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23.10.2012 in Top Stories Bookmark and Share

Effects of precarious legal status on immigrants long lasting

Immigrants with precarious legal status, such as temporary foreign workers, often end up in precarious work situations that undermine their economic prospects. Moreover, according to a new study by researchers from York University and the University of Toronto, these effects are long lasting even for those who subsequently become permanent residents.

The Impact of Precarious Legal Status on Immigrants’ Economic Outcomes, by York sociology Professor Luin Goldring and University of Toronto sociology Professor Patricia Landolt, was published Tuesday by the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP). Given recent major changes in Canada’s immigration system, including large increases in the number of temporary foreign workers and new pathways to permanent residence, this finding has important implications, says Goldring. 

Luin Goldring

The study authors define precarious work as employment that is insecure and of lower quality. They point out that immigrants with these types of jobs are often exposed to labour practices that “erode, violate or evade employment standards.” This is especially of concern in a context where “a growing number of newcomers spend time navigating various forms of temporary and probationary legal status before they can apply for permanent residence,” while others remain in a temporary category or stay in Canada without work or residence authorization.

The authors’ quantitative and qualitative analyses are based on original data from a sample of 300 Latin American and Caribbean immigrant workers in the Greater Toronto Area. A key finding is that exposure to precarious work during the initial period in Canada had a lasting negative impact on these workers. As they put it, the effects of living with precarious legal status can be “sticky”; the transition to secure status “does not put people on par with those who entered with secure status.”

In light of this, Goldring and Landolt identify several ways to mitigate the effects of precarious status on immigrant economic outcomes, including faster transitions to secure legal status and permanent residence, open work permits for temporary migrant workers, improvements in workplace equity and broader access to settlement services.

The Impact of Precarious Legal Status on Immigrants’ Economic Outcomes by Goldring and Landolt can be downloaded free of charge from the Institute for Research on Public Policy’s website.

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