University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Summer 2002

Wasting Talent

Canadian employers and immigrants would both benefit from better "mutual orientation," study finds

Skilled immigrants driving cabs or flipping burgers are costing the Canadian economy up to $15 billion, according to a recent study led by Prof. Jeffrey Reitz of sociology and industrial relations. “Canada is moving into the knowledge economy, yet there has been a ‘brain waste’ of immigrant professionals because we are not putting their skills into practice,” he says. Using 1996 census data and data from labour-force surveys, Reitz compared immigrants’ earnings with those of native-born Canadians using factors such as years and types of education, work experience, knowledge of the English language and ethnic or racial background. He found that immigrants receive on average half to two-thirds less in earnings for their educational and work experience than native-born Canadians. What is needed is a better “mutual orientation” for both immigrants and their prospective employers, says Reitz, whose study appeared in the Journal of International Migration and Integration. “Helping Canadian employers deal with the real and very practical problems of using the new global workforce could be a low-cost way of dramatically improving returns from our investment in immigration.”

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