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The labour market negotiation of Bhutanese in the Canadian labor market Khadka, Raj Kumar

Abstract

Canada accepted 6,600 Bhutanese refugees between 2009 and 2015 under its government-assisted refugee (GAR) program. In their new home in the Greater Vancouver area, the Bhutanese refugees struggled to find employment. As a new and small group of refugees admitted in Canada there is a scarcity of studies that could explain the Bhutanese refugees’ participation in the Canadian labour market. Therefore, this study explored the participation of Bhutanese refugees in the Canadian labour market in order to understand their lived labour market experience. In order to do this, I employed a case study research framework and ethnographic field work in British Columbia (BC), Alberta and Nepal. I interviewed 62 Bhutanese refugees and 10 experts on settlement services and the labour market. Findings from the study indicate that the Bhutanese refugees’ capital resources are based in the agrarian and rural economy of Bhutan and Nepal. The Bhutanese refugees experienced high rate of unemployment and underemployment because they lacked relevant human and linguistic capital and experienced exclusion based on race, gender and class in the Canadian labour market. A majority of the Bhutanese refugees from BC opted for secondary migration to Alberta to work in the poultry and ham industries in Lethbridge through their ethnic network. However, the Bhutanese workers have suffered physical injuries due to the cold temperatures and the nature of assembly line work in the poultry and meat plants. The Bhutanese refugees in BC are concentrated doing casual work in cleaning, restaurant, thrift shop and food packaging industries in the Greater Vancouver area. Overall, the precarious nature of the work they are involved in carries with it the possibility of marginalization and economic insecurity in the future. In order to address the labour market challenges of the Bhutanese refugees I recommend the federal and provincial government develop labour market policies tailored to refugees, extend the resettlement assistance period from two to five years, and introduce free English language learning programs for naturalized citizens.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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