The Canadian Immigrant Labour Market in 2007: Analysis by Region of Postsecondary Education

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By Jason Gilmore and Christel Le Petit

Executive Summary

More and more, Canada relies on the education and skills of immigrants to maintain and strengthen our economy. With an aging population and a declining birth rate, immigrants are looked upon to fill in the gaps in our labour market.

In 2007, with few exceptions, very recent immigrants who had any level of postsecondary education (whether a certificate, diploma or university degree) had employment rates that were lower than that of their Canadian-born peers – no matter where this postsecondary education was obtained.  Among other factors, these lower rates could have been affected by: the age difference between these immigrants (for those educated in Canada) and their Canadian-born counterparts; their student status; their refugee status (for those from certain regions); and gender.

In 2007, very recent immigrants aged 25 to 54 who received their highest university education in Canada were, on average, five years younger than Canadian born with degrees. With just a few years in Canada – which some of these immigrants spent in continuing education – they were less likely to have significant Canadian work experience, or overall work experience, compared to their Canadian-born peers. This could explain some of the 2007 employment rate gap between these two groups.

Almost one in five very recent immigrant university graduates were attending school in Canada in 2007, even though they already had a university degree. The proportion of immigrants attending school was even higher among those who already held a Canadian degree. The majority of university-educated, very recent immigrant students were not participating in the 2007 labour market.

Refugees often do not have all their postsecondary documentation with them upon landing in their new home country, which could pose delays or barriers to securing employment.  Although the Labour Force Survey is not able to identify refugees, the low employment rates among very recent immigrants with a Latin American or African university degree may be related, in part, to the disproportionately higher number of highly-educated refugees from these regions that landed during this five-year period (compared with other regions).

Gender was also an important factor in the 2007 participation and employment rates of very recent immigrants. While immigrant women represented nearly half of university-educated very recent immigrants, their participation in the labour force was significantly lower, particularly for those born or educated in Asia. Factoring out student status reduced, but did not eliminate, these gaps.

Recent and established immigrants who received their highest university education in Canada or Europe had comparable employment rates in 2007 to the Canadian born. In contrast, many of those who obtained these credentials in Latin America, Asia or Africa had lower employment rates. One of the exceptions to the latter group was immigrants who received their university degree from a Southeast Asian (mainly Filipino) educational institution.

There were some provincial labour market outcome variations of note: for example, immigrants in Ontario with a Canadian university degree – for all periods of landing – had employment rates in 2007 that were not much different from Canadian-born Ontarians. Very recent and recent immigrants in Quebec with a Canadian, Asian or African university degree had lower employment rates than Canadian-born Quebeckers; additional schooling to the exclusion of labour market participation, however, was particularly prevalent among very recent immigrants in Quebec.

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