COVID-19 has had devastating effects on the financial well-being of many recent immigrants, temporary foreign workers (TFWs) and international students in Canada, according to a new study.
Migrants—regardless of their immigration status—are overrepresented in essential roles and industries that have been hardest hit and as a result, they have been disproportionately affected by job loss and by the virus itself, said the study by World Education Services.
World Education Services Inc. is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and workplace goals in the United States and Canada.
The survey of 4,932 people involved applicants who received credential assessments between January 2018 and July 2020 to immigrate to Canada, to better understand the impact of the pandemic on the three groups.
The results are consistent with trends identified in other recent research and provide additional insight into the economic impacts on permanent residents, temporary and foreign workers.
“To mitigate these risks, temporary workers need more direct and expedited pathways to permanent residency, particularly those working in high demand sectors and those doing essential work,” said the authors of the study.
They are also calling for policy interventions aimed at addressing systemic issues that contribute towards mitigating disproportionate negative impacts on immigrants, temporary workers, and international students.
Here are the reports key findings;
Newcomers have lost jobs and income
- 14 per cent have lost their job due to COVID-19, and a further 13 per cent are working reduced hours or receiving reduced pay because of COVID-19.
- 17 per cent have temporarily lost their primary source of income; 6 per cent have permanently lost their primary source of income.
- One in five is having trouble affording housing expenses; one in three international students is having trouble affording housing expenses.
- One in 10 is having difficulty affording essentials like groceries and medications.
Many who lost jobs or income did not benefit from CERB or EI
- Only 48 per cent of respondents who lost a job or experienced reduced hours or pay reported receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or Employment Insurance (EI).
- Many were unaware of benefits or believed they did not qualify.
- Many are not accessing employment or settlement help from social service agencies.
- 19 per cent of permanent residents (PRs) had contacted a social service agency for help; 12 per cent wanted to but did not know how; 27 per cent did not think they were eligible for services.
International students are struggling
- Close to half of international students (49 per cent) and TFWs (43 per cent) believed they were not eligible for services– likely correctly, as eligibility requirements restrict their access.
- More than a quarter (26 per cent) reported the temporary loss of their primary income. Over a third (35 per cent) indicated difficulty paying rent or utilities, and 18 per cent had difficulty affording other essentials.
The study comes in the wake of a new government policy to allow foreign nationals in Canada with an expired or expiring Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) to apply for renewed open work permits valid for 18 months.
This policy change is to allow former international students to remain in Canada, continue to seek employment and build their future in this country.
International students contribute over $21 billion annually to Canada’s economy and support the vitality of the country’s communities, the government highlighted.
“Whether as nurses on the pandemic’s front lines or as founders of some of the most promising start-ups, international students are giving back to communities across Canada as we continue the fight against the pandemic,” said Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
“Their status may be temporary, but the contributions of international students are lasting. This new policy means that young students from abroad who have studied here can stay and find work while ensuring that Canada meets the urgent needs of our economy for today and tomorrow.”
“Our message to international students and graduates is simple: we don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here,” he said.