Migrant workers face 'ethnic penalty' in job market: U of A researcher

January 15, 2016

A researcher at the University of Alberta says that highly skilled second-generation migrants earn less than the general population, despite being more likely to have a university degree.

"I call it the ethnic penalty," said Reza Hasmath, an associate professor in political science who wrote a book on the subject. "You have a certain education level and you expect to get a certain type of wage based on that education."

His research found that is not the case for recent migrants, nor for their children who enter the workforce. In an analysis of Statistics Canada numbers Hasmath found that, on average, visible ethnic minorities are more likely to attend university, but tend to earn less.

On average, migrants make 81 cents for every dollar Canadians of European descent earn. Canadian-born individuals belonging to visible ethnic minorities on average earn 71 cents on the dollar compared to their counterparts of European descent.

Hasmath said that in his research, which included analysing statistics and interviewing migrants, second-generation immigrants made less money, despite being less willing to take low status and low-paying jobs. He also found they were less likely to have professional jobs or hold management positions.

"When you interview the various migrants coming in they often talk about their second generation, they talk about their children and they're doing this to have a better life for the children," said Hasmath.

He said part of the reason for the income gap is that migrants don't have access to the same social networks as the general population. For those seeking professional jobs it is often about who, rather than what, you know.

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