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New immigrants face higher risk of work injury, says study

By COS staff
| www.cos-mag.com

Recent immigrants not only have poorer job situations than workers born in Canada, but immigrant men are also twice as likely to sustain workplace injuries that require medical care compared with men born in Canada, according to new research from the Institute for Work and Health (IWH).Recent immigrants not only have poorer job situations than workers bornin Canada, but immigrant men are also twice as likely to sustain

workplace injuries

that require medical care compared with men born inCanada, according to new research from the

Institute for Work andHealth (IWH).

IWH has released two new studies comparing work conditions and

injury rates

between immigrants and workers born in Canada.

“Immigrants with five or fewer years in Canada are more likely to have higher qualifications than their jobs require, to have physically demanding jobs, and to work fewer hours than they want to,” says Dr. Peter Smith, a scientist at IWH and the lead researcher of both studies. New immigrants are also less likely to have supervisory responsibilities, to be unionized or to have access to employment benefits.

Results from this study were presented at Statistics Canada’s Socio-economic Conference in May. The findings were based on interviews with more than 76,000 workers, from four waves of Statistics Canada’s Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics.

The second study, published this month in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, looked at work-related injuries in immigrants. The researchers analyzed information from more than 97,000 workers who took part in the Canadian Community Health Survey in 2003 and 2005.

This study shows that new immigrant men report a high rate of medically treated injuries due to work. One explanation might be that new immigrants have more severe work injuries, possibly because they work in more hazardous settings, suggest Smith and co-author Dr. Cameron Mustard, IWH president. More information on immigrants’ work hazards and injury risks is needed to confirm this explanation.

“It is surprising that we know so little about this issue, given that immigrants will account for all labour force growth in Canada over the next five to six years,” says Smith. “Currently, provincial workers’ compensation agencies don’t collect information on the immigrant status of injured workers, and the surveys we looked at were not designed specifically to answer these questions.”

Both IWH studies highlight work-related issues in immigrants that can also affect their health.

“Being overqualified for your job, for instance, is associated with declines in health,” notes Smith. Limited access to non-wage employment benefits, such as disability insurance, may result in financial insecurity if a person is unable to work.

The research also shows that conditions may be worse for certain types of immigrants – and may linger for years. Immigrants who are visible minorities, whose mother tongue is not English, or whose highest degree is from outside Canada are more likely to be overqualified, to lack supervisory responsibilities and to be underemployed. Up to 20 years later, immigrants are still less likely to receive non-wage benefits or be unionized.

These two studies were funded by the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board’s Research Advisory Council. 

   

To answer some of the questions raised by these findings, Smith and IWH research analyst Cynthia Chen are involved in a new study that tracks 7,000 immigrant workers over four years. Associate Scientist Dr. Agnieszka Kosny is also heading a new study involving interviews with injured immigrant workers and service providers.

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