News Release

REF NO.: 87

SUBJECT: English and French language lessons help new immigrants exit poverty

DATE: December 2, 2014

A recent study of adult newcomers by an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Memorial University indicates that, for new immigrants experiencing financial difficulty, taking English and/or French language lessons can help. And for highly educated arrivals, getting a Canadian education also makes a difference.

Dr. Lisa Kaida’s analysis of the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada data finds 43 per cent of new immigrants aged 25-54 are living in poverty two years after arrival. Surprisingly, most are highly educated: three-quarters have university degrees or college diplomas, and more than 70 per cent were admitted under the economic class (e.g. skilled worker class). Yet their Canadian language skills are limited; less than 30 per cent speak French (for Quebec residents) or English (for the rest of Canada) fluently or very well.

This is worrisome news to policy-makers and settlement workers, but there is hope. Dr. Kaida’s analysis also finds taking English or French language lessons helps across the board, while obtaining formal education (e.g. high school, trade school, college, university) gives a boost to the more highly educated arrivals.

In other words, access to Canadian education and language training facilitates the integration of new immigrants facing economic challenges. Therefore, increasing the provision of information and financial support to immigrants, as well as expanding education and training programs targeting adult immigrants, are effective policy options. 

The Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada was conducted by Statistics Canada, targeting immigrants arriving in Canada between 2000 and 2001. A total of 12,000 new immigrants participated about six months after their arrival. Many of them agreed to be interviewed again, two and four years later. Dr. Kaida accessed this data through Memorial University’s Research Data Centre, of which she is the current academic director.

In Dr. Kaida’s study, whether an immigrant is poor is determined by the low income cutoff (LICO). The LICO is set at 20 per cent above the average percentage of family income spent on daily necessities like food, housing and clothing. Currently, if a family spends more than 64 per cent of their income on essentials, all family members are considered poor.

A summary of the study can be found online by searching Language Training and Education Help Adult New Immigrants Exit Poverty. 

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