International Graduates and the Hope for an Inclusive Labour Market
When companies fail to provide opportunities for diversity, they fall short of talent growth and will most likely miss out on recruiting some of the best professionals. International graduates, which are mainly comprised of professionals with extensive knowledge, skills, abilities, and experiences, seem to have their progress impeded by a vicious circle of labour market discrimination, and many graduates who devoted their time and resources to their academic pursuits face unemployment because most companies demand up to two (2) years Canadian work experience.
The barriers that exist within the labour market have lingered for many years and many international professionals find it challenging to progress in the labour market. Most international graduates that are unable to acquire their desired job resort to contract jobs and volunteering experience to acquire Canadian work experience. This, in turn, subjects them to underemployment. During the 8th Annual Global Skills Conference (a professional networking event), delegate Tareq Haj Ibrahim complained that he faced difficulties in his job search and was rejected when he applied for paid jobs, however, was accepted when he applied for a volunteering opportunity in a similar position (CBC News, 2016).
This article will highlight the potential of international graduates who, in most cases, are not considered for jobs due to the demand for Canadian experience. It aims to challenge and motivate employers to leverage diversity and the principles of labour laws to encourage a meaningful representation of the four (4) designated groups, including international graduates in the labour market.
The Implication of Employment Bias
According to Catano et al. (2022), "the assessment and selection process of applicants are required to be done in accordance with the labour laws, including Human Rights Act, Employment Equity Act, and Employment Standards Act. However, employers can still conduct a selection of applicants based on the bona fide occupational requirements (BFOR)." The BFOR is considered an integral standard or rule required for an applicant to perform well on the job, and the employer is expected to state that any accommodation or changes on BFOR standards would cause undue hardship (Saskatchewan Human rights code, n.d.). In as much as employers are given the liberty to establish BFOR, consider that it is not meant to cause discrimination in a way that international graduates are mandated to have Canadian experience. Such an act still causes bias and contravenes the Employment Equity Act as it leads to the neglect of a significant number of visible minorities and impedes the employment of international graduates with the right skills, abilities, and experiences.
The Employment Equity Act was established to eliminate workplace barriers, promote accommodation, and the complete representation of the four (4) designated groups, including women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities (employment and social development Canada, 2023). Companies create barriers when they keep overlooking qualified international graduates by requiring Canadian work experience because most international graduates with overseas experience become neglected in the labour market. This, in turn, violates part one, section three of the Canadian Human Rights Act and Section 23(4) of the Ontario Human Rights Act, as both acts emphasize that "it is illegal to refuse to employ people based on prohibited discrimination, and it is also illegal to advertise a job that contains any limitations, or preferences on the prohibited ground of discrimination." (Canadian Human rights act, 2021; Ontario Human rights code, 2012).
Relevance of International Graduates
Employers that create prohibited barriers lose out in the labour market because they close the door on diversity, which would improve productivity and profitability. The creation of a barrier-free selection and recruitment process certainly creates room for increased diversity in the workplace. McKinsey (2020) reported that companies with a diverse workforce tend to earn 35% more profit than their industrial competitors due to workplace diversity.
The international graduates’ community came into existence due to the influx of international students which has helped sustain the Canadian Economy and population growth. As international graduates with non-permanent residence status remain after graduating, the international graduate community is filled with a professional workforce with huge potential waiting for a chance to contribute to the growth of an organization. Similarly, the workforce has proven to be very important to the economic and social progress of Canada. Toronto Dominion (2019) reported that the Canadian resettlement of international students has helped the Canadian population to grow faster than other G7 member nations at the rate of 1.4% since 2018.
How Companies Can Eliminate the Barrier
It is imperative for companies to consider the applicant’s skills and focus on a barrier-free HR and selection system. The main goal of employers should be on creating and implementing a transparent and inclusive application process that will improve labour market inclusiveness while carrying out the selection and recruitment process that will enable them to achieve their HR and business goals. The following are suggested strategies that can help companies to eliminate barriers.
Design an inclusive recruitment and selection process:
According to employment and social development Canada. (2023), "It is important for companies to create an inclusive workplace by eliminating discrimination to an enabling environment that accommodates people of diverse groups." Employment and Social Development Canada (2023) further advised that companies should leverage data analysis to detect the level of underrepresentation, as it will enable them to effectively decide which group they should reach out to in order to bridge the gap.
