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Douglas Todd: Offspring of Chinese and South Asian immigrants reaping high-skilled jobs

Second-generation immigrants are proving adept at moving into high-skilled careers in Canada.

The offspring of Chinese and South Asian immigrants, especially women, stand out for obtaining a much higher percentage of high-skill careers in Canada than the rest of the population.

A new Statistics Canada analysis reveals more than 40 per cent of second-generation Canadians of Chinese or South Asian background — the two largest minority groups in Canada — have found mid-career jobs in high-skill sectors.

That compares to less than 30 per cent of second-generation male Southeast Asian or white immigrants — and 20 per cent of white males whose parents are not immigrants. The study’s surprising, mixed results may cause some public-policy makers to re-think their traditional understanding of employment equity.

The StatsCan analysis, by Wen-Hao Chen and Feng Hou, shows children of nearly all immigrants are significantly more educated than their parents. And second-generation Chinese, South Asian, Japanese, Korean and West Asians are obtaining the highest proportion of university degrees and strongest percentage of jobs that rely on such educations.

But other second-generation immigrants — particularly Filipinos, blacks and Latin Americans — are not doing nearly so well at snagging high-skill jobs.

Neither are whites whose parents are not immigrants, whom the report refers to as “third-plus generation whites.” The StatsCan analysis did not include data on Indigenous people, who tend to score low on educational and labour rankings.

“Second-generation Chinese and South Asians, in particular, are over-represented in high-skill occupations relative to third-plus generation whites,” say Chen and Hou.

“About 40 per cent or more of second-generation Chinese, South Asians and West Asian or Arabs worked in high-skill occupations, compared with 20 per cent of men and 31 per cent of women among third-plus generation whites,” says their February study, titled Intergenerational Education Mobility and Labour Market Outcomes.

“The shares of second-generation Filipinos, Latin Americans and blacks working in high-skill occupations were similar to or smaller than those of third-plus generation whites,” said the report, noting that less than 21 per cent of Filipino, Latin American, black or white males were employed in the high-skill sector.

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Canadian women are in general doing better than men at obtaining high-skilled work.

Especially excelling are second-generation women of Chinese, South Asian and West Asian/Iranian origins. More than 43 per cent of women in these cohorts work at high-skilled jobs, compared to just 31 per cent of white women who are not the children of immigrants.

The StatsCan report, based on the 2016 census, defines high-skill occupations as those that generally require a university education, such as senior and middle management roles, as well as professions in business, finance, health, applied sciences, education, law, community services, arts and culture.

The report shows a strong link between obtaining a university degree and, before age 45, getting a high-skilled job. The exception was among Filipino, Latin American and black women, whom the report suggested may be vulnerable “to a certain degree of over-education.”


Table 4: Percentage of workers aged 25 to 44 in high-skill occupations among second-generation groups. (Source: Excerpt from Statistics Canada analysis.)

One of the paradoxical findings in the report is that there is not always a direct parallel between getting a university education, obtaining a high-skill job and achieving a strong salary.

“All second-generation groups, both men and women, had higher university completion rates than third-plus generation whites,” write Chen and Hou. Many of the minority cohorts had twice the university completion rate of whites whose parents are not immigrants.

Yet the veteran researchers found university-educated second-generation male Chinese and South Asians end up having roughly the same annual earnings — in the low-$60,000 range — as male whites whose parents have resided in the country for decades.

The levelling out of annual wages among the different ethnic and immigrants cohorts is partly owed to the way the Statistics Canada report tallies only people who obtain university degrees, not those who finish college or technical-school degrees or diplomas.

Chen and Hou note the children of the Canadian-born tend to go to colleges. Other demographers point to how white Canadian males are increasingly avoiding university and finding employment in the trades, such as plumbing, carpentry and electronics, which can often be well compensated compared to jobs in the arts, community and culture sectors.

One factor that might hold back some second-generation Canadians could be language. Chen and Hou suggest male offspring of Latin American and Southeast Asian immigrants end up earning less per year than most males, roughly $45,000 annually, in part because they tend not to speak English at home.

Women in general also earn less per year than most males, regardless of immigration status, according to the Statistics Canada analysis, which suggests that “discrimination” and “cultural factors” could be relevant in regards to the differences between male and female annual earnings.

All in all, data show offspring of immigrants are doing either decently or exceptionally in both higher education and the job market. And this StatsCan analysis of the 2016 census complicates the picture of who is flourishing and struggling in the Canadian workplace.

dtodd@postmedia.com

@douglastodd.com


University completion rates among second-generation groups aged 25 to 44. (Source: Excerpt from Statistics Canada analyst)

 




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