Addressing the immigrant wage gap – Steps to take to ensure fairer compensation
Published October 1, 2021.
Canadian immigrants earn approximately 10% less than those born in Canada. Despite growing awareness of the issue, this wage gap has more than doubled over the last three decades.
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has reported that this wage gap costs the Canadian economy $50 billion annually. Moreover, it is larger than average for internationally-educated professionals – sitting at 18%, despite Canada’s reputation for attracting highly-skilled immigrants.
Some of this can be explained by immigrants restarting their careers in Canada and working in lower-paying jobs, relative to their education. However, the RBC report concluded the Canadian labour market discounts the value of foreign work experience and education.
Leila Sarangi is the Director, Social Action at Family Service Toronto and National Coordinator, Campaign 2000, a coalition of organizations working to end child and family poverty across Canada. Sarangi works with newcomers and focuses her work on national policy-change efforts. She points to systemic barriers and racism as factors accounting for the immigrant wage gap.
“Our systems are discriminatory. We have an international reputation of being a land of opportunity. And then when people come here, there are many barriers to meaningful and well-compensated employment. There is a higher value placed on Canadians with experience than those with foreign credentials,” says Sarangi.
“If you believe you work in an organization with discriminatory or unfair wage practices,” Sarangi adds “arming yourself with information and seeking assistance from local immigrant settlement organizations and legal clinics, can help.”
“Your first step could be talking to a trusted friend or colleague, bringing these issues forward to a trusted manager or supervisor, if you feel safe to do so, referring to policy manuals in workplaces, or union representatives, around issues of compensation. If you don’t feel safe doing that, that’s when you may look to the legal clinic system or a settlement agency for support,” says Sarangi.
For a list of legal clinics and resources in each Canadian province, you can refer to this list from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
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