Using Census data, several researchers have shown that the earnings of successive immigrant cohorts have been declining since the 1970s, despite rising educational and skill levels among that population.
Many of the recent policy changes highlighted in this profile can be understood as responses to the skill underutilization phenomenon. The government hopes that by giving provinces and territories more control over who enters, limiting the entry of permanent skilled immigrants (in terms of numbers and the range of acceptable occupations) in favor of temporary and two-step immigration routes (i.e. temporary programs that offer the possibility of gaining permanent status), and giving employers a larger role in selection will fix the problem. Researchers, on the other hand, are concerned that increasing temporary migration (particularly of low-skilled workers), limiting permanent immigration, and placing responsibility for selection and status-changes in the hands of private individuals rather than public servants may create new problems. They argue that the success of the Canadian model rests largely on the fact that the large majority of immigrants have been entitled to immediate permanent residence status, generous family reunification provisions, and expedient access to full, legal citizenship: in other words, they have been given the legal and social security needed to commit to building a life with their families in Canada. Now an increasing number of newcomers arrive with a temporary status, limited rights, almost no access to immigrant services, and lower skill levels. This precariousness may have negative effects on migrants’ abilities to integrate economically and socially, if they transition from temporary to permanent status.