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Immigration: an overview

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Immigration has had a profound impact on Canada’s historical development, from the settling of farms in the west in the early part of the 20th century to the building of Canada’s largest cities. Immigration itself has changed considerably throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and continues to do so. During the first sixty years of the 20th century, the majority of immigrants to Canada came either from Europe or the United States. This has since changed substantially with entry based on a points system and the introduction of humanitarian-based admissions. By 2006, the bulk of immigrants coming to Canada originated in Asia, most notably in China and India.

Based on results from the 2001 Census, Canada was second only to Australia in the proportion of the population born outside of the country. In 2001, 18% of the Canadian population was born outside the country compared to 22% in Australia. Immigration has been, and continues to be, a vital source of population growth in Canada. Given the ageing of the Canadian population and the declining birth rate, projections indicate that immigration could be the largest contributor to population growth in the future.

Record high employment rates, record low unemployment rates and rising wages, particularly in Western Canada, served as convincing evidence of the strong demand for an increasingly tapped out labour supply in 2006. In times of economic strength, where the labour supply is being fully utilized, immigration can play an important role since it is the labour and skills of immigrants that could fill in the gaps that are not being met by the Canadian-born labour force. Monitoring the progress of immigrants in the labour market is critical as better integration means better use of immigrants’ skills, better earnings and more job satisfaction for Canada’s immigrants, which will ultimately help drive Canada’s economic growth.

Given the ever-increasing importance of immigration to Canada’s economic success, a number of analytical articles have been written over the past few years examining the successes and difficulties faced by Canada’s immigrant population. To understand the labour market experiences of immigrants, the Labour Force Survey (LFS) began to collect information on immigrants of working-age (those aged 15 and over) in January 2006. The LFS is now able to provide regular information on the immigrant labour market. This information will enable various levels of government, the media and the public to know, in a timely manner, how well immigrants are performing in the labour market and how well the Canadian labour market is able to utilize the skills its immigrants bring. It is worth emphasizing that if current immigration rates continue that immigration could account for virtually all net labour force growth by 2011.

Immigration data from the Labour Force Survey

Beginning in January 2006, five additional questions were added to the LFS in order to identify immigrants, to determine when they landed in Canada (year and month for those landing within the previous 5 years), the country in which they received their highest level of education (for attainment greater than high school). The questions are as follows:

In what country was...born?

Is…now, or has he/she ever been, a landed immigrant in Canada?

In what year did … first become a landed immigrant?

In what month?

In what country did…complete his/her highest degree, certificate or diploma?

Definitions and concepts used by the Labour Force Survey

Immigrant type

Very recent immigrant: Very recent immigrants are individuals who have been landed immigrants to Canada for 5 years or less.

Recent immigrant: Recent immigrants are individuals who have been landed immigrants to Canada between 5 and 10 years.

Established immigrant: Established immigrants are individuals who have been landed immigrants to Canada more than 10 years.

Other: Persons residing in Canada who were born outside of Canada and are not landed immigrants. Examples of people in this category include temporary foreign workers, live-in caregivers, Canadian citizens born outside Canada and those with student or working visas.

Core working-age

The LFS includes those persons aged 15 and over (working-age) in its sample. However, those between the ages of 25 to 54 are defined as ‘core working-age’. These individuals are more likely to have completed school and less likely to have entered retirement than those in the 15 and over group. They will be the primary focus of the analysis in this report.

Comparability with the Census of Population

When developing the immigrant questions for the LFS, care was taken to ensure that immigrant concepts and variables arising from the questions would be comparable to the Census of Population. However, since the LFS is a sample survey, the estimates are subject to more sampling variability than the Census and could therefore differ from those that will be published by the 2006 Census.

Atlantic Provinces

Due to small sample sizes for employment and unemployment and their corresponding rates, immigrants living in the Atlantic Provinces have been aggregated for the sake of analysis. An exception to this was the discussion of the share of the provincial population who were landed immigrants to Canada, where a sufficiently large sample size permitted analysis for each of the Atlantic Provinces.

This paper will present the labour market outcomes based on data collected by the Labour Force Survey in 2006 for core working-age immigrants (those aged 25 to 54), since they are more likely to have completed school and less likely to have entered retirement than those in the 15 and over group. A brief demographic profile of all immigrants will be presented followed by analysis of the labour market outcomes of core working-age immigrants nationally, by province, selected census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and by sex. The labour market outcomes for immigrant youths and immigrants aged 55 and over will follow, in addition to a discussion of education-based outcomes for the core-aged immigrants, the industries in which these immigrants work, as well as their occupations.