By admitting too many foreign workers who can’t meet Canadian standards, the government has been part of an underemployment problem, says the federal immigration minister.
But in launching new reforms to what has become a “dysfunctional” system, Jason Kenney says help is on the way.
On May 4, his department will require foreign applicants to include an assessment of their education to measure whether their degrees and diplomas are relevant to or close to the Canadian standard.
Speaking to the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta at a luncheon Saturday, Kenney said too often professionally trained people are welcomed into Canada only to get stuck in “survival jobs” and become unemployed or underemployed.
“We, the federal government, have been part of the problem because for too long we have admitted too many foreign trained engineers who were not actually at or close to the Canadian standard,” he said.
“And we weren’t doing them any favours because they had to go back to square one in terms of their education.”
An improved federal skilled worker program will allow the department to be truthful with the applicants about their chances, respond to them in a reasonable time and give them pointers, he added.
Kenney said the rate of unemployment for immigrants with university education is four times higher than for people born in Canada with university degrees.
He said Canadians have been told immigrants are needed to help address the aging population and shrinking workforce.
“And yet we have been bringing in newcomers, too many of them, to face unemployment or underemployment in an economy with skill labour shortages — this makes absolutely no sense,” he said.
“Our immigration system, thanks to political neglect, thanks to politicians who are unwilling to take risks to fix the problems of the system, became dysfunctional.”
He said the changes to better control the intake of applications are to help move from a slower, passive system to a faster, more flexible one like that of New Zealand and Australia.
As many as one million people were waiting in backlog for up to seven or eight years for Kenney’s department just to look at their application, due to the fact twice as many were being taken in than there were positions available, he said.
“That was just frankly dumb,” he said.
“So what we’re trying to do is compete with countries like Australia and New Zealand … by better controlling the intake of applications, making sure those people are actually qualified to work in Canada at their skill level and that they are able to come in a few months.”
APRIL 20, 2013