The Social Rate of Return to Investing in Character

Department of Economics University of Calgary

Author +
J.C. Herbert Emery and Ana Ferrer

Year: 2010

Skilled immigrants have been identified as a key source of labour supply for addressing the expected labour market shortages in Canada arising from an aging population and strong economic growth (Emery 2006; IAF March 31, 2009). However, the integration of immigrants into the workforce often requires that they have the necessary accreditation to work at their chosen occupation in the Canadian labour market. Credential recognition has proven to be a significant labour market barrier for skilled immigrants in Canada as evidenced by the high rates of underemployment of this group.

To address the underemployment of skilled immigrants in Alberta, the Immigrant Access Fund (IAF) provides small loans on a not for profit basis to assist immigrants in acquiring the Canadian accreditation and training they need to work in their field of expertise. These loans assist skilled immigrants in moving from low-income “survival” jobs to jobs that better utilize their valuable knowledge and skills. Although anecdotal evidence suggests that the IAF program has produced successes, there is no analytical evidence as to the overall economic value of the program. Our assessment of the social return to the IAF loan program demonstrates that this is a very high return social program with annual real rates of return of 33% or more.