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Basic Skills of Immigrants in Canada in PIAAC – Lower proficiency scores than the Canadian-born in all three skills

  • ƒ The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) conducted under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provides internationally comparable measures of three skills that are essential to processing information: literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments (referred to in this report as PS-TRE).
  •  The OECD’s analysis of PIAAC data shows that across 28 OECD countries participating in PIAAC, the foreign-born populations show lower pro ciency scores in the three skill domains compared to the native-born populations. However, the overall performance of the foreign-born population in Canada is well above the foreign-born average in OECD countries (OECD, 2016).
  • ƒUsing information from PIAAC, this report presents a comprehensive analysis of the pro ciency in literacy, numeracy, and PS-TRE of immigrants who landed in Canada between 2002 and 2012 (i.e., recent immigrants) and immigrants who landed before 2002 (i.e., established immigrants).
  • PIAAC was administered in Canada in English or French. Respondents’ performance in the tests of the three skills is influenced by their proficiency in the test language. Low test scores for some respondents with a non-official language as their mother tongue may, to some extent, reflect their low proficiency in the test language rather than low proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and PS-TRE per se.
  • When literacy, numeracy, and PS-TRE are measured in either English or French, on average, recent and established immigrants both show lower proficiency scores than the Canadian-born in all three skills. However, recent immigrants and established immigrants have similar average proficiency scores in the three skills.
  • Sizable proportions of recent and established immigrants (23 per cent and 27 per cent, respectively, versus 14 per cent for the Canadian-born) did not participate in the PS-TRE test for one of three reasons: no computer experience, failing the screening Information and Communications Technology (ICT) core test, or opting out of the computer-based assessment. The percentage of non-participation is highest among immigrants of the refugee class (38 per cent and 36 per cent, respectively, for recent and established immigrants).
  • While the overall gender differences in literacy and PS-TRE are insignificant among established immigrants and the Canadian-born, men perform slightly better than women among recent immigrants. In numeracy, men perform better than women; the gender difference is highest for recent immigrants, followed by established immigrants and then the Canadian-born. Gender gaps are much larger among older age groups than among younger groups.
  • Immigrants and the Canadian-born with higher educational levels perform better than those with lower educational levels in the three skill domains. For example, the average numeracy proficiency score of immigrants with a first professional degree, master’s degree, or Ph.D. is about 18 or 57 points higher than that of immigrants with a bachelor’s degree or a high-school diploma, respectively. At any given educational level, the Canadian-born perform better than immigrants. For some immigrants, high educational credentials do not translate into higher proficiencies in literacy, numeracy, and PS-TRE when assessed in either English or French.
  • Country/region of education and official-language proficiency are important factors accounting for differences in proficiency between the Canadian-born and immigrants, as well as among immigrants.
  • For immigrants, a good ability to speak an official language (self-reported) or having English or French as a mother tongue considerably reduces, but does not eliminate, their proficiency gaps compared to the Canadian-born.
  • Among immigrants, net of the effect of other sociodemographic characteristics, those who obtained their highest education in Canada, or in “other Western countries” (the United States, Western and Northern Europe, Australia, or New Zealand) score the highest in literacy and numeracy assessments. By contrast, immigrants who obtained their highest education from North Africa, Southern Asia, or Southeast Asia show the lowest scores.
  • In general, the earlier in life that immigrants land in Canada, the higher their pro ciency levels. Immigrants who land at young ages show skill pro ciencies similar to those of the Canadian-born.
  • On average, immigrants reporting that they were admitted through the points system score just shy of the Canadian-born population and score much higher than immigrants reporting that they were admitted through family reuni cation and refugee programs. However, net of the effect of other sociodemographic characteristics, differences between immigrants admitted through the three different immigration streams shrink considerably.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Skills proficiency of immigrants in Canada: findings from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)

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