Immigration Minister Calls on Regulators to Reduce Barriers for Canada’s Immigrants

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is seeking the cooperation of Canada's self-regulatory organizations in making it easier for new Canadians to get licensed to work in their field in Canada

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney attended the annual conference for Canada’s self-regulatory organizations (SROs) today and asked for their cooperation in helping recent immigrants to Canada become licensed in their field.

The Canadian Regulators Conference, held in Ottawa on November 8th and 9th, is organized by the Canadian Network of National Associations of Regulators (CNNAR), an association made up of some of Canada’s largest SROs, including the Canadian Nurses Association, the Ontario College of Teachers, and the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada.

CNNAR’s annual conferences are intended to foster information sharing on strategies and best practices among regulatory organizations, and are likely seen by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) as an ideal platform to promote its message of the need to increase regulatory recognition of foreign credentials and licensing of foreign-trained professionals.

Canada’s SROs have been under some criticism recently for occupational regulations that have hampered the labour market integration of Canada’s immigrants.

A report from the Canadian Labour Market and Skills Researcher Network (CLSRN) this month estimates that licensure barriers that prevent immigrants from working in their field of study cost the Canadian economy $2-5.9 billion a year in lost productivity and tax revenue.

Protectionist Workplace Regulations Marginalizing Canadian Immigrants -Vancouver Sun

A new CLSRN study finds that occupational licensing requirements are preventing many Canadian immigrants from working in their field of study

An article in Monday’s Vancouver Sun blames trade and professional associations for hampering the economic integration of Canadian immigrants.

The story, by columnist Don Cayo, cites a new report by Canadian researchers that finds that occupational licensing is preventing immigrants to Canada from working in their field of study, at a cost of $2-5.9 billion a year to the country’s economy.

The Canadian Labour Market and Skills Researcher Network (CLSRN) report notes that a full 20 percent of workers in the Canadian labour market now work in an occupation that requires a license, and that these licenses create significant barriers to entry that take up to a decade for a new immigrant to overcome.

Drawing from several studies authored by CLSRN researchers, the report finds that the average Canadian immigrant experiences an immediate drop in the skill level of their occupation upon arriving in Canada, and that even after four years, only 20 percent of women and 25 percent of men are working in their pre-immigration occupation.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Cayo says the mismatch between immigrants’ work experience and their post-immigration occupation is due to self-regulating trade and professional associations imposing licensing requirements in order to limit competition to their members:

Self-serving self-regulators are capable of a lot of sanctimonious bumph — and of greatly complicating accreditation procedures — to minimize the competition and protect their comfortable sinecures. Simply put, the old boys are way too prone to put down the “new kids on the block.”

He argues that unless self-regulating labour associations reduce regulatory barriers to entry in their fields, the government should repeal their regulatory powers.

Occupational licensing and the immigrant income gap

The income gap between recent immigrants and native-born Canadians has grown from 20 percent in 1970 to 40 percent in 2011, despite the proportion of recent immigrants with a university degree increasing from 10 percent in 1980 to over 54 percent in 2007 – or more than double that of native-born Canadians.

One possible explanation is the shift to an immigration selection criteria that favours foreign professionals who are trained for occupations that are regulated in Canada, like teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, engineers and veterinarians.