The study, which was made possible thanks to the support of the Canadian Race-Relations Foundation, had two objectives: first, understand why certain immigrant women succeed in finding skilled employment while the majority fail, and second, highlight the deskilling process. Deskilling is the discrepancy between qualifications and the job occupied and can be measured to varying degrees.
Mrs. Chicha, a professor at the Université de Montréal School of Industrial Relations, will present her findings today. Her study used qualitative research methods and focused on 44 immigrant women in Montreal and on professionals who work with the highly qualified immigrant population.
This survey brought to light the difficult employment situation that women from Latin America, Haiti, Africa, West Asia and Eastern Europe live in. Before coming to Montreal, all these women were professionals with university degrees. They were psychologists, nurses, teachers, accountants, economists, engineers, physicians, lawyers, agronomists, etc.
All of the women interviewed spoke French, had been in Canada for several years and had held at least one job.
These interviews highlighted that despite their high level of education these women were mostly in a disadvantageous position on the job market. In addition, women interviewed who were part of a visible minority group were often much more deskilled than others.
From mechanical engineer to delivering newspapers
Forty-three percent of women interviewed were highly deskilled and their level of living is either hovering over or below the poverty line. That is the case of a mechanical engineer who is now delivering newspapers and of an ex-chief accountant who now supervises recess at a local school. Twenty-five percent were moderately deskilled and 32 percent can expect to find the same job they held in their home country, but only after overcoming several obstacles. A casebook example of systemic discrimination
These results highlight a situation of systemic discrimination brought about by several factors: sex, part of a visible minority group, and of foreign origin. This cross discrimination permeates practices, behaviors, and influential policy makers such as the State, businesses, professional associations, universities and the immigrated family. Discrimination in the workplace: the concrete ceiling
Discrimination in the workplace can be explicit or implicit i.e. concealed in seemingly objective professional requirements (modern racism and sexism).
Some of the obstacles identified by the study are:
- Difficult to have qualifications and foreign diplomas acknowledged;
- Refusal to hire someone who speaks with a foreign accent, refusal to acknowledge work experience acquired abroad, recruit employees through networks in which immigrants are absent;
- Discourteous remarks made during the average work day, increased overview of work performance, skepticism regarding their true competence, client hostility;
- Overrepresentation in precarious jobs with poor conditions, limited training and opportunities for advancement: telemarketing, small businesses, cleaning.
Adding to the difficulties of finding skilled employment these workers often face insurmountable obstacles juggling the demands of family and work. For instance:
The Quebec diploma: a guarantee for success?
- difficulty finding available daycare;
- imposition of difficult work hours (working nights or weekends);
- long route between work and home.
A diploma acquired in Quebec doesn't necessarily improve the fate of these women. Recent research has shown that acquiring a diploma in the host country has a limited effect on professional integration and the risk of deskilling. The paradox of Quebec immigration policy
The situation of these women seems paradoxical as regards Quebec immigration policy, which favours highly qualified immigrants. The women surveyed were highly qualified but continue to face specific problems: deskilling, large salary gaps, high job insecurity and unemployment rate. According to the Conference Board of Canada (2004), losses attributed to the non-acknowledgement of diplomas for all Canadian workers are in the range of $4.1 to $5.9 billion, 74 percent of which are related to immigrant workers. The mirage of equality
"The accumulation of difficulties and a strong feeling of helplessness in understanding the obstacles and surmounting them leads to psychological distress for many of these immigrants in Quebec," says Professor Chicha. "While many of these women expected to develop professionally in Quebec on an equal footing, it ends up being a mirage in most cases. Although many immigrant women do succeed in Quebec, many admit they would not do it again. That said, if we examine the global statistical data available, we realize that the problem isn't specific to Quebec, but present elsewhere in Canada and other countries. However, Quebec distinguishes itself by the proactive policies adopted to favour the equality of female workers and it is a shame to see that immigrants still don't have their fair share."
"This university survey clearly highlights there is a serious problem when it comes to the integration of women immigrants in the workforce and it's time to react," says Dr. Ayman Al-Yassini, Senior Executive Vice President of the Canadian Race-Relations Foundation. "The results allow us to sketch out possible interventions for the various actors - governments, professional associations, employers, NGOs - to improve the situation and reach full integration. We want to live in a country in which everyone can find his or her place regardless of sex, colour and country of origin. We hope our message will be heard."About Canadian Race Relations Foundation
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) was founded as part of the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement to shed light on the causes and manifestations of racism and to play a leading role in the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, and in bringing about a more harmonious Canada. The CRRF has registered charitable status and has Special NGO Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.About the Université de Montréal
Deeply rooted in Montreal and dedicated to its international mission, the Université de Montréal is one of the top universities in the French-speaking world. Founded in 1878, the Université de Montréal today has 13 faculties and together with its two affiliated schools, HEC Montréal and École Polytechnique, constitutes the largest centre of higher education and research in Québec, the second largest in Canada, and one of the major centres in North America. It brings together 2,500 professors and researchers, accommodates more than 56,000 students, offers some 650 programs at all academic levels, and awards about 3,000 masters and doctorate diplomas each year.
On the web:
- About the Université de Montréal: www.umontreal.ca
- About the Université de Montréal School of Industrial Relations: http://www.eri.umontreal.ca
- About the Canadian Race-Relations Foundation: www.crrf-fcrr.ca