World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and career goals in the United States and Canada. The weekly roundup includes research, stories, and events of interest to the Canadian immigration and settlement community. This content has been created by WES and is reproduced here with their permission, in partnership.
Despite record-low unemployment rates reported for June 2022, Canada’s labor shortage is continuing to worsen. With a rapidly shrinking working-age population (Canada’s dependency ratio1 rose from 44 percent in 2010 to 52 percent in 2021 and is expected to reach 59 percent by 2028), Canadian businesses are struggling to fill vacant positions. To strengthen the workforce and continue to provide public services and benefits, Canada must actively seek and implement solutions. Such solutions should involve a more robust immigration program, strategic investments in human capital, and the elimination of barriers to labor market participation. Regarding newcomer policy, the authors recommend a cohesive strategy to resolve the immigration backlog through attracting more skilled and unskilled immigrants and automatically granting international students’ permanent residency upon completion of studies at a Canadian post-secondary institution. However, Canada must first improve social and physical infrastructure needed for the integration and success of immigrants including addressing barriers to enter the workforce and incentivizing skills development training.
1Measures the proportion of dependents (individuals younger than 15 or older than 64) to the working-age population
The introduction of the Express Entry programs has presented international students with systemic barriers to permanent residency, including those related to employment, finances, and eligibility. Work-related challenges such as limited access to meaningful employment opportunities, mean that international students are struggling to accumulate the required amount of work experience needed to apply for permanent residency. Financial barriers include high international student fees, the requirement to show proof of funds for immigration applications, and the cost of English language assessments. Eligibility concerns include graduates of private colleges not qualifying for the post-graduation work permit and students working jobs that do not qualify as acceptable work experience for Express Entry (such as a restaurant server or bank teller). Additionally, the points system and barriers specific to international PhD students also pose concerns. Despite these barriers, Express Entry offers some benefits to international students, such as awarding points based on duration of study in Canada and for valid job offers. This system is also faster than the previous immigration system, and international students do not have a deadline to complete their profile. The Canadian government must continue efforts to reduce barriers to obtaining permanent residency.
Canada has committed to accept 40,000 Afghan refugees under specialized humanitarian streams. However, spots have quickly filled and the program has been officially closed to new applicants. So far, 16,645 Afghans have arrived with nearly 18,000 applications still being processed. With several thousand at-risk Afghans remaining in the country, policy makers and advocacy groups are calling on the federal government to expand measures to support refugees through extending the program or creating alternative streams. Many applicants continue to fear that the window of opportunity to seek protection in Canada is shutting too soon. A number of applicants noted that they have yet to hear back regarding their cases and are unsure of whether a spot will be available while waiting for approval. Critics have cited a lack of transparency on the current and future status of the program and caution against forsaking migrants most in need.