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Joint Working Papers Series launches with an investigation into the migration experience of South Asian women

September 30, 2020
Landscape photo of south asian women looking at camera

Three new Working Papers examine the migration, settlement and integration experiences of women from South Asian countries who have settled in Canada. This volume of three complementary, interrelated studies marks the launch of the Working Papers Series as a joint effort between CERC Migration and the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS). The volume is edited by Anna Triandafyllidou, the CERC in Migration and Integration and Usha George, Academic Director of the RCIS.

The goal of permanent residency and successful integration into the Canadian labour market offers promising opportunities for migrant women; yet, they must frequently overcome significant barriers in the process.

A new volume of three complementary and interrelated Working Papers tracks the migration pathways experienced specifically by South Asian women. The papers identify key social and policy barriers to women at each stage of their migration, but also provide some encouraging insights and examples to show the diverse ways in which women become active agents in overcoming the challenges they face when settling in Canada.

“To gain a better and fuller understanding of South Asian women’s experiences, it is important to see the entire picture. These three studies show the connectivity by tracing the migration journey of women from their country of origin to permanent settlement and finally economic integration,” says CERC Senior Research Associate Marshia Akbar, guest editor of this insightful volume.

The studies were originally to be presented as part of a panel at the National Metropolis Conference being held in Winnipeg in March 2020, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Panel organizers Akbar and Vathsala Illesinghe, along with CERC Migration’s Anna Triandafyllidou, decided to publish a set of Working Papers and create a resource for researchers and students interested in South Asian migrants.

The volume challenges a generalization of South Asian women and recognizes their diverse identities and integration, while also highlighting their shared experiences and intersectional barriers faced as racialized women in Canada.

“South Asian women are very diverse and have different experiences, but they are sometimes stereotyped as being docile rather than decision makers,” says Akbar. “These studies show the diversity among South Asian women’s experiences and how many women are active agents who figure out ways to overcome barriers in the Canadian labour market.”

Research into the South Asian migration experience is often narrowly focused on India. Akbar explains that this volume broadens the scope by covering the experiences of women from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India, leading to a more comprehensive picture of South Asian women.

“We're also proud of the fact that the volume also showcases how young researchers from South Asia are contributing to migration and integration research,” says Akbar.

The first paper, “Express Entry and Economic Pathways to Canada: Opportunities and Barriers for South Asian Women,” studies women in four cities in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India, and describes how their participation in economic migration pathways through Express Entry is affected by recent changes to the selection and ranking of applicants. Working from a feminist lens, authors Vathsala Illesinghe, Nishi Mitra and Khalid Iftekhar show how the new system of scoring and ranking can create and reinforce existing structural barriers that exclude women from participating in economic pathways.

The second paper, “Labour Market Challenges and Entrepreneurial Activities of Bangladeshi Immigrant Women in Toronto: A Family Perspective,” expands on the experiences of South Asian women who come to Canada as spouses/dependents of skilled migrants, based on a case study of Bangladeshi women.

Authors Akbar and Valerie Preston apply an intersectionality lens to show how family goals and familial roles shape the entrepreneurship pathways of Bangladeshi women as they confront economic marginalization to start and operate family businesses outside the home and home-based businesses. Through their study, Akbar and Preston found that Bangladeshi women in this study played a crucial role in the economic survival of the family.

The third paper, “Employment Services Responses to Labour Market Challenges for South Asian Women: An ACCESS Employment Study,” advances and bridges the discussion by examining the role of the settlement sector in providing culturally sensitive employment services to South Asian women.

Authors Manjeet Dhiman, Ada Wong and Judy Yvonne provide an account of the employment barriers that South Asian newcomer women often face as they strive for economic integration and settlement in Canada. Their study also highlights effective program interventions undertaken by ACCESS to reduce the impact of these barriers and increase employment opportunities and success for South Asian newcomer women.

Joint hub of excellence for wide-ranging research

The joint CERC-RCIS series builds on the past success of the RCIS series (which has been in place since 2013) and provides an important, engaging platform for expanding the intellectual community at Ryerson focused on migration. Researchers benefit from having their work published and widely distributed in an open access-mode through the Working Paper Series.

“We are delighted to work in partnership with CERC Migration to continue our efforts in producing the Working Paper Series,” says Usha George. “With CERC Migration’s contribution, we look forward to increasing the frequency of publications and the range of subject areas investigated. Together, we are creating a strong hub in Canada for scholarly excellence in immigration, settlement and integration.”

Summary of Working Papers:

2020/9 Illesinghe, V., Mitra vom Berg, N., and Iftekhar, K.,  (PDF file) Express Entry and Economic Migration Pathways to Canada: Opportunities and Barriers for South Asian Women

2020/10 Akbar, M., and Preston, V.  (PDF file) Labour Market Challenges and Entrepreneurial Activities of Bangladeshi Immigrant Women in Toronto: A Family Perspective

2020/11 Dhiman, M., Wong, A., and Yvonne, J.  (PDF file) Employment Services Responses to Labour Market Challenges for South Asian Women: An ACCES Employment Study

 (PDF file) Combined volume

More Working Papers can be found here: