From Generation to Generation: Utilizing the Human Capital of Newcomer Parents to Benefit Families
This paper is funded by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Most permanent migration to Canada involves individuals who are either accompanying someone in their family or reuniting with a family member already established in Canada. Children are a critical part of the equation: immigrant families are often willing to shoulder the costs of emigrating and settling in a new land because of the perceived benefits for their children.
Successful immigration moves beyond settlement and indeed beyond the longer-term social and economic integration of the newcomer, and includes the outcomes of children and second generation success. Moreover, the social and economic success of children is critical to national, provincial and regional prosperity, as immigration accounts for an increasing proportion of our population growth.
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In many families, both the principal applicant and spouse come with extensive human capital assets (education and skills) that need to be utilized in order for families to integrate successfully into society. This paper looks at the human capital brought to Canada by newcomers and discusses educational and employment prospects for their children. It synthesizes existing research on the transmission of educational and economic status across generations and attempts to reconcile what appear to be various contradictory trends in settlement.
First, newcomers to Canada are more highly educated and skilled than previous immigrant cohorts, yet their economic outcomes have been declining. Much of this decline has been attributed to lack of recognition of their human capital and various related barriers that are described in this paper. At the same time, the second generation is doing remarkably well as a whole, both in comparison with the second generation in other immigrant-receiving countries as well as relative to their peers who have Canadian-born parents.
This discussion paper is funded by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada Within the overall category of “second generation,” however, wide discrepancies exist in terms of educational and economic outcomes. More research is needed, but these discrepancies appear to point to the interaction of different attributes within the second generation, including gender, ancestral region of origin, ethnicity, race and ethnic community supports.
Any strategy designed to improve social inclusion must acknowledge the significant heterogeneity within the second generation and the widespread variation in outcomes that is already apparent.
The role of family support can be important to the settlement process, allowing the pooling of labour and economic resources so that family members can take language courses, pursue higher education and other activities that help them integrate into their new country. Nonetheless, migration often involves some separation of family members, the disruption of family networks, and the breakdown of intergenerational communication. In addition, family dynamics often change due to increased responsibilities given to children – for example, to act as cultural brokers and translators for older family members; changing expectations about parenting and discipline; and rejection of home country cultural norms by the younger generation. All of these dynamics place pressures upon families that can manifest themselves in a variety of ways.
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Implications/ Proposed Actions
The paper recommends two broad courses of support to better enable newcomers to assist their children in achieving favourable educational, economic and social outcomes:
- Improved labour market integration for newcomer parents; and
- Improved supports to families and communities.
Employment is the biggest priority for nearly all newcomers and is one of the largest steps in the settlement process. Employment influences where individuals and families are able to live, the kinds of housing and neighbourhoods they can select, the social networks they form, and the schools and services that are readily accessible. The quicker immigrant professionals are integrated into their occupations, the more likely they and their families can be successful in their new surroundings.
To improve their labour market integration, newcomers need:
- Access to information about local labour market conditions and opportunities;
- Improved services related to employment and language programs as well as other settlement supports;
- Access to social and professional networks;
- Access to financial assistance; and
- Access to fair and equitable hiring and promotion.
Families also need a broader base of support to cope with various labour market realities. The paper identifies four areas that need to be recognized and addressed by the Region of Peel:
- Enabling newcomer parents to better support their children academically;
- Enabling newcomer parents to provide emotional and social supports to their children;
- Mitigating the effects of living in poverty; and
- Building community social capital.
It is recognized from the onset that schools have a pivotal part to play in addressing these issues. Public schools comprise an essential part of the social infrastructure of cities and communities. This conception of schooling requires an expanded view of education – one in which schools serve as hubs of their communities that do more than provide students with the academic basics but also provide families social and emotional support.
Each section of the paper concludes with a number to strategies that the Region of Peel can advocate for, collaborate on and implement in order to address the needs of newcomer parents and their families. The strategies are supported with promising examples to highlight their effectiveness and demonstrate possibilities for future actions in these areas. Beginning with employment supports for the newcomer labour market entrant and combined with supports to families, the strategies aim to address underlying issues of human capital utilization across generations and will assist in the creation of a more Liveable Peel.
Read Executive Summary (66 KB, 3 pages)
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