McMaster study on immigrants to get $1m
Will look at obstacles that hinder newcomers' ability to become economic contributors
THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR
Aug 25, 2010
A McMaster University research proposal to examine the economic lives of immigrants has been shortlisted for a major grant.
The proposal to study how well immigrants integrate into society will also examine the obstacles that hinder their ability to become productive economic contributors to society.
The study could have a major impact on Canada's immigration policies, predicted principal investigator Dr. Benson Honig, who is the Teresa Cascioli Chair of Entrepreneurial Studies at the DeGroote Business School.
“We believe that after doing this in Ontario that we'll be able to do this nationwide,” said Honig.
The study will focus on compiling economic data, including entrepreneurship and business development among immigrants.
Hamilton gets about 3,500 immigrants a year. Of those, 41 per cent are in the skilled workers category.
Honig said it's a demographic reality that we need immigrants to sustain our economy.
However the fact that one-third who come to Hamilton leave within 12 months shows we're not doing enough to retain them, said Honig.
“We need to understand when people are leaving and what they're leaving for,” said Honig.
“We need to know how we can attract, retain and settle people once they get here. It's a huge problem everywhere.”
The five-year grant for $1 million will provide a launching ground to establish a centre at McMaster. Honig will work with professionals in 10 hubs set up at universities in other communities, including St. Catharines, Kitchener-Waterloo, Peterborough, Sudbury and Toronto.
The project may include around 100 people. The goal is to pull together comparative data on immigrants in Ontario.
“In order for us to understand what's going on in Hamilton, we need to understand what's going on in Toronto and smaller cities,” said Honig.
Funding comes from the Social Science Human Resource Council, a national organization that provides research dollars to universities in Canada.
If approved, the project will get under way around February. Honig said the project presents the opportunity for a longer-term project to look at immigration policies that may be creating problems.
“What we need is research to give us intelligent data and help us make intelligent decisions to help improve our immigration policies.”
The project will also look at the different settlement organizations in Hamilton.
Canada competes for skilled worker immigrants with Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.
While Honig believes “we're getting the best immigrants in the world,” he said “we're not doing anything with them except to create barriers.”
“We need to educate our management workforce to look at immigration as an opportunity rather than as a burden.
“We have to get to a point where people value non-Canadian experience.”