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“Brain Abuse”, or the Devaluation of Immigrant Labour in Canada

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Many professional and skilled Canadian immigrants suffer from de-skilling and the nonrecognition of their foreign credentials. Consequently, they are underrepresented in the upper segments of the Canadian labour market. Rather than accepting this devaluation of immigrant labour as a naturally occurring adjustment period, I suggest that regulatory institutions actively exclude immigrants from the upper segments of the labour market. In particular, professional associations and employers give preference to Canadian-born and educated workers and deny immigrants access to the most highly desired occupations.

Pierre Bourdieu's notion of institutionalised cultural capital and his views of the educational system as a site of social reproduction provide the entry point for my theoretical argument. I find that the nonrecognition of foreign credentials and dismissal of foreign work experience systematically excludes immigrant workers from the upper segments of the labour market. This finding is based on data from interviews with institutional administrators and employers in Greater Vancouver who service or employ immigrants from South Asia and the former Yugoslavia.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada;, Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2003

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