With an aging workforce and a low fertility rate, Canadian governments over the past 10 years have increasingly turned to immigration as a way of trying to ensure that the necessary skills and knowledge in our labour market would not disappear. Highly educated immigrants have been sought to help drive Canada’s “knowledge-based economy”. More than five years ago, revisions to Canada’s immigration laws and policies began to put greater emphasis on identifying and selecting economic class immigrants based on specific skill sets, language fluency, education and transferable experience.
To provide timely information on the labour market for immigrants, questions to identify immigrants were added to the Labour Force Survey questionnaire in January 2006. The first report on the 2006 immigrant labour market based on these new questions was released September 10, 2007. The report highlighted that, while the 2006 Canadian labour market was the strongest in 30 years, with record low unemployment rate and record high employment rates, these strong outcomes were not experienced by the majority of immigrant’s to Canada. Furthermore, the situation was more challenging for some groups of immigrants than others.
The first notable variation was by time since landing, as immigrants who had been in Canada less than five years had an unemployment rate more than twice that of the Canadian born, while those who had been in Canada for more than ten years had rates similar to the Canadian born. There were also geographical variations, where immigrants living in Alberta benefited from the strong provincial labour market in 2006, while those in Quebec experienced more difficulties.
Another notable diference was by sex, as immigrant women of core working age had higher unemployment rates and lower employment rates than both immigrant men and Canadian-born women, regardless of how long they had been in Canada.
Finally, this report also found that, in 2006, immigrants were more likely to have a university education than the Canadian born. While unemployment rates for Canadian born were lower for progressively higher levels of education, the rates for very recent immigrants remained high regardless of educational attainment.
The second report, released February 13, 2008, examined 2006 immigrant labour market outcomes by country of birth. The main findings include that immigrants from the Philippines enjoyed labour market outcomes similar to the Canadian born, regardless of period of landing. Immigrants from some countries of birth, however, had some difficulties, reflected by their lower employment rates and higher unemployment rates, especially in their first five years since landing. For immigrants from most countries of birth, however, these difficulties were less pronounced with more time in Canada. For example, many groups of immigrants who had been in Canada more than 10 years had unemployment rates which were comparable to the Canadian born. The notable exception was for those established immigrants born in Africa, whose labour market outcomes still trailed that of the Canadian born.
This third report briefly updates aspects of the previous two reports, but using 2007 Labour Force Survey data now available.
In 2007, employment among core working-age immigrants grew by 2.1% (+52,000) compared with a year earlier, faster than that of the Canadian born (+1.3%) over the same period.
Despite these gains for immigrants, their employment growth did not keep up with their population increase, while for the Canadian born, their employment increased at more than twice the pace of their growth in population. As a result, the 2007 employment rate gap widened – for immigrants, their rate rose by 0.2 percentage points to 77.9%, but for the Canadian born, it increased by 0.7 percentage points to 83.8%.
The immigrant unemployment rate in 2007 edged up 0.1 percentage points to 6.6%, while the Canadian-born rate dipped 0.3 percentage points to 4.6%.
Almost all of the 2007 employment growth for immigrants was among established immigrants, with an increase of 2.6% for the year, all in full time. Although their employment grew, the expansion of the established immigrant labour force nudged their unemployment rate up 0.3 percentage points to 5.3%.
Employment gains in 2007 for more recent immigrants were relatively small. Despite a dip in the unemployment rate of very recent immigrants, the rate remained more than double that of the Canadian born.
Annual data for 2007: The findings in this report are based on an annual average for 2007, and include comparing changes in labour market levels and rates between 2006 and 2007.
Core working age: age 25 to 54 years. These individuals are more likely to have completed school and be available for full-time work and less likely to have entered retirement than those aged 15 to 24 or 55 and older. People of core working age are the main focus of the analysis in this report, unless stated otherwise.
Very recent immigrants: individuals who have been landed immigrants to Canada for 5 years or less (i.e., up to 60 months) prior to being interviewed.
