Incentives for Hiring Immigrants – friend or foe?

16 Sep

Thanks to the politicians, the debate rages – is it a hand-out or is it increasing access? (and don’t get me started on the difference between “foreign workers” a la Tim Hudak and immigrants looking for work).

Listening to Q this morning on CBC, I heard an interesting interview with 2 successful business owners, who also happen to be immigrants to Canada. Because I was driving, I couldn’t write down their names and the podcast isn’t available yet – but I’ll attach it next time. Both guests had different perspectives, but both agreed that any program must focus on helping new immigrants get their first job in their field.

Where they differed greatly was on whether business incentives were reducing barriers or giving an unfair advantage. What it came down to was stigma versus equity. One perspective suggested being seen as having been given the job because of the incentive only (which was referred to as a quota system); the other suggested the incentive was acknowledging and reducing the barriers that immigrants face in being able to work in their field.

I can see both sides of the arguement – what it comes down to, for me, is how any program is set up.

Quotas for the sake of quotas are a bad idea. Always. They breed resentment and can compromise the quality of work. But leveling the playing field? That’s different. If you put a program in place (as one of the gentlemen suggested) that provides incentives for companies to hire qualified (that’s the key word) new immigrants for a first job in their field that they may otherwise not get for reasons of bias, discrimination, or just plain ignorance – well, that’s not a quota system to me. That is an effort to cut through the systemic discrimination that continues to take care of the dominant group, and keeps qualified people from work they can do well.

It’s amazing to me how quickly we bristle at the thought that the system, as it is now, may be unfair.

See more.

copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion
www.beeing.ca

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