Government studies immigrant incomes by where they come from

March 20, 2015

By Nicholas Keung, Toronto Star |

Immigrants from China, South Korea and Taiwan have among the lowest incomes in Canada but few of them use social assistance, according to an internal government study.’

Based on the 2011 National Household Survey data, Citizenship and Immigration Canada examined the incomes of immigrants from 52 countries, accounting for 86 per cent of the overall immigrant population, to measure which were more likely to have lower incomes

People from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Australia, the Philippines, Croatia, Portugal, Serbia and India did as well or better than native-born Canadians, the study said.

At the other end of the spectrum, almost one-fifth of those from China, Haiti, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Turkey, Colombia, Iran, Morocco, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Algeria, South Korea, Iraq and Taiwan lived below the low income cut-off ($18,759 for a single person in Toronto).

The study explained the struggle these poorer immigrants face: They’re the more recent immigrants, they’re less likely to speak English or French, they’re younger, urban and working age and possibly less educated and they come from countries that produce more refugees.

“Those with better language skills and already with jobs here can assure economic success,” said immigration policy analyst Richard Kurland, who obtained the data through a freedom of information request.

“It is all about their skills, not their skin.”

It’s not known who asked for the study and for what purpose, but Kurland said Ottawa has increasingly relied on the tax data to tinker and enforce its immigration laws as in the requirement to submit income tax returns as proofs of physical presence in Canada to maintain permanent resident status or apply for citizenship.

“The government uses tax data to make immigration policies that bring in more people and more taxes into Canada,” said Kurland.

“The trends are we are seeing a decrease in the number of refugees, a group prone to social assistance use, and we now have an extended financial obligation for Canadians who sponsor their parents and grandparents to Canada.”

The study found immigrants from Taiwan, South Korea and China used government assistance at rates of 2 per cent, 5 per cent and 5 per cent respectively — below the 10 per cent average. Almost half the Taiwanese immigrants and 29 per cent of South Korean immigrants were admitted to Canada through the business immigration class.

University of Toronto immigration studies professor Jeffrey Reitz explained the low usage as recent immigrants’ “lack of knowledge and culture” about the social safety net.

“It can be due to the culture in their own country where depending on government handouts is disreputable,” said Reitz. “But over time, they assimilate and use welfare in Canada.”

Read More