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Why some immigrants from India prosper more than others

In his 2008 study, East Indian Immigrants in Canada: The Shades of Economic Integration, Dr. Sandeep Agrawal sheds light on the income and earnings characteristics of Indian immigrants. While his study provides a comprehensive socio-economic profile of the Indo-Canadian community, its focus is primarily on affluent Indo-Canadians who earn more than $80,000 per year.

The Program Director of the graduate program in Urban Development at the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University, Dr Agrawal has a variety of planning experience in federal, county and municipal governments in the United States. He has practised planning and architecture in India and Canada.

His research focuses on Toronto’s ethnic communities and the effects of immigration and multiculturalism on urban structures and public policies.

“The combination of high education, age and advanced language skills improve the chances for Indian immigrants to earn high incomes over time,” says Professor Agrawal. “Indian immigrants who experience the most economic difficulty tend to arrive in Canada missing one or several of these traits.”

Through the analysis of landing records, tax data, census and micro data files, Dr. Agrawal found that:

• Almost 80 per cent of Indian immigrants with high incomes have a bachelor’s, masters or PhD degree.

• High income earners arrive in Canada with skill levels associated with management and professional occupations.

• Over 90 per cent were able to speak English.

• 80 per cent were between 25 and 44 years of age.

Dr. Agrawal believes that the unique combination of age, higher education, and proficiency in English, are critical factors that help Indian immigrants “hit the ground running” when they arrive in Canada. Professionals tend to be the most successful Indo-Canadian immigrants.

While some Indian immigrants have succeeded, there are many that have not. The Indo-Canadian population includes a significantly higher proportion of low-income families and unemployed adults compared with the Canadian population. The study divides Indian immigrants into two broad streams – those who are largely economically self-reliant and those who are clients of social security.

“There is a clear labour market segmentation in the Indo-Canadian diaspora. While many are doctors, scientists, entrepreneurs and so on, a large number of Indo-Canadians are concentrated in a few sectors of the economy – manufacturing, waste management, insurance and transportation. And as you can imagine, the current market crises, the woeful state of manufacturing and the border issues are affecting those Indo-Canadians the most,” said Dr. Agrawal.
Dr. Agrawal believes there are several ways to improve the economic status of Indian immigrants, including expanding government-sponsored career bridging programs that validate immigrants’ credentials. In addition to helping immigrants attain ‘Canadian experience,’ the career bridging programs help people form social networks that can provide further opportunities.

Dr. Agrawal is Director of the Master of Planning program in the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University. He is also the Associate Director (Interim) of the School. He has published numerous papers on multiculturalism, immigrant sett-lement patterns, and planning policies and practices.

East Indian Immigrants in Canada: The Shades of Economic Integration was co-authored with Alexander Lovell, Queen’s University PhD candidate, and funded by the POA Educational Foundation and a special grant from Ryerson University.

Posted: Feb 3, 2011

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