Statistics Canada Study: Labour market participation of immigrant and Canadian-born wives, 2006 to 2014

January 7, 2016

By Northumberland View |

Immigrant wives participate less often in the labour market than Canadian-born wives, and about half of the observed difference is attributable to socioeconomic characteristics, according to a new study.

From 2006 to 2014, 76% of immigrant wives―landed immigrant women aged 25 to 54 living with employed immigrant men in the same age group―participated in the Canadian labour force. The corresponding proportion for their Canadian-born counterparts was 11 percentage points higher at 87%.

Two factors account for about half of this difference.

Immigrant wives generally come from countries where the labour market participation of women is lower than that of men. In addition, immigrant wives tend to have larger families than their Canadian-born counterparts.

When country-level female-to-male labour market participation ratios are taken into account, the difference in labour force participation between immigrant wives and Canadian-born wives declines from 11 percentage points to 6 percentage points. When family size is also taken into account, the difference declines to 5 percentage points.

None of the difference can be traced to other factors, such as the age and education of husbands and wives, the wages and employment status of husbands, the family’s place of residence, or the number of other family members with employment.

In addition to wage differences between immigrant and Canadian-born workers, the lower rates of labour market participation among immigrant wives help explain why immigrant families generally have lower income than their Canadian-born counterparts.

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