Nearly 850,000 Canadians are unemployed or underemployed,  more than 60 per cent of whom are immigrants, because their credentials are not being fully recognized, according to a new report from the Conference Board of Canada.

If their credentials were recognized, they could, as a group, earn $13.4 to $17 billion more annually, according to the report, Brain Gain 2015: The State of Canada's Learning Recognition System.

"We estimate that over 844,000 Canadian adults now face learning recognition challenges, including over 524,000 with international credentials, almost 200,000 with out-of-province credentials and 120,000 with experiential learning not recognized in a credential," the report states.

Up to $17B in lost earnings

The $17 billion in potential earnings is a dramatic increase from a previous study the board did in 2001, which estimated Canadians could earn $4.1 to $5.9 billion more if their credentials were recognized.

"The challenge has risen faster than the rate of change," said Michael Bloom, vice president of industry and strategy for the board.

"Even if you discount things like inflation, growing population, you still end up with a bigger problem than ever before."

The report suggests that improving how credentials are recognized could potentially increase the annual incomes of those affected by an average of $15,000 to $20,000 per person.

"The big driver here is the fact that there are more high-skilled jobs that ever before and fewer low-skill jobs," Bloom told B.C. Almanac host Gloria Macarenko.

"So the more we depend on skill and knowledge in our economy, the more we need our credentials recognized, and that means every time someone isn't recognized it costs them more, and ultimately it costs all of us more."

The recommendations in the report include modifying the immigrant selection process so that learning credentials are recognized and exporting Canadian post-secondary education curriculum and programs into other countries.

Labour market information

Nick Noorani, the founder of Canadian Immigrant Magazine, said it is just as important for immigrants to have access to comprehensive labour market information as having their credentials recognized.

Noorani, who is also a managing partner of Prepare for Canada, said this information would help, for example, immigrants who are doctors realize the steps they have to go through to practice medicine in Canada, and what demands different regions have for doctors.

"When immigrants arrive there's insufficient emphasis on follow up, how they can enhance their soft skills, what are alternative careers," Noorani said.


To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled: New study finds that Canada has much to gain by recognizing immigrants' learning credentials

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said immigrants could earn $17 billion more annually if their credentials were recognized, but that figure also includes those with out-of-province credentials and experiential learning.
    Jan 28, 2016 4:23 PM PT