- Abide by the Human Rights Act and employment equity act:
It is imperative that employers ensure that the recruitment and selection, HR practices, and policies of the organization conform with the Labour laws to avoid establishing prohibited discrimination in the labour market. In other words, companies need to adopt the principles of the Employment Equity Act, Human Rights Act and embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion in HR practices.
- Establish Evidence-based Recruitment and Selection Process:
In as much as the employers focus on profitability and customer satisfaction, it is vital to ensure that the selection and recruitment process is established and developed based on historical evidence and is attuned to the business and selection strategies. Therefore, more effort should be made to research the outcome of any policies and standards before implementing them. The selection process should be focused on hiring a workforce with the right skills and experiences, regardless of where (country) they acquired the skills and experiences.
- Develop a Recruitment Plan Dedicated to Underrepresented Groups:
This can't be achieved by working with social groups, Immigrants’ Social Service Organization (like the ISSofBC), and partnerships with universities. According to Employment and Social Development Canada (2023), it is essential to expand a job posting within reach of visible minorities, and it should be free from bias. Companies should increase the number of underrepresented applicants, including international graduates, offer internship opportunities to underrepresented groups, and give them an opportunity to grow within the organization.
The existing barriers in the labour market have been a significant setback to international graduates, as it leads to delays and demoralizes them amidst continuous rejection. Biased hiring practices lengthen the job search and application process, meaning time is lost when graduates could be making an effective impact on an inclusive organization. Diverse employment practices would give international graduates a chance to prove themselves, as they leverage their skills and years of experience from their home country to perform well in the position they’re hired for. Companies that perpetuate biased hiring practices generate a reputation for themselves which creates poor employer branding within the labour market.
Companies should focus on building bridges that will lighten the difficulties international graduates face in the Canadian labour market by making a more realistic, inclusive, and transparent selection, recruitment, and hiring process that would effectively promote a considerable level of representation for all designated groups, including international graduates.
Catano, V. M., Hackett, R. D., Wiesner, W. H., & Roulin, N. (2022). Recruitment and Selection in Canada. Top Hat. https://retail.tophat.com/products/81107?_pos=1&_sid=74db25df2&_ss=r
Canadian Human right act. (August 31, 2021). Justice Laws. Human rights commission. https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/h-6/page-1.html#h-256819
CBC News. (2016, April 14). Lack of Canadian experience' an obstacle to immigrant employment. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/immigrants-jobs-skills-conference-multi-cultural-1.3534121
Employment and social development Canada. (March 15, 2023). About the Workplace Equity Program. Canada ESDC programs. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/portfolio/labour/programs/employment-equity.html
Employment and social development Canada. (March 15, 2023). How to improve workplace equity: evidence based action for employers. Canada ESDC programs. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/portfolio/labour/programs/employment-equity/reports/employers-improve-workplace.html
McKinsey. (February 2020). How diversity helps companies succeed. McKinsey Classics. https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Email/Classics/2020/2020-02-classic.html#:~:text=The moral case for workforce,for gender diversity, 15 percent.
Ontario Human rights code. (May 24, 2012). Ohrc. Ontario Human rights commission. OHRC policy. https://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-removing-“canadian-experience”-barrier/2-ontario-human-rights-code
Saskatchewan Human rights code. (n.d.). Bona fide occupational requirements. Saskatchewan Human rights education resources. https://saskatchewanhumanrights.ca/education-resources/policies-guidelines/bona-fide-occupational-requirement-bfor/#:~:text=A BFOR is a standard,would create an undue hardship.
Toronto Dominion. (June 11, 2019). Canada’s population boom an International Student. TD Economics. Storyhttps://economics.td.com/international-students-canada
Author’s Bio: Ibezimako Nkwogu, C.I.M.
Ibezimako Nkwogu is a Human Resources (HR) and leadership professional with over five years of experience in talent acquisition, training and development, occupational health and safety, employee relations, and diversity and inclusion for small to large businesses across sectors. He studied his Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a major in Human Resources at the University Canada West (UCW). His passion for human capital development, human resources and the management profession motivated him to become a professional member of CIM | Chartered Managers Canada, and a Candidate for Chartered Professional in Human Resources. With his level of skills, experience in Human resources, and knowledge of the labour laws, including human rights policies, he strives to promote an inclusive and barrier-free labour market that with give every profession a level playing ground and eliminate underemployment.
He is looking forward to contributing immensely to Sustainable Human Development and organizational development. His interest in promoting decent jobs for all professionals, motivated him to focus on researching and writing about suitable solutions for companies to promote a diverse workforce, to ensure the implementation of realistic, HR policies, and programs.