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Completed Projects

Investigators:
Professor John Shields & Dr. Omar Lujan with Professor Harald Bauder & Maria Gintova (PhD Candidate)

For more than a decade, academic research has pointed out that economic class immigrants in Canada experience significant levels of underemployment. Studies in Canada, however, have tended to ignore the role of the family in the process of immigrant labour market integration. The purpose of this research is to study the labour trajectory of immigrant families highlighting their experiences with barriers to finding employment, their strategies for overcoming these barriers, and how their family story interacts with this process. Also, this study sheds light on immigrants’ experiences with employment services and it includes the perception of service providers about economic class immigrants’ integration into the Canadian labour market. A qualitative study of economic class immigrants and their families was utilized employing semi-structured interviews and focus groups in order to examine their experiences with the labour market in the Great Toronto Area. 

Methodology:

Qualitative study using 46 semi-structure interviews and 2 focus groups with economic class immigrants and service providers. Transcripts underwent a descriptive phase of coding, in order to identify the broad themes discussed by participants.

Highlights:

  • Lack of Canadian experience was identified as the most significant barrier to integrate into the Canadian labour market
  • Volunteering and pursuing further education in Canadian institutions were the main strategies used by participants in their efforts to integrate into the Canadian labour market.
  • The participants’ strategies for integrating into the labour market rely heavily on their family’s support, making the overall process a family affair.
  • The vast majority of the research participants were underemployed, but female newcomers experienced greater risks for unemployment as well as underemployment.
  • Despite the efforts of service providers to support the integration of economic class immigrants into their professional fields in Canada, this has met with limited success. Those who do gain employment in their related fields are generally not using their full skill sets and are in part-time and/or non permanent jobs.
  • Spending the family savings was the main source of anxiety among the research participants. The consequences of spending the family savings before securing sustaining employment includes the threat of return migration and family separation.
  • Immigrant families shared a common feeling of downward social mobility and a high level of frustration with the lack  of professional employment opportunities in Canada.
  • The experience of unemployment and underemployment resulted in periods of depression among some of the participants, some quite serious.
  • Lack of affordable daycare was the most significant barrier for women to effectively pursue a professional career in Canada. This has had significant negative impacts on the well-being of all immigrant family members.

Implications:

There are a number of important implications from the research findings of this study including:

  1. The high level of underemployment experienced by research participants suggests a significant level of marginalization in the Canadian labour market by immigrants with transferable technical skills. This contradicts assumptions that economic class immigrants in fields such as information technology (IT) and other technical professions currently in demand by Canadian employers offer immigrants with readily accessible opportunities for skill-commensurate employment.
  2. The disconnect between the employment services provided to newcomers and their often weak employment outcomes sheds light on the broader systemic problems regarding the settlement needs of highly educated economic class immigrants. Our research findings highlight the particular value of bridge training programs and professionally-oriented training workshops.
  3. The high levels of underemployment and unemployment experienced by participants, especially women, points to the problem of labour market exclusion. This issue needs to be address with urgency in order to avoid the further marginalization of this vulnerable group. In this regard, practical steps to support immigrants, especially women, such as providing them with subsidies for daycare services should be considered a priority.
  4. The problems identified by our participants associated with the spending of family economic resources sheds important light on the fragile family economy of economic class immigrants. Additionally, settlement supports should be in place to reduce the drain on immigrant savings needed to support the protracted process of full labour market integration.
  5. The very high levels of stress, frustration, and depression experienced by the research participants highlight the need for providing further mental help support for economic class immigrants and their families going though the process of finding employment.

This partnership between academic researchers and community partners is spearheaded by the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS). The overarching goal of the partnership is to explore the role families play in the integration trajectories of immigrants. The partnership uses a two-fold approach. First, it focuses on integration trajectories, referring to the fluid process that extends from newcomers’ initial reception to their deep involvement in and attachment to their receiving society. Second, it examines the issue of intersectionality by addressing the five interrelated themes of (1) policy context, (2) children and youth, (3) violence against women, (4) labour and work, and (5) community support. This approach will enable research partners to tackle the complex relationship between family and integration through a number of thematic perspectives. These various research themes can best be coordinated and their intersectionality examined.