Recent immigrants: individuals who have been landed immigrants to Canada from 5 to 10 years prior to being interviewed.
Established immigrants: individuals who have been landed immigrants to Canada for more than 10 years prior to being interviewed.
Immigrant labour market outcomes, by province
Most of Canada’s employment growth among immigrants was in Quebec
In 2007, over half of Canadian immigrants’ employment growth took place in Quebec (+28,000). The unemployment rate among Quebec’s immigrants also fell from 12.0% in 2006 to 10.2% in 2007. Despite this relatively large increase in labour market conditions for immigrants living in Quebec in 2007, Quebec still remains one of the regions where immigrant unemployment is high.
In Quebec, gains among immigrants accounted for three-quarters of the provinces’ total annual employment growth. Quebec was the only province where the majority of employment growth came from their core working-age immigrant population in 2007.
The majority of the gains in Quebec went to established immigrants. In 2007, more than three-quarters of employment growth for immigrants in Quebec was among established immigrants, who saw their employment grow by an estimated 22,000, all in full time. These gains pushed their employment rate to 78.7%, up from 76.8% a year earlier. Virtually all of this growth was for established immigrant men and women born in Asia.
Employment among recent immigrants in Quebec increased slightly in 2007 compared with the previous year. The unemployment rate among recent immigrants in Quebec also fell from 13.4% in 2006 to 10.7% in 2007.
Among very recent immigrants in Quebec, employment was unchanged between 2006 and 2007, and their unemployment rate fell from 17.8% in 2006 to 14.2% in 2007 as a number of these immigrants left the labour force.
Solid employment growth for Alberta immigrants in 2007, particularly for recent immigrants
In 2006, immigrants in Alberta benefited from high labour demand; in 2007, the story was no different. Employment growth in 2007 for immigrants in Alberta was the second-highest among the provinces at 8.4% (+18,000), with almost all the gains in full time, as they benefited from the strong labour market of the oil-rich province. Recent immigrants in Alberta had particularly strong 2007 employment growth; in fact, they had the largest gains of all recent immigrants in any provinces.
Immigrant employment stagnant in Ontario
In 2007, the entire Ontario core working-age labour market experienced its slowest overall employment growth so far this decade; in 2007, Ontario immigrants also experienced very modest gains in employment (+0.3%). A small increase in immigrant entrants to the labour force pushed the Ontario immigrant unemployment rate up by 0.5 percentage points to 6.8%; the unemployment rate for the Canadian born remained unchanged at 4.4%.
Overall employment losses for British Columbia immigrants
In 2007, employment growth among Canadian-born British Columbians was quite strong, at 3.1%. This strength, however, was not evident for B.C. immigrants as a whole; in fact, their overall employment declined from 2006 to 2007 (-1.1%). The employment rate for immigrants, however, increased by 0.6 percentage points, as their population declined faster than their losses in employment.
Immigrant employment changes, by industry
Strong gains for immigrants in transportation as well as accommodation and food services
Similar to the Canadian born, most employment growth in 2007 was in the service sector. The industries in which growth occurred, however, differed. Notable immigrant employment gains in 2007 were in transportation (+19,000) and accommodation and food services (+15,000), while for the Canadian born, the largest gains were in public administration; professional, scientific and technical services; and finance, insurance, real estate and leasing. In the goods sector, while the Canadian born saw construction employment expand and manufacturing employment shrink, immigrants had a modest decline in construction and a small gain in manufacturing.
Immigrant labour market outcomes, by educational attainment
Largest growth was for university-educated immigrants
In recent years, greater emphasis has been put on the education levels of potential immigrants; as a result, more and more immigrants to Canada have a university degree. In 2007, the largest gains in immigrant employment were among university-educated immigrants of core working age.
While employment for immigrants with other levels of education was mostly unchanged, those with university degrees had an estimated gain of 62,000 (+7.0%), all in full time. This is in contrast to the Canadian born, for whom the vast majority of employment growth was among those with a postsecondary certificate or diploma.
