New Perspective on Immigrants’ Economic Outcomes in Canada

October 31, 2018

By Andrew Griffith, Policy Options|

Economic outcomes may be the most fundamental indicator of whether immigrants to Canada have integrated successfully. How do visible minority groups compare with people who are not members of visible minorities in workforce participation, unemployment rates and median employment incomes? How do the outcomes of first- and second-generation immigrants compare? What differences can be observed among various visible minority groups and between genders? With Canadian immigration policy largely designed to make up for the aging of our workforce, how does the relative economic success of younger members of visible minorities contribute to addressing the demographic challenge?

To get the answers to these and other questions, I have been analyzing data from the most recent census, in 2016. I’ve focused on the economic and social outcomes of visible minority adults 25 to 34 years old. There are about 1.2 million people in this group, about 27 percent of all 25- to 34-year-olds in Canada. The majority are immigrants (first generation); about 25 percent are Canadian-born (second or further generation).

Statistics Canada defines 10 categories of visible minorities. In addition, its “Not a visible minority” (NVM) category “includes respondents who reported ‘Yes’ to the Aboriginal identity question as well as respondents who were not considered to be members of a visible minority group.” Data for Indigenous people (“Aboriginal” in Statistics Canada’s census terminology) are included in my analysis for comparative purposes, although their identities and issues are distinct from those of the 10 visible minority groups in census reports.

Why look at the 25-to-34 age cohort? Members of visible minorities have formed about 80 percent of immigrants since the 2000s. Their children — born, educated and raised in Canada — are entering the workforce in growing numbers.

By pointing out differences in outcomes for immigrants and their children, whether by gender, generation or visible minority group, analysis of census data highlights areas where policies and programs are working and others where Canada must improve its integration efforts.

Participation in the labour force

The participation rate is defined by Statistics Canada as “the share of the working-age population that is working or looking for work.” Figure 1 displays the participation rates for university-educated 25- to 34-year-olds in the largest provinces. The most striking finding is that participation rates for visible minority women are notably lower than for visible minority men, across most provinces and most visible minority groups. By contrast, the gap between men and women in the NVM group is minimal.

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