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Study: Quality of employment in the Canadian immigrant labour market

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In 2008, there were key differences in many indicators of quality of employment between immigrants and non-immigrants. On average, immigrant wages were lower, while rates of involuntary part-time work, temporary employment and over-qualification were higher. For immigrants who landed in Canada more than 10 years ago, however, the indicators of quality of employment more closely resembled those of the Canadian born.

Despite differences among many employment quality indicators, shares of immigrants and Canadian-born workers who were multiple-job holders were similar. There were also similar shares of immigrants and Canadian born working on a part-time basis, receiving on-the-job training or with flexible work hours.

In 2008, compared with their Canadian-born counterparts, employed immigrants aged 25 to 54, particularly those who landed in Canada more recently, were younger, more likely to be male, had higher levels of post-secondary education, were more likely to work for smaller firms and tended to be in different occupational groups.

Working hours and part-time work

The average usual weekly hours worked by immigrants in their main job was 38.3 hours in 2008, only slightly higher than the 38.1 hours of Canadian-born workers. The gap was wider for immigrants who landed more than 10 years earlier (38.6 hours). However, immigrants were less likely to work either paid or unpaid overtime compared with the Canadian born, regardless of period of landing.

In 2008, 5.2% of both employed immigrants and Canadian born were working at more than one job, or moonlighting. There were no notable differences based on an immigrant's period of landing.

Note to readers

This report is the latest in a series of analytical reports on the Canadian immigrant labour market, using data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and other sources.

This report uses the Framework for the Statistical Measure of Quality of Employment currently being developed by a group of statistical agencies from a number of developed countries in Europe and North America, along with the International Labour Organization and the United Nations.

The statistical indicators within this framework shed light on the similarities and differences in terms of employment quality between immigrant and Canadian-born workers.

For the purposes of this report, measures of employment quality include an individual's safety at work, their financial and non-financial remuneration, working hours and work-life balance, job stability, social dialogue, skills development and job satisfaction. The main sources of employment quality indicators come from the Labour Force Survey, the Workplace Employee Survey and the Canadian Community Health Survey.

Immigrants who had multiple jobs worked longer hours overall than Canadian-born multiple-job holders. Immigrants who had more than one job were working an average of 50.0 hours in 2008, which was 2.3 hours per week more than Canadian-born multiple-job holders. This gap was particularly evident for those who landed prior to 1998.

Among part-time workers, the share of immigrants who cited working part time involuntarily (38%) was higher than Canadian-born in 2008 (30%). This gap persisted regardless of period of landing, but it was widest for newly-arrived immigrants. In 2008, 41% of immigrant workers who landed within the previous five years worked part time involuntarily, compared with 30% of Canadian-born workers.

Stability and security of work

Employment quality can also be measured by the proportion of employees in temporary jobs.

In 2008, 9.7% of immigrants were working in temporary positions, slightly more than the 8.3% of Canadian-born employees. The share of immigrants who landed within the previous five years who worked in temporary positions (16%) was nearly double that of their Canadian-born counterparts. However, the share of those who landed more than 10 years earlier in temporary jobs (7.2%) was lower than that for Canadian-born employees.

Wage-related indicators

In 2008, the average hourly wage of a Canadian-born employee in the core working-age group of 25 to 54 was $23.72, compared with $21.44 for an immigrant worker, a difference of $2.28 an hour. A gap existed regardless of when the immigrants landed. However, it was widest, at $5.04, for immigrants who had landed within the previous five years.

The gap in wages between immigrant workers and their Canadian-born counterparts was particularly wide among those with university degrees. Immigrants aged 25 to 54 with a university degree earned $25.31 an hour on average in 2008, about $5 an hour less than their Canadian-born counterparts.

In terms of wage distribution, 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.

Union coverage among immigrant employees aged 25 to 54 in 2008 was lower than the Canadian born regardless of period of landing. The share of Canadian-born employees with union coverage was nearly 1.5 times higher than for immigrants as a whole, and 1.3 times higher than for immigrants who had been in Canada for over 10 years.

Over-qualification for the job

In 2008, 42% of immigrant workers aged 25 to 54 had a higher level of education for their job than what was normally required, while 28% of Canadian-born workers were similarly over-qualified. Regardless of period of landing, immigrants had higher shares of over-qualification.

More than 1.1 million workers aged 25 to 54 who had a university degree were working in occupations whose normal requirements were at most a college education or apprenticeship. The share of immigrants with degrees who were over-qualified was 1.5 times higher than their Canadian-born counterparts.

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

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey numbers, including related surveys, 2615, 3226 and 3701.

The study, "The 2008 Canadian immigrant labour market: Analysis of quality of employment" is now available as part of The Immigrant Labour Force Analysis Series, no. 5 (71-606-X2009001, free). From the Publications module of our website, under All subjects, choose Labour.

For more information, or to order data, contact Client Services (toll-free 1-866-873-8788; 613-951-4090; To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Jason Gilmore (613-951-7118,, Labour Statistics Division.