Sociology 211

November 10, 2004


Incorporation of ethnic groups – Isajiw, chapter 5


In chapter 5, Isajiw deals with how groups are incorporated into Canadian society.   In this chapter, he considers only structural incorporation into secondary group structures.  These are structures such as the labour force, education, politics, and other institutions and parts of society we would ordinarily consider outside the private realm of individual, household, and family, or the community realm of church, ethnic organization, local activities, and personal networks.  Many of the latter are part of what is considered to be social capital.  The structural incorporation thus refers to the way in which individuals and groups become part of the economic and political structures of society – the way incomes are earned and public participation occurs. 


Isajiw refers to structural incorporation as integration (p. 109), but it might better be referred to as economic or political integration.  Integration could be a wider term than just referring to these structural features, with full integration occurring only when an individual or group is a full part of society not only in structural terms, but also when their culture and identity becomes part of the society. 


 Other types of incorporation are cultural incorporation and identity incorporation (p. 109).  Isajiw refers to cultural incorporation as assimilation – this may be one way that cultural incorporation occurs, but in a multicultural society it may not be necessary to become a full part of the majority culture.  That is, various mixes of retention of individual culture and adoption of majority or dominant culture can occur.  Similarly, identity incorporation can involve a variety of responses – dual or multiple identities may exist, so it is not necessary to have a single identity as that of a majority or dominant culture.  Part of the problem here is that there is great diversity in the majority or dominant culture, with Canadian-born having a great variety of subcultures, identities, and views of what a good life involves.  As a result, it is not to be expected that newcomers will all incorporate themselves into a single cultural or identity mode.  What newcomers will need to do is learn the cultural patterns of the new society, adopt or develop a set of cultural patterns, and develop a set of identities that allow them to function and feel comfortable in the new society.  That is, they need to find some way to incorporate themselves into a diverse society.  If the established society is to adopt a multicultural approach, established members of that society need to find a way to welcome these newcomers and find ways to encourage them to find a way to incorporate or integrate themselves into the society.  This means eliminating the barriers to newcomers participating and responding to the changes the newcomers bring to the society.  Isajiw points out that this involves a degree of reciprocity, with newcomers changing as they incorporate themselves and host society changing to accommodate the newcomers (p. 109). 


In any case, chapter 5 deals with structural incorporation, primarily economic and political aspects of integration, while culture, identity, and personal and family incorporation are dealt with in later chapters.


The factors associated with this incorporation are as follows:


1.  Response of the majority group to newcomers (pp. 112-115).  This deals with how welcoming the new society is or how closed, ethnocentric, and discriminatory the new society is.  Isajiw associates ethnocentrism, discrimination and, in chapter 6, prejudice and racism with the status determinants deriving from the majority ethnic group.  These are one part of the barriers faced by members of an incoming or disadvantaged ethnic group or national minority.  On the other hand, where there is a more positive approach toward newcomers, embodying some of the principles of multiculturalism, these majority responses can help newcomers integrate into the society. 


2.  Existing structures in the society – Porter, power, labour markets, etc. (pp. 110-111 and pp. 116-120).  While we have not dealt systematically with this, we have touched on various aspects of this earlier in the semester. 


3.  Responses of members of the minority ethnic group (pp. 121-141).  We have dealt with some of these in the last few lectures, where issues such as language and social capital have been considered.  Key aspects of this are the internal organization of the minority group, their backgrounds (education, experiences), their values and attitudes, their group organizational structure, and their internal system of class, status, age, and gender inequality. 


Ethnic status.  Isajiw’s four-fold classification of the status of ethnic groups can be connected with the earlier history of immigration and ethnic composition of Canada.  Ethnic status and stratification refer to “a system of differences in the distribution of various characteristics among groups of people.”  (p. 110).  This can refer to incomes or to distribution of social status, prestige, or power.  The issue is what is distributed differentially across immigrants as opposed to non-immigrants, and among immigrants. 


Isajiw further defines ethnic stratification as “a hierarchical system of ethnic groups, arranged according to the degree of power that the groups have in society, the level of the quality of life their members enjoy and the collective resources possessed, and the amount of prestige the groups and their members enjoy in relation to one another.”  (p. 111).  Ethnic status is the position of a group within this system of ethnic stratification.


1.  Entrance status.  This is the type of job and the economic and social position that the immigrant group occupies when they enter Canada.  This is a function of the type and level of economic development at the time the immigrants enter Canada, the background of the immigrants in terms of qualifications and place of origin, the positions they are expected to fill, and responses of the Canadian-born population to the immigrants.  As we have seen, historically some of the immigrants were encouraged to become farmers, others were used for construction, mining, industrial, or service sector jobs.  In earlier times, and even in Canada today, this has led to some immigrants being channelled to specific jobs in a dual or split labour market.   With the emphasis on higher levels of education, this may be less likely, so that many immigrants may enter the established labour market in a manner similar to young Canadian-born entrants.  But where employers view the credentials of immigrants as inadequate, or if the number of jobs is limited, immigrants may have to take lesser skilled and low paying jobs at time of entry.


2.  Dual labour markets.  The existence of two, or more, different labour markets, with immigrants of a particular ethnicity occupying one of these – often the lower paying one with poor working conditions.  Other individuals and groups are not confined to the jobs that these immigrants are restricted to but can enter the primary labour market.  Examples of groups that have been restricted to the secondary labour market are the Chinese in railroad construction, the Irish in heavy, physical labour jobs in nineteenth century Canada, the Filippino or Caribbean women in child care, or the Mexican seasonal workers in agricultural work.


So long as the immigrant workers are constrained to these secondary jobs, their status is lower in the ethnic stratification system – both in terms of wages and working conditions, and in terms of social status and power.  They may have almost no ability to affect their own condition, but their working conditions may be at the whim of the employer and immigration officials.  Given this inferior status in terms of what society values (income, good jobs, control over own life), they may then be regarded as inferior by other members of society, who place negative social evaluations on these people.


3.  Split labour market.  This seems fairly similar to the dual labour market model, at least as described by Isajiw.  Ignore the difference between split and dual labour market models and consider them to illustrate the same set of processes.


4.  Ethnic concentrations in employment and enterprise.  This is the empirical measure of the extent of concentration that the dual or split labour market model is attempting to explain.  Isajiw (pp. 118-9) gives several examples of high levels of ethnic concentration – Italian men as masons or barbers, Filippino, Caribbean, or Slovakian women as domestic workers, or immigrant women in textile manufacturing. 


In terms of enterprise, the results are often very similar – Chinese or Greeks operating restaurantes, Haitians driving taxis, Koreans operating convenience stores. 


The concentration of an ethnic group in a particular occupation, industry, or enterprise is unlikely to be a result of some natural ability of the group, but a result of the set of opportunities and possibilities open to the group.  The Japanese in Canada intially were fishermen, but when fishing licences were denied them they went into forestry or farming.  They were then pushed out of these.  Initial entry into an occupation or enterprise by some members of a group may lead to others entering the same – this could be because of networks, information flows, ethnic community influences, and responses by the majority population.  In any case, this can help create images and stereotypes of the immigrant group as suited only for these occupations or enterprises. 


5.  Political factors.  Policies such as domination (Conquest of New France), reserves (relegating aboriginal people to these), immigration legislation and policy (exclusion or limits), internment, or exile are negative examples of these.  Policies such as a non-discriminatory immigration policy, multiculturalism, human rights legislation, and employment equity are examples of political means by which the policies of exclusion and division can be reduced.


Last edited November 15, 2004