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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Study: Immigrants in Canada's urban centres


Immigrants are changing the face of Canada's largest urban centres, according to a new report of immigrants in metropolitan areas.

Virtually all the immigrants who arrived in Canada during the 1990s—some 1.8 million people—settled in one of Canada's 27 census metropolitan areas.

Settlement was disproportionately located in the three largest centres—Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver. Together, they were home for nearly three-quarters (73%) of new arrivals. In 1981, only 58% of immigrants who had arrived in the previous decade settled in these three areas.

The changing characteristics of immigrants have been central to this trend. Immigrants from East and South Asia have historically settled in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver and immigrants from these regions have accounted for an increasing share of all new arrivals in Canada.

Nevertheless, many smaller urban centres had considerable shares of their population composed of recent immigrants. For example, only about 1.3% of all recent immigrants settled in Windsor, but they represented 8.0% of its total population.

The report showed that most immigrants settle in their intended destination in Canada and do not move from one metropolitan area to another during the resettlement process. Most Canadian-born children of immigrants, that is, second-generation immigrants, reside in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver. This is the case even for those in their 30s and 40s.

Immigrants also have higher levels of educational attainment than people born in Canada. Yet, in virtually every urban region, a far higher proportion of recent immigrants were employed in jobs with lower skill requirements than the Canadian-born.

Note to readers

This report is the third in a series that develops statistical measures to shed light on important issues for Canada's cities. Statistics Canada has worked on this project in collaboration with the Cities Secretariat of the Privy Council Office.

The objective is to provide statistical measures of trends and conditions in our larger cities and the neighbourhoods within them. These measures will be available for use in city planning and in policy development.

This comprehensive report provides an overview of the characteristics and experiences of recent immigrants residing in Canada's large metropolitan areas.

It examines the settlement patterns of immigrants; the characteristics of immigrants, including their source country and the skills they bring to Canada; the implications immigration may have for public transit, educational services and housing; and the labour market experiences and earnings of recent immigrants.

Data primarily came from the 2001 Census.

The report also points to potential implications of immigration for public services. For example, in all census metropolitan areas, recent immigrants aged 25 to 54 were far more likely than their Canadian-born counterparts to attend school.

With respect to labour force characteristics and earnings, the report also reinforces the findings of previous studies: recent immigrants were much more likely to work for low wages, were less likely to be high-wage earners and had higher unemployment rates.

Implications for public services and housing

Immigration has implications for the provision of public services and housing in Canada's urban areas. In Montréal, for example, 48% of recent immigrants commuted to work by public transit in 2001, more than twice the proportion of 20% among Canadian-born people.

This high rate of public transit use among recent immigrants, coupled with the sizeable number of recent immigrants living in metropolitan areas, means that they are an important and growing customer base for public transit systems in many urban centres.

Immigration also raises implications for elementary and secondary schools. In 2001, about one-quarter of all children up to the age of 17 in Toronto and Vancouver were themselves recent immigrants, or were born in Canada to parents who were recent immigrants. Most of these children resided in households in which a language other than English or French was the main language spoken by their parents.

Within six months of arriving in Canada, just under one-third of new immigrants had already taken at least one course in either English or French.

In all age groups between 18 and 54, recent immigrants were more likely than people born in Canada to have attended school in the academic year 2000/01.

The high incidence of school attendance among recent immigrants, coupled with the sizeable number of recent immigrants living in many urban centres, means that this group accounts for a significant share of the student population in many such centres.

The share of recent immigrant households that resided in rented accommodation was lowest in Calgary and highest in Montréal and Ottawa–Hull.

Labour market conditions of recent immigrants

Recent immigrants had lower employment rates and higher unemployment rates than Canadian-born individuals.

In Edmonton, for example, recent immigrants had an employment rate of 76.1%, compared with 84.0% for the Canadian-born. Conversely, their unemployment rate of 5.9% was higher than the rate of 4.1% for Canadian-born. Other urban centres showed similar patterns, and differentials were typically higher for women than men.

Recent immigrants were also less likely to work on a full-year, full-time basis. In Ottawa–Hull, for example, 61% of immigrant men aged 25 to 54 worked full year, full time, compared with 77% of Canadian-born men in the same age group.

Patterns were also similar for women, although both immigrant and Canadian-born women were less likely to work on a full-year, full-time basis.

In addition, recent immigrants were less likely to be employed in occupations typically requiring a university degree. In fact, recent immigrants with a university degree were much more likely than their Canadian-born counterparts to be working in occupations that typically require no formal education.

In Vancouver, for example, 31% of recent immigrants with a university degree were employed in jobs with low-skill levels, compared with only 13% of Canadian-born graduates. In most other urban centres, there was a difference of at least 10 percentage points between these groups.

Among recent immigrants, female graduates were more likely than their male counterparts to be employed in moderate- or low-skilled jobs. Furthermore, differences between men and women were larger among recent immigrants than among people born in Canada.

Earnings gap is reduced as immigrants get work experience

On average, immigrants earn less than Canadian-born individuals, but the gap is reduced as immigrants gain work experience in Canada.

In the first few years after their arrival, male immigrants who arrived in Canada between 1975 and 1979 had earnings that were less than 85% of those of comparable Canadian-born workers. Some 21 years after their arrival, their earnings had all but caught up to their Canadian-born counterparts.

However, there is growing evidence that more recent groups of arrivals have not fared as well as past groups. In the initial years after their arrival, male immigrants who arrived in Canada between 1995 and 1999 had earnings that were less than 60% of those of comparable Canadian-born workers.

It remains to be seen if earnings for these workers will ever catch up to their Canadian-born counterparts. These details are essentially the same for all urban areas.

In most urban centres, recent immigrants were at least twice as likely as Canadian-born workers to earn less than $20,000 a year. They were also much less likely to have high earnings, that is, more than $100,000 a year.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey numbers, including related surveys, 3226, 3233 and 3901.

The third research paper in the new series Trends and Conditions in Census Metropolitan Areas entitled Immigrants in Canada's Census Metropolitan Areas (89-613-MIE2004003, free), is now available online. To access the series, go to the home page, select Studies on the left sidebar, then under Browse periodical and series, choose Free and for sale.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Grant Schellenberg (613-951-9580), Demography Division.

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Date Modified: 2004-08-18 Important Notices