Logo StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada The social and economic concerns of immigrants during the COVID-19 pandemic

by Sébastien LaRochelle-Côté and Sharanjit Uppal

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In 2016, at the time of the most recent census, immigrants represented 21.9% of the overall Canadian population. Because people born outside Canada have different life experiences than those who are born in Canada, their social and economic concerns may be different from those of Canadian-born individuals. This release examines the social and economic experiences of immigrants during the COVID-19 pandemic, using a new web panel survey that was conducted two weeks after the pandemic began.

Immigrants report higher levels of concern about their own health than Canadian-born individuals

With respect to health-related concerns, immigrants were more likely than Canadian-born individuals to report that they were “very” or “extremely” concerned about their own health (49% vs. 33%) (Chart 1). Similarly, they were also more likely than Canadian-born individuals to be concerned about the health of other household members (69% vs. 50%). Immigrants were as likely as Canadian-born individuals to be worried about other health concerns, such as overloading the health system. Similar results were found for both men and women.

Chart 1 Proportion of immigrants and Canadian-born people aged 15 and older who reported that they were very or extremely concerned about selected health and social issues

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1 Immigrants and Canadian-born people, calculated using proportion units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Immigrants Canadian-born individuals
proportion
Violence in the home 11.6Note * 7.0
Family stress from confinement 38.2Note * 30.1
Ability to cooperate and support one another after the crisis 50.7Note * 35.3
Ability to cooperate and support one another during the crisis 56.7Note * 36.6
Maintaining social ties 43.7Note * 30.1
Civil disorder 52.9Note * 37.0
Overloading the health system 86.2 83.1
World population's health 71.9 68.2
Canadian population's health 73.9 68.1
Vulnerable people's health 77.2 80.1
Member of the household's health 68.5Note * 49.9
My own health 48.6Note * 32.5

Immigrants are more likely to be concerned about civil disorder, social ties and the ability to cooperate

Previous research has shown that, although immigrants have different social networks than Canadian-born individuals (Turcotte 2015), some immigrant categories (e.g., refugees) may be more sensitive to certain social risks, such as civil disorder or the ability to support each other. This raises the possibility that immigrants will have different social concerns than Canadian-born individuals in the context of the pandemic.

The data support that view. Immigrants were more likely than Canadian-born individuals to report that they were “very” or “extremely” concerned about the possibility of civil disorder (53% vs. 37%). They were also more likely than Canadian-born individuals to have higher levels of concern about the maintenance of social ties (44% vs. 30%) and about the ability to support one another during or after the pandemic. Furthermore, immigrants were almost twice as likely as Canadian-born individuals to be concerned about the possibility of violence in the home (12% vs. 7%). Again, differences between immigrants and Canadian-born individuals were similar for both men and women.

Immigrant men are more likely to report that the crisis would have an impact on their finances

Recent research has shown that the labour market outcomes of immigrants have improved in recent years (Yssaad and Fields 2018; Statistics Canada 2019). Are immigrants more likely to report higher levels of concern about their personal economic situation in the context of the pandemic? 

The results suggest that immigrants were not necessarily more likely than Canadian-born individuals to believe that they would lose their job as a result of the pandemic (Chart 2). However, immigrants were significantly more likely than Canadian-born individuals to report that the crisis would have a “major” or “moderate” impact on their finances. In particular, immigrant men were more likely than Canadian-born men to report that the crisis would have an impact on their ability to meet financial obligations (43% vs. 27%).Note

Chart 2 Proportion of immigrants and Canadian-born people aged 15 and older who reported that their job or family finances would be impacted by the crisis, by gender

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2 Major or moderate impact on ability to meet financial obligations or essential needs, Strongly agree or agree that they might lose their main job or self-employment income, Both sexes, Men and Women, calculated using proportion units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Major or moderate impact on ability to meet financial obligations or essential needs Strongly agree or agree that they might lose their main job or self-employment income
Both sexes Men Women Both sexes Men Women
proportion
Immigrants 36.4Note * 42.9Note * 30.7 22.9 28.2 18.2
Canadian-born individuals 26.7 26.7 26.8 19.1 21 17.3

Methodology

To gather timely information about how Canadians are coping with COVID-19, Statistics Canada developed a new web panel survey, the Canadian Perspectives Survey Series (CPSS). Between March 29 and April 3, 2020, more than 4,600 respondents in the 10 provinces participated in the CPSS. Because the CPSS is a subsample of the Labour Force Survey (LFS), immigration status was obtained from the LFS. CPSS respondents included 357 immigrant men and 366 immigrant women. All differences discussed in this release between immigrants and Canadian-born individuals are significant at the 5% level (p<0.05). Bootstrap weights were used for significance testing.

References

Statistics Canada. 2019. “Changes in outcomes of immigrants and non-permanent residents, 2017.The Daily. December 16. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 11-001-X. Available at: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/191216/dq191216b-cansim-eng.htm.

Turcotte, Martin. 2015. “Trends in social capital in Canada.” Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social Survey. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 89-652.

Uppal, Sharanjit. 2019. “Homeownership, mortgage debt and types of mortgage among Canadian families.” Insights on Canadian Society. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 75-006.

Yssaad, Lahouaria and Andrew Fields. 2018. “The Canadian immigrant labour market: Recent trends from 2006 to 2017.” The Immigrant Labour Force Analysis Series. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 71-606-X.

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