Immigrant labour market outcomes, by socio-demographic characteristics
Immigrant women saw larger employment gains than did immigrant men
In 2007, the vast majority of the estimated 52,000 employment gains for core working-age immigrants were among immigrant women (+47,000). While these gains for immigrant women were in full-time work, they were shared between established immigrant women, and to a lesser extent, recent immigrant women. Despite these 2007 gains, their unemployment rate was still higher than and their employment rate was still lower than that of immigrant men.
In 2007, modest growth in the number of male immigrants looking for work pushed their unemployment rate up 0.4 percentage points to 6.3%. This rise in unemployment occurred among recent and established immigrant men; there were very few changes to the labour force characteristics of very recent immigrant men between 2006 and 2007.
Employment increased for very recent and recent immigrant youths
In 2007, employment gains for immigrant youths aged 15 to 24 was similar to the pace of Canadian-born youth (+2.0% vs. +1.9%). The employment rate of immigrant youths edged up 0.4 percentage points to 48.7%; however, this increase was half that of the Canadian born youth, whose rise in employment far outpaced its increase in population.
Most of the increase for immigrant youth was among very recent and recent immigrants; in fact, immigrant youths who landed more than 10 years earlier had employment declines.
Very strong gains for older immigrants
Employment among all older Canadians aged 55 and over in 2007 grew by 7.1% and their employment rate rose by 1.2 percentage points to 31.7%. The rate of growth was particularly strong for older immigrants (+9.3%), whose pace overshadowed that of Canadian-born older workers (+6.5%).
Immigrant labour market outcomes, by region or country of birth
Employment growth was very strong for immigrants born in Asia (including the Middle East)
In 2007, virtually all the population growth among the immigrant core-working age population was for those born in Asia (including the Middle East). Accordingly, most of the employment gains were for those born in this region.
Between 2006 and 2007, employment grew by an estimated 53,000 (+4.9%) for Asian-born immigrants of core working age. This growth was shared among Asian-born immigrants from all three periods of landing: very recent (+8.5%), recent (+4.1%) and established (+4.1%), with the gains overwhelmingly in full-time positions.
Among the Asian-born immigrant population, the 2006 unemployment and employment rates of those born in the Philippines were particularly robust. In fact, regardless of period of landing, the Filipino born had very low rates of unemployment and employment rates that rivalled or surpassed those of the Canadian born and most of their immigrant peers. In 2007, their labour market outcomes improved further still; overall employment for those born in the Philippines grew by 8.3%, virtually all in full time. Their overall 2007 employment rate increased to 88.9%, to remain higher than the Canadian born or that of other immigrant source countries.
Modest gains or losses for immigrants born in other regions
Overall, European-born immigrants are, second to Asians, the largest group of immigrants to Canada. The employment level for core working-age European-born immigrants was relatively flat between 2006 and 2007 (+0.5%). While very recent immigrants born in this region saw their employment levels decline, recent and established immigrants had some very modest gains.
In 2006, African-born immigrants had the highest unemployment rates and had the lowest employment rates of immigrants to Canada, regardless of period of landing. In 2007, modest employment gains pushed the employment rate of core workingage African-born immigrants to 72.3%, up from 70.3% in 2006. The unemployment rate of African-born immigrants fell by 3.3 percentage points to 9.0% due to a drop in the number of unemployed. Despite these improvements, their employment rate was still lower and their unemployment rate was still higher than the Canadian born and immigrants born in other regions.
In 2006, immigrants born in Latin America, particularly recent and established immigrants, had labour market outcomes that were close to that of the Canadian born. The overall 2007 employment rate of these Latin America-born immigrants, however, fell by 2 percentage points due to a drop in employment. These losses were felt by both very recent (-7,000) and recent (-8,000) immigrants from this region; most of these losses were in full-time positions.
The Immigrant Labour Force Analysis Series:
The Canadian Immigrant Labour Market in 2007