A recent report by Statistics Canada shows that 58% of internationally educated healthcare professionals (IEHPs) in Canada who trained to become nurses, physicians, pharmacists, and dentists were working in their field.

It said that among the 259,694 IEHPs in Canada, 76% were employed (compared to 80% of Canadian-educated healthcare professionals). This data includes IEHPs those who are not working in a healthcare occupation.

Data from Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) shows that immigrants account for a quarter of healthcare sector workers and this number is expected to rise, as 500,000 healthcare workers are older than 55 and will be retiring in the next decade.

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According to Statistics Canada, half of IEHPs in Canada had immigrated at the beginning of their core working years, between the ages of 25 to 34, and nearly one‑third of all IEHPs had recently arrived in Canada (between 2016 and 2021). Overall, two-thirds of IEHPs were younger than 50 years old. It also found that 7 out of 10 IEHPs in Canada were women.

Where do they settle?

The highest number of IEHPs were living in Ontario (116,310), followed by British Columbia (45,235) and Alberta (42,035).

The lowest numbers of IEHPs were found in Canada’s northern territories and the Atlantic provinces. Prince Edward Island had the fewest at 475, followed by the three territories at 605. Nova Scotia had 3,195 IEHPS.

Where did they study?

The study found that 63% of IEHPs had received their education in Asia and 11% had studied in an English-speaking Western country. Asian-educated IEHPs accounted for 75% of the IEHPs in Manitoba while 21% of New Brunswick’s IEHPs had studied in an English-speaking Western country.

What are their jobs?

Statistics Canada says one-third of IEHPs in Canada studied nursing. Among them, the top five occupations were registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses (34%); nurse aides, orderlies, and patient service associates (21%); licensed practical nurses (8%); light duty cleaners (2%); and social and community service workers (2%). Over half of the IEHPs in Prince Edward Island had studied nursing.

IEHPs trained as physicians made up 15% of all IEHPs in Canada and most of them were living in Newfoundland and Labrador. The province was also found to have the highest overall proportion of IEHPs who are employed in health occupations (74% of IEHPs in the province).

Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan also both had high employment rates for IEHPs working in a healthcare occupation (over 65%) but in the rest of Canada, just 46% of IEHPs were employed in a health occupation.

Labour shortage in healthcare

The latest job vacancy data from Statistics Canada shows that there were 147,100 job vacancies in June this year.

The IEHP report suggests that, given the large number of IEHPs residing in Canada, there are many newcomers already in the country who could contribute to addressing labour shortages in the health workforce.

One of the leading causes of IEHPs not finding work in their field is the difficulty in getting licensed in a regulated profession in Canada. Each of Canada’s provinces has a different regulatory body that has varying requirements for healthcare professionals.

Still, the provinces are taking some steps to remove obstacles for IEHPs. For example, Nova Scotia now offers an expedited pathway for international nurses who are registered and hold a current license that entitles them to practice as a registered nurse in the Philippines, India, Nigeria, Australia, US, UK, or New Zealand.

Further, Ontario has introduced several new pieces of legislation, including that health regulatory colleges must comply with time limits to make registration decisions and prohibiting health regulatory colleges from requiring Canadian work experience for the purpose of registration (with some exceptions).

IRCC has also created six new Express Entry categories that select eligible Express Entry candidates based more on their occupation than their comprehensive ranking system (CRS) score. So far in 2023, 2,000 Invitations to Apply (ITAs) have been issued to those in healthcare professions.

Also, in October 2022, IRCC made it possible for physicians already practicing in Canada as temporary residents to become eligible to apply for Express Entry. This had not been possible previously, as most physicians were considered self-employed.

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