New immigrants are experiencing economic difficulties upon arriving in Canada, even more so during an economic downturn.
The unemployment rate among these immigrants is now double that of the general population, and under-employment in this group is projected to be between 25 and 35 per cent.
The Harper government, like its Liberal predecessors, have taken a two-pronged approach to curb the declining economic welfare of its immigrants. It has implemented a comprehensive foreign credential recognition program, while at the same time investing heavily in settlement services.
Two Queen's University professors are offering a third option: reduce immigration during recession times.
In their study, released by the Canadian Labour Market and Skills Researcher Network, they call on policy makers to look closely at how immigrants are integrating into the Canadian labour market as the wage gap between immigrants and Canadian-born workers widens.
In the past, immigrants tended to catch up or even exceed the income levels of their Canadian born brethren after a short period of time.
Immigrants who arrived in 1971, for example, started out with an average annual income about 30 per cent lower than the average Canadian-born worker, but in 10 years they were making more.
Over the past two decades, however, the economic fortunes of immigrants have changed for the worse.
In 1990, those newcomers who had been in Canada for 10 years only reached about 90 per cent of the earnings of the Canadian-born. In 2000, the same comparison shows immigrants earned about 80 per cent of average earnings.
The study shows recessions in particular have major negative effects on immigrants.
"Recession appears to have had very marked and long-lasting scarring effects on the real earnings of immigrants," the authors said.
"Perhaps thought should be given to ways to reduce total immigrant admission levels when severe recessions hit."
The report writers also note Canada should focus its immigration policies on attracting skilled workers over other immigration classes such as family reunification and refugees.
"Immigrants who come to Canada with prearranged employment become better integrated and more easily established than those in other immigration categories," Sergio Karas, a Toronto immigration lawyer told the National Post.
"The federal government and the provinces must give top priority to address the looming skilled-worker shortage and the entrepreneurial innovation deficit that threaten Canada's economic future rather than wasting funds on programs that cater to politically driven goals.
"There is no point in bringing immigrants to Canada if they will be unable to find jobs."