Tony Fang

Tony Fang is a full professor and the Stephen Jarislowsky Chair at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He is also the J. Robert Beyster Faculty Fellow at Rutgers University and sits on a World Bank's Expert Advisory Committee on Migration and Development. Previously he taught at York University in Toronto, I. H. Asper School of Business at University of Manitoba and Monash Business School in Melbourne, Australia. He served as the President of the Chinese Economists Society (2012-13) and was a visiting professor at Harvard University, NBER, and Wharton School of Business. Professor Fang received a PhD in Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management from the University of Toronto. He has published in leading economics and management journals including Strategic Management Journal, Journal of World Business, International Journal of Human Resource Management, Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Public Policy, The World Economy, China Economic Review, Industrial and Labor Relations Review (Cornell), Industrial Relations (Berkeley), British Journal of Industrial Relations (LSE), and Relations industrielles/Industrial Relations. He has also received 15 research awards from SSHRC and five research grants HRSDC, totaling $4 million.

Twitter: @JChair_NL
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What first sparked your interest in economics?

During my undergraduate studies, China just started a period of dramatic economic and social transformation. Most Chinese people did not know much about economics and the purpose of studying economics is. In my second year of my undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to read the book The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. Although I did not fully understand the content at that time, it triggered my curiosity and passion in studying economics. I then transferred my major from mathematics to economics. This strong interest continued and eventually I came to Canada to further my graduate studies in economics and earned my MA in economics from Memorial in 1999 and a PhD in labour market and industrial relations from University of Toronto in 2004.

How has your own experience influenced your academic career?

I am lucky to have studied, worked and lived in China, USA, Australia and Canada, which gives me great experience to meet and work with people of different social, economic, and cultural backgrounds from all around the world. I came to Canada as an international student and have witnessed the contribution of immigrants to the growth of population, the economy, and to the diverse culture of Canada as a whole. I have spent lots of time researching about immigration, including topics such as labour economics and human resources management.

What’s the weirdest/strangest/most surprising place you’ve ever found yourself in the course of your research?

During 2012-2013, I was doing research on the effects of job search methods on immigrant workers’ job market outcomes in Canada. Interestingly, almost equal proportion of immigrant workers and native workers (about 40%) found jobs through informal methods (family and friends). However, migrant workers experienced much lower labour market outcomes as measured by hourly wage, job satisfaction, and money satisfaction than the native workers, probably reflecting the differential quality of such social networks. Then I conducted similar research by using the Chinese data. Although the labour market structures differed considerably between Canada and China, I found about 60% of migrant workers in China found jobs through informal networks, and again, they earned significantly less than local workers using the same job search method. There is something about the generalization of the economic research!

What are you currently working on?

Together with a team of junior researchers, I am currently working on several projects including the following:

Two research projects with similar objectives but slightly different scopes. "Employer Perceptions to Hiring Newcomers and International Students in the Atlantic Provinces" has been funded by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to consult with employers to understand their perspectives on hiring immigrants. "Employer Perceptions to Hiring Newcomers and International Students in Newfoundland and Labrador" has been funded by Newfoundland and Labrador's Workforce Innovation Centre with a similar purpose but will be focused on employers in Newfoundland and Labrador, and will include a longitudinal study (2019-2021) to understand how conditions are changing over time.

Joint with Professor Mike Veall at McMaster, I have recently received a SSHRC partnership grant in the amount of $2.5 million for their project "Productivity, Firms and Income". The emphasis of my sub-project is on the attraction and retention of highly skilled immigrants and international students, which is amendable by governance and public policy at federal, provincial, and municipal levels and will contribute to our understanding of Community, Regional and Enterprise Development.

With Grant Schellenberg and Feng Hou, Statistics Canada, we are working on a project entitled "Strength in Adversity: Disasters and Emergencies, Neighbourhood Ties and Community Belonging." The project explores the factors that contribute to the strength of community belonging within local areas.

As part of SSHRC's partnership grant, "Pathways to Prosperity" we are working on the study, "Warmth of Welcome: Australian, Canadian, and the US Immigration Systems Compared." This project compares and contrasts the effectiveness of immigrant selection and integration policies in Australia, Canada, and the US. An important end product of this project is a book to be published by the University of Toronto Press, The Migration Advantage: Lessons from Canada and Around the World.

What has been the biggest success to date for you personally?

Teaching and doing research have always been my biggest passions. I have been doing this throughout my career, which has lead me to inspire others, mentor new researchers, and at the same time as is an enriching experience for myself.

What is your philosophy in regards to research?

I believe that the main purpose of research is not just to publish articles, but also to advance our field of studies, disseminate the research findings to the industry and the public, and influence evidence-based policy making process. The essence of doing research is a process of knowledge exchange, creation and dissemination. Throughout the process of research, I have enjoyed discussions with people from different backgrounds and viewpoints, including scholars, government officers, business practitioners, and students. Discussions can lead to more deep thinking and interesting debates, and often synergy effects. Therefore, my research areas encompass not only economic research, but also research on human resource management, labour market economics, industrial relations, and international immigration.

Cultural and economic transformation is a shift that takes place throughout our entire society. A successful transformation requires full engagement and buy-in from all levels of leadership throughout the community with the ability to reverberate across the world. Such a shift can be difficult to measure and hard to see because it requires changing the hearts and minds of many to support desired ends, but with objectives in place we can move towards stated goals to spark transformation throughout our society.

