Socio-Economic Insertion of Latin American Professionals in Canada: Understanding Complexity through Self-Representations and Descriptive Data

Friday, 3 July 2015: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
CLM.3.06 (Clement House)
S√ɬ©bastien Arcand, Hautes …tudes Commerciales - Montrťal, Montreal, QC, Canada
Victor Armony, University of Quebec at Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada
This paper deals with the situation of professionals of Latin American origin residing in the Province of Quebec. One out of every ten immigrants now residing in Canada’s French-language province was born in Latin America. This group is rapidly growing and its more than 140,000 members are comparatively young, well educated, and generally well integrated into the host culture. Moreover, in recent years, South and Central Americans who settled in Quebec were more likely to be selected under the “economic” category: over 55 percent of all immigrants from those regions was admitted in 2012. However, Latin Americans have the lowest average income among minority groups in the province, and their income is significantly lower than their own group’s average in the rest of Canada. Such gap is even wider among individuals holding a university degree. What are the specific obstacles that Latin Americans encounter in Quebec’s job market? A research on Latin American professionals and entrepreneurs was conducted to gain insight into their experiences and perceptions regarding the challenges that they confront.

The data were collected through an on-line survey among 416 first-generation Latin Americans respondents and through 4 focus groups that included a total of 30 people. Our preliminary findings show that negative perceptions and distrust towards the institutions of the host society are at the core of certain misapprehensions and struggles regarding their socio-professional integration. That seems at odds with the fact that all of the participating individuals seem well integrated into the host society according to so-called ‘objective criteria’ such as income, link between education level and actual occupation, etc.

The sample was collected amongst members of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce in Montreal. Most of them participate in the Chamber’s activities. In addition to a descriptive approach that will allow us to draw an accurate picture of these Latin American professionals living in Montreal, we will question some of the enduring notions in the field of ethnicity, inter- and intra-group relations, and the economic integration of immigrants. Using the notion of Super Diversity developed by S. Vertovec (2007, 2010), the paper will contribute to a better understanding of the complexity of social and professional integration of minority individuals. We suggest that the level of integration of a given community cannot be fully understood unless the process by which its members subjectively grasp their own experience is examined. One of our goals is to demonstrate that the apparent contradiction that takes place between our quantitative and qualitative data is indeed a clear expression of the enduring problems that members of ethnic minority groups experience during their socio-economic integration and their relative lack of trust in the institutions of the host society.

Only a small number of studies on Latin-American immigrants in Canada have been published, while Latino Studies are well structured and recognized elsewhere in the academic realm and beyond. This paper will contribute to filling that gap.