Barriers immigrants face costing Toronto $2.25 billion a year: Board of Trade

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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TORONTO — A new report says the Toronto region isn’t doing a good enough job integrating immigrants and utilizing their skills, costing the regional economy up to $2.25 billion a year.

The Toronto region is posting only “middling economic results” against other global cities and its future economic growth is dependent on immigration, the Toronto Board of Trade said.

The board is calling on mayoral candidates in the October election to reveal how they would tackle the challenges and barriers that newcomers face.

The next elected municipal leaders must take a leadership role in ensuring all residents can contribute to a productive economy, said board CEO Carol Wilding.

The “Lifting All Boats, Promoting Social Cohesion and Economic Inclusion in the Toronto Region” report suggests the region is doing a worse job than two decades ago in integrating newcomers.

It cites data that more than 45 per cent of Toronto region residents were born outside the country. Yet 40 per cent of new immigrants have to make a downward shift in their career when they get to Canada, because their skills aren’t recognized in this country.

While Toronto draws talented people from around the globe, the regional economy suffers in part because foreign-trained professionals and other immigrants can’t put their skills to work, the report said.

Research shows incomes of immigrants continue to fall further behind their Canadian-born counterparts.

In 1980, immigrants earned 85 per cent of what their Canadian-born counterparts made.

That fell to 63 per cent for men and 56 per cent for women in 2005.

Immigrants are also more likely to be unemployed and unemployment rates are higher for recent immigrants than for those who came to Canada 20 years ago, the report said.

Both immigrants and low-income Canadians tend to live in neighbourhoods that don’t have sufficient access to transit, social infrastructure and commercial and government services, the report added.

“Growing economic disparity and the issue of social exclusion in our community cannot be treated as problems that are separate from the challenge of how we drive innovation and economic growth in the region,” said Frances Lankin, president and CEO of United Way Toronto.

The board argues that improving individuals’ financial success and strengthening communities will attract skilled labour and investment, create jobs and lower crime rates.

Organizations: Toronto Board of Trade, Economic Inclusion, United Way Toronto

Geographic location: Toronto, Canada

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