The New Canadian Experience

The Royal Bank published a research report on aspiration and experiences of new Canadians. This research was conducted by Ipsos Reid in 2007. A representative randomly selected sample of 1,000 new Canadians was interviewed on the telephone. New immigrants who landed in Canada after the age of 18 years and have been in Canada for less than 10 years were classified as new Canadians for this survey. The partial findings of the research, as published by the RBC, provide good insights for organizations and marketers interested in the new Canadians market segment. I have highlighted and interpreted significant findings of the survey from a marketing perspective, primarily focusing on new Canadians from South Asian countries.

The study revealed that the majority of new Canadians of South Asian origin are young and well educated. 73% new Canadians were between 25 and 49 years of age compared to 46% Canadians overall. Based on estimated 265,000 new immigrants in 2007, about 70,000 new Canadians emigrating from South Asians countries were between 25 and 49 years. Moreover, 62% new Canadians have some university education and 51% came to Canada in “skilled workers” classification. Being young, educated and skilled, the new Canadians could be early adopters for many Canadian brands new to them. This presents highly promising profile for businesses and particularly for the marketing world. If the marketers can understand and cater for the needs of new Canadians and win their hearts and minds, they can acquire loyal customers and retain them for long. These potential customers come with adequate funds (estimated to be more than $20,000 per family of four, as mandated by the immigration policy) and have various urgent economic needs. For example, buying house, cars, home electronics, education savings plans, long distance calls, opening bank accounts and last but not the least securing employment. New Canadians, being young with children, will possibly be interested in outdoor activities, sports and fun and could enhance the demand for products and services related to these activities.

Though new Canadians are highly educated and skilled, it is sad that 70% of the respondents reported that they still focus on earning enough money to cover their daily expenses. This percentage is even higher at 77% for new Canadians who have been in Canada for less than three years. It would be interesting to compare the above percentages with the percentage of overall Canadians with similar profile and who are also focused on earning enough to meet daily expenses. For now, consider the fact that 3 out of 4 highly educated and skilled professionals who immigrate with high hopes to their new homeland remain pre-occupied in making the ends meet for up to 10 years. This is an alarming situation, which requires immediate attention from the government, businesses and the new immigrants as well. I have not seen any numbers or trend on reverse immigration and its magnitude; however, I think many new Canadians from the aforementioned 77% leave for other promising countries or return to their country of origin with in first 10 years. Imagine the invaluable resources (time and money) invested by both the immigrants and the government on immigration and settlement going waste due to reverse immigration.

The onus is on new Canadians to succeed in the new environment. They need to acquire Canadian education, exposure, skills or training in order to enhance their earning potential. Simultaneously, the government is required to evaluate and perhaps improve the quality of its existing support; especially the basic support provided through the human resource centers. It will be prudent to divert some funding from these centers, which provide minimal training, towards subsidizing relevant professional courses for new Canadians.

Another fact presented in the research report is that a large majority (87%) of the respondents is happy to be in Canada and 90% are hopeful about their future. This does not seem in sync with the finding discussed above (that is, 70% are focused to meet daily expenses up to 10 years after immigrating), however, it is understandable because of following:
– Immigrants are generally enterprising and risk-taking by nature. This is one of the reasons that many leave their country looking for better opportunities elsewhere. They are not easily deterred by adverse conditions. Great nations like America, Canada and Australia are built by enterprising and hard working immigrants.
– Immigrants come to Canada with long term objectives, mostly, education and better future for their children (a fact validated later in this paper). Thus despite hardships, immigrants are happy and remain hopeful.
– There exists an exit-barrier. It is expensive and stressful to look for a meaningful employment / work in another country and move out again. Many new immigrants compromise with the “given” and may not reveal their inner feelings in responding to such questions. However, this is true for most market research surveys, that is, respondents tend to pick an answer that would make them look good or please the researcher. Anecdotally, this is a common courtesy in South Asians countries.

Marketers could use the hope and optimism of new Canadians to connect with them and influence their behavior for mutual benefits. It is critical to keep the hope alive by catering for initial needs of the new Canadians and providing them with memorable emotional experiences. This will go a long way in inculcating brand and customer loyalty.

Furthermore, the study showed that 41% of the South Asians who do not feel settled responded that having a good job is the signifier of being established. This is no-brainer; in fact I was expecting a higher percentage of respondents would mention it. It is important to note the wordings of the response are “having a good job” not just having a job, which reinforces the fact that most of the new Canadians are under-employed resulting in colossal productivity and efficiency loss. So much have been said and written on cause and effect of higher unemployment and under-employment in new Canadians that it would be redundant and out of the scope of this paper to discuss it further.

It suffices here to mention that the government can only facilitate so much. Business organizations in general are required to come forward and contribute their bit beyond merely stating that they are equal employment opportunity employers. A few progressive organizations have taken practical steps in the right direction. Other businesses must understand that these organizations do not have a platonic love for new Canadians. These are smart organizations and have visualized the benefits of tapping into the growing new Canadian market segment.

In terms of saving for their children’s education, 50% of all Asian respondents who have been in Canada for less than three years indicated that this is a goal for them. This percentage decreased to 47% for respondents who have been in Canada for three to five years and to 44% for respondents who have been in Canada for five to ten years. Thus the goal for saving for children’s education seems inversely proportional to time, highlighting the fact that new Canadians slowly fulfill this goal as they spent more years in Canada. This shows that financial institutions need to reach new Canadians sooner to get a bigger pie of this market (the RESP market) and gain first-mover advantage.

The report also revealed that out of overall Asians respondents, 51% Chinese immigrants responded that saving for children is a financial goal for them compared to 38% new immigrants from South Asian countries. This indicates that there is an opportunity to create awareness among South Asian immigrants about the necessity and benefits of saving for children education and starting it early. The organizations that would do the best job in informing and educating the new market will get the trust, goodwill and loyalty of the potential customers for long term benefits.

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About Fazal Siddiqi
Fazal Siddiqi Writes on current marketing, branding, communications, diversity and socio-economic opportunities & challenges. He lives in Canada and works for OPAL Marketing Group.

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