominee program (PNP). It focused on concerns within Citizenship and Immigration Canada about the ability of program nominees in some provinces to speak one of Canada's two official languages.

"While some researchers point to the possibility of such immigrants becoming employed in an ethnically sheltered economy, several recent studies have shown that there are many disadvantages to doing this," according to the report. "Exposure to one's group reduces the accumulation of skills specific to the host country's labour market, decreases the knowledge of the local native language and impedes immigrants' economic progress."

In April 2012, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced that PNP applicants in semi- and low-skilled jobs would be required to undergo mandatory language testing from 1 July 2012.

The report also found that workers who speak little or no English or French face greater health and safety risks since they tend to be working in physically demanding occupations and may not be aware of their rights.

In 2011, more than 38,000 workers and their families came to Canada under the PNP. It has also become popular with provincial governments working to meet severe labour shortages.

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