Immigrant programs need further study: economist
By ROGER TAYLOR
The Halifax Chronicle Herald
Fri. Jul 25 – 6:47 AM
NO ONE is keeping statistics on just how well immigrants are adjusting to life in Atlantic Canada, according to an economist for the regional think-tank, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council.
So no one really knows whether provincial immigration programs are working, according to David Chaundy, a senior economist with the council, a Halifax think-tank
If data were collected on the successes and failures of the various programs, he says, there would be a better chance that it would lead to creation of an improved system aimed at assisting immigrants to succeed.
“Were investing a lot of money for these programs,” Chaundy told me on Thursday.
“I think we would benefit from some kind of comparative analysis.”
The big question associated with all the immigrant programs isnt whether immigrants can be attracted to Atlantic Canada, but whether theyre going to stay.
“We just dont have the data to look at those kinds of long-term retention rates,” he says.
For example, people coming here under the skilled-immigrant stream will usually have a job waiting for them when they arrive.
But Chaundy says there isnt anyone keeping information on how long those skilled workers stay at their initial jobs before moving on to something else.
There isnt data on what happens to those immigrants who stay with a job for two years, get the work experience they need and then decide to go elsewhere.
And what happens to those whose first job ends after a couple of years?
There isnt anyone keeping track of what kind of job immigrants can land on their own and how well they adjust to that new job situation.
That kind of information is important for a province like Nova Scotia, which is trying to recover from the business-mentorship program fiasco.
By comparing its programs to those operated by other provinces, Nova Scotia would be better able to determine what works and doesnt work elsewhere.
Such information would allow it to tweak its existing immigration agenda or create new schemes that parallel successes in other provinces.
The most recent data available from 2006 show that Nova Scotia is still leading the Atlantic provinces in attracting total numbers of immigrants.
But Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick stand out for having the biggest increases in those coming to their provinces, says Chaundy.
While that is an interesting point, he doesnt know exactly how P.E.I. is achieving that growth, nor is he sure what is attracting immigrants to New Brunswick.
“I really have to investigate that a bit more to find out explicitly who is coming in through their programs.”
One reason that Nova Scotia has lagged a bit in efforts to increase the number of immigrants may be that it was delayed in getting its nominee program up and running, he says.
“We have to make sure that the way we structure these programs, were attracting the right kind of immigrants who will be successful and not attract those who, either for language or other reasons, are not going to perform.
Because it is not helping us and it is not helping them.”
Sounds like a simple idea whose time has come.
Roger Taylors column appears on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.