World Refugee Day - The impact of immigrant language skills on Canadian wages

Posted on Thursday, May 25, 2017

Seda Gunduz, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Economics under the supervision of Catherine Deri Armstrong and Miles Corak, looks at the impact of immigrant language skills on Canadian wages.

Seda Gunduz

Area of research

Her thesis focuses on the impact of the changing composition of immigrant language skills on wages, and considers three important issues.  First, it describes the deterioration in the language skills of Canadian immigrant cohorts over the past three decades. Second, it analyzes the degree to which immigrants can be substituted for non-immigrant workers in the Canadian labour market by considering the variation in immigrants’ language skills. Finally, it estimates how well female immigrants can replace male immigrants in the Canadian labour market.


During her first year at the University of Ottawa, Seda Gunduz worked as a research assistant for Professor Miles Corak on a project investigating the economic success of second-generation immigrants. Of the various factors examined, parental language skills were considered relevant. She became very interested in how the language skills of immigrants might play a role in their economic integration. As an immigrant from Turkey herself, she initially experienced significant difficulty in actively participating in class and in social networking due to her language skills upon arriving in Canada. After a discussion with Professor Miles Corak, she decided to focus her doctoral research on understanding the role of language skills in the economic integration of Canadian immigrants, with the hope that her research will be used to design policies that accelerate their economic integration.


Seda believes that although Canada contributes generously to assisting refugees, in comparison to the aid offered by other Western countries, the global scale of the current refugee crisis has resulted in a large gap between those seeking refugee status and those obtaining it.  According to the United Nations, the end of 2015 saw an additional 2 million new asylum-seekers around the world. Of these 65.3 million forcibly displaced people, 11.7 million were Syrian. Given these unprecedented levels of forced displacement, more efforts and contributions should be made to support these people domestically and internationally. She believes the Syrian refugee crisis will not be resolved quickly and will play a significant role in our social and economic lives.

View additional student research on issues pertaining to refugees.

The University of Ottawa launches a program to helps refugees

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