Immigrant wages on the rise, but gaps with Canada-born persist
Recent immigrants to Canada are earning more money than ever, new figures from Statistics Canada show. In 2014, immigrants who had spent one year in Canada made an average of $24,000, the highest since 1981.
This rise is partly due to the Canadian Experience Class of immigrants, which fast-tracks permanent residency for newcomers who have work experience in Canada already.
“There are more immigrants coming in through this class,” StatsCan senior analyst Scott McLeish says. “They already have experience working in Canada in high skills occupations. So they’re starting from a different point than other immigrants.”
StatsCan arrived at these numbers by looking at 2015 tax returns from immigrants.
The rise in median wages is the good news. But immigrants still make significantly less than people born in Canada. While non-immigrants earned on average $36,300, immigrants made $29,770, according to the 2016 census.
This immigrant wage gap varies by province, with the widest gap in Alberta, and the narrowest in Nova Scotia.
In the Northwest Territories and in Newfoundland and Labrador, immigrants earn on average more than native-born Canadians.
The longer immigrants live in Canada, the more they earn
Immigrants tend to make more money the longer they live in Canada. In 2008, an immigrant who had been in Canada for seven years made almost $11,000 more than one who had arrived a year before.
This residence gap is most acute for immigrants from Africa and the Middle East. Recent immigrants from those regions earn much less than those from Asia, Latin America, and Europe.
Some provinces are better at retaining immigrants
The vast majority of immigrants who land in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia stay in those provinces, StatsCan has found. Atlantic provinces can’t say the same, especially among Economic Class immigrants and refugees.
Only 14 percent of economic immigrants who landed in Prince Edward Island still lived there five years later.
Still work to be done, expert says
Though the economic situation has generally improved for immigrants in Canada, there is still work to be done, according to Stephaney Reichhold, head of the umbrella organization that groups immigration resources in Quebec (TCRI).
This often has to do with recognition of education or work experience from countries outside of Canada, he said.
“Often, people are restarting,” Reichhold said. “They already worked in their country of origin and they restart at the bottom of the scale.”
The majority of economic immigrants are underemployed he said, meaning they have jobs that do not correspond to their level of experience or education compared to the native Canadian population.
He’s worked at the organization since 1990, and has seen some improvement in the economic situation for immigrants.
But, he said, there is a much higher rate of unemployment, use of social services, and poverty for people from countries in North Africa than those from Europe or North America, for example.
“The cultural-linguistic factors are part of it. Discrimination and racism factors are there.”
For an immigrant looking for higher-paying work in Quebec, speaking both English and French is often necessary, Reichhold added. But most immigrants who come to Quebec are not fluent in both official languages, he said.
“Most of them speak little to no English, because they were told if you want to live in French, come to Quebec,” he said