Why study immigrant workers (newcomers)?

Immigrant workers (newcomers) are very important to the Canadian labour force. According to the 2006 Canadian Census, one in five Canadian workers is an immigrant. Skilled workers (immigrants coming to Canada specifically for the purpose of employment) now make up almost 60 per cent of all new permanent residents in Canada, up from 41per cent in 1993. Immigrant workers were expected to account for almost all net labour force growth in Canada as of 2011.

What problems do newcomers face in the Canadian workforce?

Newcomers to Canada, particularly those from racialized groups and recent immigrants (immigrants who arrived during the 1990s and 2000s), are more likely than Canadian-born workers to work in precarious, low-wage jobs.This includes jobs in factories, restaurants, hotels and retail stores.

Many immigrants have more education and experience than their job requires, and they may have problems getting their qualifications or their previous work experience recognized by Canadian employers. Although most new immigrants can speak some English, they may not be fluent.

In order to support dependents, sponsor family members or send financial aid to their country of origin, new immigrants may keep jobs even when faced with poor working conditions or injury. Those workers with high job insecurity, poor language skills and a lack of familiarity with Canadian social programs may face particular challenges when injured at work.

New immigrants may not know their workplace rights or be familiar with social programs (such as workers’ compensation). They may have trouble getting services in their own language and appropriate to their cultural traditions.

Given that many immigrants come to Canada for reasons of employment, a work injury can significantly affect their future, finances and family. It is important that our workers’ compensation and related systems meet the needs of these workers, and make the path to recovery and return to work as smooth as possible.