In partnership with the RBC Foundation, the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS) and the Ted Rogers School of Management's Diversity Institute are supporting:

  • Action-oriented research projects focused on issues facing individuals who immigrate to Canada; and
  • A series of internships and seed funding for new ventures focusing on individuals from designated groups* who immigrated to Canada from other countries and their children.

The first round of calls for proposals for both research and internship streams is now available, to be followed by annual grant competitions. Research grants will be adjudicated.

Principal Investigator:
Charity-Ann Hannan (Ph.D. Candidate, Policy Studies, Faculty of Arts).

Faculty Advisor: 
Harald Bauder (Director of the Immigration and Settlement Studies Master's Program and Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Ryerson University).

To move towards the creation of a just society that improves the quality of life for illegalized migrants, Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, recently became Sanctuary Cities. While enabling cities to provide access to municipally funded services to illegalized migrants however, cities' jurisdictional limitations prevent them from making sweeping changes that are necessary to remedy the unjust conditions that illegalized migrants experience- especially in the labour market. Activisits and researchers have therefore called for Ontario to become a "Sanctuary Province". The best way to move forward with this however, remains unclear.   

The following questions therefore guide this project:

  • What labour market programs, policies, and service deliveries have governments (here and abroad) implemented to support the equitable employment experiences for illegalized migrants?
  • Can any of the programs at the municipal level be scaled up to the provincial level?
  • Can any of the programs in other regions of the country and world be scaled across to Ontario?

This project is funded by the Ontario Human Capital and Research Innovation Fund (OHCRIF), Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (MTCU), Ontario, Canada and supported by RCIS.

Principal Investigator: 
Dr. Antonie Schmiz, Goethe-Universitaet Frankfurt am Main; Postdoctoral Visiting Fellow at Ryerson Center for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS) and Department of Geography & Environmental Studies, Ryerson University, Toronto

Co-Supervisors: 
Prof. Dr. Robert Puetz, Institut fuer Humangeographie, Goethe-Universitaet Frankfurt am Main and Prof. Dr. Harald Bauder, Director of the Ryerson Center for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS)

Project Description:
Neoliberal urban development has encouraged a proactive attitude towards branding ethno-cultural diversity. At the local level, branding affects the development and governance of ethnic neighborhoods. Ethno-cultural branding strategies are expected to differ between national and local contexts, depending on immigration histories and integration paradigms.

A comparative study of Berlin and Toronto examines the emergence, development, and spreading of ethno-cultural urban branding strategies. In contrast to the established tradition of neighborhood branding through Business Improvement Areas (BIA) in Toronto, Berlin only recently turned from a reactive to a resource-oriented approach towards migrants.

Theoretically, the project draws on the city branding discourse and on (re-)scaling as analytical concept to explore strategies and programs by different actors. In this way, the project will sketch a policy-centered as well as an actor-centered perspective. By investigating neighborhood and locally-based policies, and globally circulating approaches in a relational perspective, the project asks about the contradiction of the political objective of branding and the requirements of migrant entrepreneurs as research objects.

Methodologically, the project is based on a combined document and literature analysis, complemented by interviews with municipal politicians, BIA-managers, representatives of business promotion agencies, migrant entrepreneurs, and residents in both cities. Empirical activities in Toronto will focus on two BIA’s – the Gerrard India Bazaar and Chinatown Spadina – and the privately managed East Chinatown. This project is realized in collaboration with the Ryerson Center for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS) and the Ryerson Department of Geography & Environmental Studies. For further inquiries please contact Dr. Antonie Schmiz: schmiz@geo.uni-frankfurt.de

We thank the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for funding this project through the Postdoctoral Researchers International Mobility Experience (P.R.I.M.E.) program.