Immigrants in 905 more likely to be educated, own home, study finds

Toronto Star
March 20, 2009

Nicholas Keung
Lesley Ciarula Taylor
Immigration Reporters

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Jyoti Shukla, left, her husband Kamen Shukla and their daughter Vishwa outside their Mississauga home. (March 19, 2009)

Recent immigrants in smaller suburban communities are faring better than those setting roots in big cities when it comes to jobs, incomes and homeownership, says a new study that measures newcomers’ life quality across Canada.

The report shows immigrants to the Greater Toronto Area are increasingly choosing the 905 regions as their destination over Toronto. Even those initially settling in the city are then moving on to the suburbs.

The study, conducted by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, compared how newcomers who have been in the country for five years or more and living in the suburbs fared against their counterparts in the city. It found those living outside big cities were less likely to be living off social assistance, less likely to be unemployed, twice as likely to have a university degree and more likely to own homes.

Jyoti Shukla, her lawyer husband, Kamen, and their 12-year-old daughter, Vishwa, were drawn to Mississauga to live their suburban dream – and for its relatively lower costs of living when the family moved here from India in 2004.

“There are actually plenty of job opportunities for newcomers in the suburbs,” said Shukla, 42, who has a master’s degree in marketing and 18 years of business experience. “The city’s job market is pretty saturated and it is too competitive. We are close enough to the city but out of the city. There is more stability and we feel more safe here.”

The suburbanization trends, partially a result of Ottawa’s push to spread immigrants evenly across the country, have led to a lose-lose situation for large and small communities alike: While big cities are finding it harder to meet their labour needs with the exodus of well-educated and highly skilled immigrants, their smaller counterparts struggle to accommodate the influx.

“While most immigrants continue to live in large urban centres, a growing number of our most educated and highly skilled immigrants are settling in suburban and smaller communities,” said the municipal federation’s president, Jean Perrault, mayor of Sherbrooke, Que.

“Those who remain in large centres face greater socio-economic challenges.

“Large cities are losing the skilled immigrants their labour markets need while (they are) bearing a disproportionate share of the cost of assisting immigrants with special challenges such as language and skills training needs.

“Municipal governments are where immigrants go first for help, but we are not consulted on immigration policies or programs and we do not have the resources to provide the needed services. It’s time for a change,” he said.

The federation, which represents 1,775 communities covering 90 per cent of the population, said municipalities need federal funding to provide culturally sensitive services, such as translating garbage pickup schedules, more affordable housing, recreational programs, public health services and new ways to deliver services to newcomers.

According to the study:

  • The proportion of recent immigrants living off social assistance in big cities was more than twice the rest of Canada.
  • While the percentage of unemployed immigrants outnumbered non-immigrants in big cities, the gap was significantly smaller in the suburbs.
  • The proportion of recent immigrants with university degrees was twice as high as that of Canadians, yet their unemployment rate was four times greater.
  • Recent immigrants earned about 60 per cent of what native-born Canadians did in 2001, which dropped further to 51 per cent by 2006. The widest income gaps were generally found in larger municipalities.
  • Forty-three per cent of newcomer families lived under Statistics Canada’s low-income cut-off, three times the proportion among all Canadian households.
  • Recent immigrants in small communities were more likely to own homes than their counterparts in the city.

Evelyn Myrie, director of the Peel Newcomer Strategy Group, said while newcomers in smaller communities may fare better than those in big cities, they still have settlement needs, such as language upgrading and employment counselling, to be met. Issues such as poverty and homelessness are also slowly emerging in the suburbs, too, she added.

“Some smaller communities like Caledon just don’t have the resources in place to serve those needs,” said Myrie, whose group was formed four years ago by the United Way of Peel to involve community players in immigration and settlement planning.

Alykhan Velshi, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, said the department will review the report.

Toronto city councillor Janet Davis, chair of the city’s now-defunct immigration and settlement working group, said Toronto is still the No. 1 recipient of new immigrants, despite its dwindling share.


Reference: Toronto Star