A new study finds a bleak jobs picture for new Canadians, though the picture improves for those who have been in here longer

The Globe and Mail
November 23, 2009

Tavia Grant

Newcomers to Canada tend to see lower wages and higher rates of involuntary part-time work, temporary jobs and over-qualification, a new study suggests.

But the bleak picture improves for people have been here longer. The jobs picture for immigrants who landed in the country more than a decade ago more closely resembles the quality of employment experienced by Canadian-born workers, a Statistics Canada paper showed.

Read the Statscan study Study: Quality of employment in the Canadian immigrant labour market

The study comes as many immigrants have suffered job losses in this recession. Newcomers who arrived in Canada in the past five years have seen employment plummet at more than five times the rate of Canadian-born workers, partly because many work in factories, Statscan said earlier this month. Those who landed more than 10 years ago, however, saw employment gains.

Monday’s study, based on a snapshot of last year’s labour market, found newcomers tend to log longer hours. But they earn less – about $2.28 an hour less, on average, than Canadian-born workers.

“A gap existed regardless of when the immigrants landed,” the paper said. “However, it was widest, at $5.04, for immigrants who had landed within the previous five years.”

The gap in wages was “particularly wide” among those with university degrees. Immigrants aged 25 to 54 with a university degree earned $25.31 an hour on average last year – about $5 an hour less than their Canadian-born counterparts.

Here are some other comparisons between the immigrant and Canadian-born labour force:

Who are they?

Over all, employed immigrants aged 25 to 54, especially those who landed in Canada more recently, were younger, more likely to be male, had higher levels of post-secondary education, and were more likely to work for smaller firms, the study said.


About 42 per cent of immigrant workers had a higher level of education for their job than what was normally required last year, while 28 per cent of Canadian-born workers were similarly over-qualified. “Regardless of period of landing, immigrants had higher shares of over-qualification,” the study said.

The share of immigrants with degrees who were over-qualified was 1.5 times higher than their Canadian-born counterparts.

Over-qualification was most acute among university-educated immigrants who landed within five years from when the survey was taken. Two-thirds worked in occupations that usually required at most a college education or apprenticeship.


Wage distribution suggests more immigrants work at minimum-wage jobs. The proportion of immigrants earning less than $10 an hour in 2008 was 1.8 times higher than for Canadian-born workers. At the other end of the spectrum, a lower share of immigrants earned $35 or more an hour than the Canadian born.


Newcomers to Canada tend to work 38.3 hours a week while immigrants who landed more than 10 years ago log 38.6 hours – higher than the average 38.1 hours among Canadian-born workers. Immigrants are less likely to work overtime, paid or unpaid.

Involuntary part-time work:

Almost four in 10, or 38 per cent, of immigrants worked part time involuntarily, higher than the Canadian-born proportion of 30 per cent. The rate is even higher among immigrant workers who landed within five years, at 41 per cent.

Temp jobs:

Nearly one in 10, or 9.7 per cent of immigrants, worked in temporary positions, more than the 8.3 per cent of Canadian-born employees. The rate of temp workers soars to 16 per cent – double the Canadian average – among more recent immigrants, though the share falls below the average once people have been in the country longer than a decade.

Union coverage:

Immigrants tend to have less union coverage, regardless of when they landed. The share of Canadian-born employees with union coverage was nearly 1.5 times higher than for immigrants as a whole.


The report highlighted many differences in employment between immigrants and Canadian-born workers. One similarity, however, is the proportion that are multiple-job holders. Other similarities are the numbers that work part-time, get on-the-job training and have flexible work hours.


Reference: Globe and Mail