Integration of Immigrants and Temporary Migrants into the Labour Market in Quebec and Canada: New Perspectives on Contexts and Actors
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Integration of Immigrants and Temporary Migrants into the Labour Market in Quebec and Canada:
New Perspectives on Contexts and Actors

In the decades after World War II, immigrants generally managed to fit into the Canadian labour market without too many obstacles. Even when they were poorly educated, they found adequate jobs in the secondary sector, particularly in manufacturing. Moreover, if they were initially paid less than the natives, they tended to catch up after about fifteen years. In the early 1970s, however, when the thirty-year postwar boom gave way to a period of restructuring the productive system, the ensuing strong expansion of the tertiary sector resulted in fewer suitable employment opportunities for immigrants. The Canadian and Quebec governments responded by putting in place a policy that sought to select their immigrants on the basis of human capital characteristics. This policy continues to this day, especially because the world of work is currently engaged in a new phase of transformation linked to the development of the knowledge economy.

Roughly speaking, this policy of selecting immigrants has played its role. Nevertheless, immigrants who entered the country after its adoption (as early as the 1980s) began to encounter integration difficulties, which increased with each new cohort of immigrants. In particular, their job remuneration deteriorated steadily in comparison with that of the natives so that immigrants' wage parity appeared difficult and improbable.

The underlying reasons for immigrant employment difficulties are numerous and diverse as they relate to various actors. The immigrants' human capital in terms of education and work experience is not always recognized at its true value. The government, in part to meet the demands of the globalization of economic activity, relaxed its policy of regulating labour that once involved the supply of full-time and indefinite jobs. Also, employers are often reluctant to hire immigrants, especially if they are members of the visible minorities. [End Page 1]

Moreover, the government's relaxation of labour regulation had the effect of segmenting the labour market, leading to (in parallel with the continued admission of selected immigrants) a spike in migrant work under the derogation. Thus the government set up a program to accommodate highly skilled workers capable of meeting the emerging labour needs, which at first glance has satisfied the workers concerned. It also launched other programs aimed at attracting foreign workers to peripheral markets that were finding it difficult to attract the local workers they usually had access to, such as seasonal agricultural workers and those who provide family care. However, temporary foreign workers who come to the country as part of these programs are placed in a precarious situation. They have little access to schemes that protect workers' rights, and it is difficult for them to improve their lot because of their remoteness from the core of the system governing the production of goods and services.

Over the last half-century, the labour market integration of workers from abroad has undergone profound transformations that ultimately make these workers subject to a wide variety of economic difficulties. It is in this context that a colloquium was recently held under the auspices of the Centre d'études ethniques des universités montréalaises (CEETUM) at which both academic and government researchers examined the whys and wherefores of the labour integration of not only immigrants but also temporary migrants.1 This colloquium was an opportunity to not only examine a number of migration issues that tend to recur, but to also explore several less familiar and even new issues. Specifically, the twenty or so presentations made it possible to highlight a plurality of migratory trajectories, modes of integration into the labour market and obstacles encountered by some categories of immigrants. This exchange of information resulted in an enrichment of knowledge that warranted sharing with a wider audience. In this regard, rather than publishing all the papers in the form of proceedings of the colloquium, it seemed more appropriate to retain only the most significant ones, or more precisely those that will help open up new avenues of research deemed promising, and to bring them together in the form of a...