Four in 10 Metro Vancouver workers are immigrants, census finds

December 2, 2017

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

Immigrants make up a growing percentage of Metro Vancouver’s workforce, but their participation rates sharply vary by ethnic background.

Immigrants account for 43 per cent of all workers in Metro Vancouver, with 586,000 in the labour force, one of the highest proportions in the world, according to new census figures.

One of the few major global cities with a stronger percentage of immigrants in the labour force is Greater Toronto, where half of all workers are immigrants.

However, the census figures released Wednesday shows the participation rate of immigrants in the workforce differs widely by ethnicity.

Filipino, White and Latin American recent immigrants are the most likely to participate in the labour force. These three groups also had the highest rates of employment in Metro Vancouver.

Arab, West Asian (mostly Iranian) and Chinese recent immigrants were the least likely to try to enter the workforce in both Canada and Vancouver.

Among the largest group of recent immigrants to Metro Vancouver, ethnic Chinese, only 47 per cent of the 35,000 adults who arrived in Metro Vancouver between 2011 and 2016 told census takers that they were available for work.

That compares to 80 per cent of recent Filipino immigrants who were available for work, 82 per cent of White immigrants and 71 per cent of recent South Asian arrivals.

The low rate of ethnic Chinese participation in Metro Vancouver’s workforce dovetails with other demographic analyses that indicate the city is increasingly becoming home to wealthy trans-national Chinese immigrants, many of whom choose not to work even while they’re able to afford condos and houses.

Across Canada, 4.5 million immigrants are in the labour force. Immigrants have grown to 23.8 per cent of all workers in 2016, up from 21.2 per cent in 2006.

The census figures on immigrants in the workforce does not include hundreds of thousands of non-permanent residents who also hold down jobs in Canada. Statistics Canada official Sylvie Bourbonnais said Wednesday the census found 35,000 non-permanent residents, out of a total of 71,000 in Metro Vancouver, work in the city. Many are international students.

In addition, figures provided by Canada’s Immigration Department suggests the 2016 census, which relies on self-reporting, underestimates the total number of non-permanent residents in Metro Vancouver by about half. The actual figure is closer to 130,000.

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