Career development doesn’t aid immigrants: York U study


TORONTO, September 11, 2009 -- Workplace training and development doesn’t help immigrants get ahead in their careers, even though it benefits other employees, according to a study led by a York University professor.

Researchers conducted an analysis of the 2003 Canadian Workplace and Employee Survey (WES), the most comprehensive survey of career success outcomes to date. They found that immigrant and non-immigrant professionals are equally likely to undergo training and development initiatives funded by employers. However, immigrants don’t reap the rewards of higher pay, promotions, or increased job satisfaction reported by their non-immigrant counterparts.


“We believe non-immigrants may be better able to leverage their training and, as a result, achieve higher salaries and promotions,” says lead author Tony Fang, Associate Professor of Human Resources Management in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. Overall, our results indicate that there is an urgent need for employers to develop better policies for integrating and leveraging the talents of immigrant professionals,” he says.

On average, immigrant professionals – those who hold at least an undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree – earn less than non-immigrants ($27.30 per hour versus $30.10 per hour). They also tend to have lower promotion rates and shorter tenure with their current employer (7.0 years versus 8.3 years). In addition, they are less-satisfied with their jobs and compensation.


A major barrier for immigrants, Fang notes, is lack of cultural fluency – including language limitations and unfamiliarity with local training methods.


“Overall, our analysis suggests that training and development must be accompanied by specialized, cross-cultural training that will help fill these gaps and smooth the process for newcomers,” says Fang.


Corporate cultures that revolve around teamwork can also be a stumbling block.

"Non-immigrants may fit better in the team culture because of familiarity – they’ve already had these types of experiences at work and school,” Fang says.

In terms of self-initiated and self-funded training, immigrant professionals take about the same number of courses as non-immigrant professionals. However, immigrants spend more time on the most recently-taken training courses than their non-immigrant counterparts (3.0 days versus 2.4 days).


Fang acknowledges that cultural biases and stereotypes may prevent immigrants from gaining salary increases and promotions, irrespective of their training or skill level. 


“Though this will be more difficult to test, we’re hoping to address this hypothesis in future research,” he says.


He adds that minority-friendly companies consistently out-perform Fortune 500 companies.


“By not offering these newcomers the support they need, we’re wasting talent and creating a huge hole in our economy,” says Fang.


The study, “Career success of immigrant professionals: Stock and flow of their career capital,” was co-authored by Milorad M. Novicevic, School of Business Administration, University of Mississippi, and Jelena Zikic, School of Human Resource Management, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, York University. It will appear in the International Journal of Manpower on Sept. 18, 2009.

York University is the leading interdisciplinary research and teaching university in Canada. York offers a modern, academic experience at the undergraduate and graduate level in Toronto, Canada’s most international city. The third largest university in the country, York is host to a dynamic academic community of 50,000 students and 7,000 faculty and staff, as well as more than 200,000 alumni worldwide. York’s 10 faculties and 26 research centres conduct ambitious, groundbreaking research that is interdisciplinary, cutting across traditional academic boundaries. This distinctive and collaborative approach is preparing students for the future and bringing fresh insights and solutions to real-world challenges. York University is an autonomous, not-for-profit corporation.


Media contact:
Melissa Hughes, Media Relations, York University, 416 736 2100 x22097 /