Perspectives

Senior Immigrants

Toronto a divided city; second-generation immigrants feel left out

Since 2001, the Toronto Community Foundation (TCF) has been reporting on Toronto’s vital signs, an annual check-up that spots trends, celebrates progress and issues alerts and challenges to improve how Toronto works for its citizens.

Trends are often difficult to spot when viewed in 12-month increments. And scientific data often trails reality experienced on the street.

Such is the case with one of the talking points accompanying the 2012 edition of Vital Signs, just released.

Rahul Bhardwaj, CEO and president of the TCF, is more than a little anxious about moving Toronto towards an embrace, not simply an accommodation, of newcomers.

After years of focusing on labour-market integration, removing discriminatory practices and creating a climate of openness to diversity, progress has been slow where it counts most: on the economic prospects for immigrant families.

Eight out of 10 immigrants arriving in Toronto are members of a racialized group. In less than 20 years, racialized minorities will account for 63 per cent of the Toronto region’s population, up from 47 per cent in 2006.

By then, there will be 2.1 million South Asian Canadians and 1.1 million Chinese Canadians in a regional population of 5.6 million.

Their future prospects matter to them, and to the city.

Consider that the city’s two fastest-growing age groups are those 60-to-64 and seniors over 85. These are growing seven times faster than the number of children (0 to 4 years). Meanwhile, the population of kids aged 5 to 14 and productive adults between 33 and 44 decreased during the last census period.

“By 2031, there will be about twice as many seniors as youth in the GTA,” the report says.

So, where will we get our workers — if not through immigration?

And will they come, if too many barriers steer them away from the jobs that would land them among the city’s middle class?

First-generation immigrants are not thrilled about the obstacles, but they were willing to put up with them and sacrifice because they believe their kids are going to get a better shot at success.

“But the next generations are not seeing fruits of what their parents expected; they are still seeing challenges,” Bhardwaj says.

He doesn’t have the direct data in the 2012 Vital Signs Report to make the eye-popping correlations that move public policy, but the signs are emerging.

“We don’t have the numbers . . . it takes a while for the data on second-generation immigrants to emerge . . . so it’s more anecdotal.

“This is the grassroots stuff you see when you meet in the community and listen to the youth.

It’s a “slippery and precarious” existence, Bhardwaj says, because these immigrants may start looking to other regions, which hope to attract them to boost their declining population.

Toronto must improve the “value-proposition” for immigrants, or lose them, he says. The reality of the past 30 years is the city’s “tremendous growth (and wealth) has been siphoned off by a very small group.”

The result is a city becoming more divided by the day, with an increasing upper class, a growing lower class and a disappearing middle-class, the very segment new immigrants aspire to.

“They want a fair shot at a decent life,” says Bhardwaj.

The great economic tide of the past 30 years has created a divided city. Tremendous change brought Toronto to the point where 43 per cent live in low- or very-low-income enclaves, numbering more than 1 million residents.

Most of these are immigrants and racialized minorities. Within 30 years, it is these immigrants who will make up as much as two-thirds of our population.

How will that work if they are not woven into the fabric of the city and benefitting? Will they feel part of the city, feel Torontonian?

Already, signs show that children of immigrant parents feel less connected to Toronto than the Canadian-born.

If tough economic times persist with the second generation of immigrants, disaffection can spread.

“The initial earnings for successive groups of immigrants entering Canada have declined significantly over the last 25 years,” this year’s Vital Signs Report says. “Recent university-educated immigrants experience the same levels of low income as non-immigrants without a high school diploma.”

Toronto’s focus for the next decade should be building opportunity, Bhardwaj says. “The real challenge is building a platform for good Canadian citizenship . . . where immigrants feel supported and wanted, and part of the nation.

“They want to feel like owners, not renters; they must have a stake in the place.”

Report findings

• Youth unemployment rate (17.2 per cent) has improved over the high of 18.5 per cent in 2010, but is still 50 per cent higher than the rate in 2001 and far from the historic low of about 5 per cent in 1990.

• When it comes to crime, perception of crime is worse than the reality, a phenomenon that creates a very real fear of crime that might not exist.

This article first appeared HERE.

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One Response to “Toronto a divided city; second-generation immigrants feel left out”

  1. October 10, 2012 at 8:18 pm, Swati Sharan said:

    I am second gen, overeducated and unemployed and really do not believe I am going to get my due in Canada and in fact, perceive my remaining young age and old age should be spent in India. Atleast in Indian temples, I can get two square meals in my old age, which is really what people ultimately need and atleast the weather’s warmer there. With the way the Canadian system is going nowadays, I don’t trust that I am going to get even that much. And plus, life is meant for living and doing what you’re passionate about not being forced to make yourself fit in with a stupid oil and rock economy that goes nowhere. I am a tremendously talented individual but because Canada sucks at letting you get paid for anything that’s not accounting or medicine or engineering, it’s not happening. No thanks to unpaid labor initiatives that are being pulled out all the time. Did you hear about Sears Portrait only hiring part-timers and coop students for unpaid internships? But this is an issue that mainstream Canadians are facing across the country also. I have so many white friends who are bright and studied endlessly in one trade or another like myself because the system told us we were not good enough or specialized enough in whatever stupid trend that the workplace emphasized at a time, only to be later told that we were overeducated for the position. And now we’re all in our late 30s with nothing to our names. The bottom line is that the economy is in shambles in Canada and whenever that happens, if it’s bad for a white person, it just becomes that much worse for a minority to put their foot in the door. In Canada, I’m being told I’m not good enough while in India, I rock and I’m attracting much more glamorous and interesting work that hold your jaw open-PAYS and doesn’t make me feel like a slave for getting PAID. But this is why the OCCUPY movement earlier took off as it did. Because the western marketplace and economy makes no sense. The system needs to go for a rehaul because what’s being created is not just a bad option for minorities but rather for the average Canadian across the country. I think before Canada decides to get people to immigrate here en masse and put them in some stupid sweatshop labor or screw them out of being at the top if they should deserve it, they need to fix things for the younger people that are here and give them proper jobs and benefits. I can run away to India but the whole country can’t or shouldn’t need to. I am just trying to move out of the way before the ceiling falls further.

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