As the Stephen Jarislowsky Chair of Cultural and Economic Transformation, my goal has been to shift the conversation around immigration to encourage policies that increase the attraction of immigrants, as well as to build welcoming communities to help retain newcomers. To reach these goals, my objectives have been:

  1. to conduct studies to further our understanding of immigration as a complex dynamic in our province;
  2. to raise awareness about the benefits of immigration to Newfoundland and Labrador;
  3. to inspire innovative collaborations by building partnerships across disciplines and sectors.

What sort of impact do you hope your research will have?

Overall, I hope the work that I have done to develop new research, mobilize knowledge, and collaborate with a wide range of partners around the world, will inspire cultural and economic transformation in our province. This is evident in the increased number of immigrants coming to Newfoundland and Labrador, and staying in the province, as well as the open attitude that government and many people in the community have towards immigrants. By meeting objectives and working towards a well-defined goal, I believe my work as Stephen Jarislowsky Chair of Cultural and Economic Transformation will contribute positively to these larger societal changes and will continue to foster such attitudes in the future.

How do you feel your work is helping to boost Memorial’s national and international reputation?

As the Stephen Jarislowsky Chair in Cultural and Economic Transformation, I am dedicated to publishing cutting-edge research on recruitment, retention, and integration of skilled immigrants, refugees, temporary foreign workers and international students, as well as relevant labour market and public policy issues in Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador while supporting the next generation of academics to enhance research capacity at Memorial University. Since being appointed Jarislowsky Chair in 2015, myself and my team have been working on a number of research projects focused on immigration, public policy and municipal service delivery. These projects support fundamental and applied research excellence in areas of strategic opportunity; engage with community partners and collaborators locally, nationally and internationally to create, share and apply research; attract, retain, support and celebrate people engaged in and supporting research; and support an environment of research excellence.

By doing these, I aim at bringing Memorial University to the attention of wide range of readers and other practitioners through scholarly publications of my academic work in academic journals, and presentations at academic and practitioner workshops and presentations at academic and practitioner’s conferences. Also, through mentoring and working with students, researchers and international scholars I aim at developing knowledge that can be applied both nationally and internationally.

How is this research helping address the needs and opportunities for our province?

To further understanding of immigration in Newfoundland and Labrador, I have embarked on an ambitious research strategy to develop our knowledge of this complex phenomenon in this province. Since beginning my position as the Stephen Jarislowsky Chair of Cultural and Economic Transformation, my team has completed four research projects and is currently working on seven others. These academic endeavours have considered not only strictly immigration issues, such as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in Labrador and the social and economic integration of refugees in St. John’s, but also the conditions of public services in the province, such as municipal service delivery in Labrador, to expand our understanding of immigrant attraction and retention.

This research will develop results that can inform government agencies, settlement services, and relevant community and business organizations, on factors affecting the employment of immigrants, as well as gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities for the labour market integration of newcomers to improve the retention and integration of immigrants in the Atlantic region and hence boost the economy of the region. This research is vital to Newfoundland and Labrador in improving their immigration policies to fill the labour and skill shortages in the province and especially now that the economy is facing a lot of uncertainty. I am very happy to be able to contribute to the economy and society of the province.

How are you supporting the next generation of researchers and HQP (highly qualified personnel)?

I strongly support the next generation of researchers by working with scholars and students in my research projects. Currently, I am mentoring students, researchers and new scholars, especially those intending to pursue careers in academia as well as in the public sector (e.g., provincial or federal government and non-governmental organizations). I will involve new scholars/researchers and engage them in a number of different outreach activities including liaison with community partners, writing plain language research papers and reports on the discussions at the workshops, participating in presentations at workshops, and maintaining a blog about my project’s activities and progress that will respond to the questions and concerns of community partners. Students, researchers and new scholars will also be engaged in organizing and running large and small community meetings and events.

Societal transformation requires more than one person and to expand the reach of the Jarislowsky Chair I have mentored and supported emerging scholars engaged in immigration research at Memorial University. By hiring a mix of academics (3 – Dr. Halina Sapeha, Dr. David Brake, Dr. Jane Zhu) and students and graduates from the undergraduate and graduate level (16 - Kerri Neil, Gabriel Williams, Opeyemi Jaunty-Aidamenbor, Sara Pun, Petr Kocourek, Troy Osmond, Yanfen Ally Li, Donny Persaud, Sinikka Okkola, Qi Zhang, Jason Waters, Sumalya Akter, Celestine Muli, Shatbadi Paul, Md Arifur Rahman, and Paula Struk Jala), I have built a diverse team keen to explore immigration theory and policy, and offered them opportunities to develop their research skills and expand their knowledge of this subject. These team members have been intricately involved in every aspect of our research projects from compiling literature reviews to developing grant proposals to designing and administering qualitative surveys as well as preparing final reports. With each project, team members have had opportunities to utilize their skills and build their curriculum vitae, either as managers of projects for more experienced academics or as research assistants for student employees. In 2017 this effort was honored with the Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences Graduate Supervision Award from Memorial University in recognition of the work I have done mentoring students. By cultivating a body of migration scholars in our province, my goal is to inspire new research projects, to empower more people to advocate for immigration, to equip more students with the tools to become academics, and drive the cultural and economic transformation of our province for decades to come.

What is the one thing you would like the general public to know about your research?

The general public in the province needs to be aware of the fact that the economy of the province can be improved by better integrating newcomers into the labour market and the society. Immigrants, international students, and refugees planning to come to Newfoundland and Labrador, need to know about the areas of skills and labour shortages in different industries so as to contribute to the provincial economy in a positive way. The immigrant settlement agencies need to work with the government, the employers, and training institutions to ensure the smooth settlement and integration of the newcomers. By working together, there is going to be a better future in Newfoundland and Labrador.