Statistics Canada compares economic outcomes of STEM-educated immigrants in Canada and the U.S.

Immigrants make up a large share of university-educated workers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) fields in both Canada and the U.S., and a more recent study looked into which of the two countries see better outcomes for immigrants in these sectors.

The study found that a higher percentage of Canada’s STEM-educated workforce are immigrants compared to the U.S. The number of STEM-educated immigrants who entered Canada rose significantly during the 1990s in response to the high-tech boom, and has remained at high levels since then. In general, Canada does not face a shortage of STEM workers, the study suggests.

As a standard practice, when there’s an abundance of workers, employers may tend to hire STEM graduates from universities that they are familiar with, and who have experience from countries with similar economies to Canada. Thereby, giving more advantage to STEM workers who have studied in Canada.

Canada’s points-based immigration system, which has been in use since the 1960s, selects economic immigrants based on their human capital. These days, the Express Entry system ranks candidates based on factors like education, work experience, age, and language ability. The highest-scoring candidates get invited to apply for permanent immigration. Though candidates can get extra points for having a job offer, in some cases, it is not required in order to immigrate to Canada. Canadian employers play a larger role in immigrant selection in the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) federal immigration program, as well as many Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP), than compared to the Federal Skilled Worker Program. The study found that STEM-educated immigrants that immigrate through the CEC do relatively well compared to others, and those who go through the PNP typically have the poorest outcomes. One major difference is that the CEC requires immigrants to have at least one year of skilled work experience in Canada, whereas the PNP is more varied, and includes pathways for low-skilled and medium-skilled workers to become permanent residents.

Country of education may differ significantly among STEM-educated immigrants in Canada and the U.S. STEM immigrants educated in non-Western countries do not do as well, economically, as others. The study suggest this is for a number of reasons, for example, the quality of education may be lower, or perceived to be lower. In the absence of a shortage of STEM workers, employers may prefer to hire those educated in Western counties. Also, some credentials are not recognized by professional associations in the host country, either for valid or invalid reasons, and this may prevent immigrants from developing countries from getting STEM jobs. Language or cultural issues may also prevent immigrants from being able to use their STEM education.

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