At the Rainbow’s End: Challenging the Economic Discourses of Refugees in Canada

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Lori WILKINSON, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Since 2005, Canada has resettled over 215,000 refugees, most of whom expect to and consequently do work and have relatively successful economic integration. There is no doubt that economic integration for refugees takes time, often longer than those migrating under different circumstances. Using primary research from two major Canadian surveys (conducted by the author), this presentation examines the short- and the long-term labour market experiences of refugees in Canada. While the short-term economic outcomes of refugees are understandably weak, there is considerable evidence that most refugees experience success in the long-term. This can be explained by several reasons. First, over 60% of all refugees arrive to Canada prior to their 30th birthday, meaning that most will have some exposure to secondary- and post-secondary education which means that employers are less likely to discriminate based on country of origin. Second, evidence from this and other studies reveals that age at arrival has significant influence on labour market outcomes, even among refugees. Those arriving to Canada prior to their 14th birthday tend to do better in the labour market than older teens. These findings challenge the discourse of the ‘struggling’ refugee which dominates the scholarly research, theoretical paradigms, political discourse, and policy platforms. Matching theory has been recently suggested as one way of organizing the equitable distribution of refugees to resettlement countries (Jones and Teytelboym 2017) which may reduce some of the problems of labour market integration in the short-term. The results of this research indicate there may be some merit to this approach, but it will not be as easy to implement as matching theories imply.