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Questioning the role of information poverty in immigrant employment acquisition: empirical evidence from African immigrants in Canada

Millicent N. Mabi (School of Information, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
Heather L. O'Brien (School of Information, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
Lisa P. Nathan (School of Information, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 13 June 2022

Issue publication date: 10 January 2023

154

Abstract

Purpose

Skilled, well-educated African immigrants arrive in Canada with aspirations for more opportunities and a better life, but too often end up with few employment options and precarious jobs. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the experiences of African immigrants attempting to locate suitable, well-compensated employment in Canada. More specifically, this paper reveals how long-standing information poverty frameworks from the field of information behavior are inadequate for understanding intersectional and broader socio-cultural forces influence access to information and employment precarity among African immigrants.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with twenty-five African immigrants in Metro Vancouver. Qualitative content analysis was used to explore participants' employment information seeking and perceptions of information availability using Britz's information poverty framework.

Findings

Participants encountered a range of difficulties when seeking information related to employment, including content, process and identity-related challenges, in alignment with Britz's framework. However, the framework did not fully encompass their information seeking experiences. Limited access to relevant information impacted participants' ability to make timely career decisions, and there was evidence of information inequity resulting from a mismatch between information provision and participants' multifaceted identities.

Originality/value

This research applied Britz's information poverty approaches and provided a map of participants' responses to information seeking challenges. Participants did not fit into the category of information poor as defined by Britz. The findings suggest that the discourse on information poverty would benefit from considerations of the diverse backgrounds of information seekers and the incorporation of cultural dimensions to understandings of information access, information poverty and technology use for information seeking.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are thankful to the African immigrants who participated in this study for sharing their time and insights. Thanks to Dr. Luanne Freund for their contribution to this research. This research was funded by the University of British Columbia Faculty of Arts.

Citation

Mabi, M.N., O'Brien, H.L. and Nathan, L.P. (2023), "Questioning the role of information poverty in immigrant employment acquisition: empirical evidence from African immigrants in Canada", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 79 No. 1, pp. 203-223. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-11-2021-0233

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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