Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report
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by Tina Chui
One in five women is born outside Canada
The majority come under the family or economic categories
Immigrant women come from many countries
Many recent immigrant women belong to visible minorities
The majority settle in large population centres
Almost one-half of Toronto's female population are immigrants
Recent arrivals are younger, but the overall immigrant population is older
More immigrant women are married
The majority live with family members
High naturalization rate
Use of official languages increases with time lived in Canada
Higher educational attainment
School attendance higher for recent immigrant women
Similar major fields of study as Canadian-born women
Immigrant women in the labour force
Employment rate increased from 2001 to 2006 but still lower than for Canadian-born women
Higher employment rate among older immigrant workers
Most are wage earners; a higher proportion work part time
In traditional female jobs
Challenges in labour market integration
Labour market experience since 2006
Employment income is the major income source
Sources of government transfers vary by age group
Incidence of low-income
Each year, many women and men start a new life by immigrating to Canada. They join those who immigrated before them to make up Canada's immigrant population. According to the latest estimates of Canada's population, more than 280,000 immigrants came to Canada in 2010.1 These individuals, like many before them, have contributed to the country's population growth. They helped shape today's ethnocultural mosaic and they will continue to make an impact on population diversity in the future.
The 2006 Census enumerated 3,222,795 immigrant women in Canada, who made up 20.3% of the country's female population. The proportion of immigrant women had not been at a similar level since 1931, when 20.2% of the female population was made up of immigrants (Chart 1).2
The population trend of immigrant women mirrors that of the total immigrant population. In 2006, the total immigrant population also made up about one-fifth (19.8%) of the total population, the highest proportion since 1931.
From 2001 to 2006, Canada's population of immigrant women grew by 14%; this growth rate was four times faster than that for Canadian-born women, which increased by 3.4%.
Canada's female population grew by 840,000 from 2001 to 2006. During that period, about 579,800 women immigrated to Canada, accounting for 69% of the growth of the female population.
If Canada's current immigration trend continues, by 2031, the country could have about 11.1 million immigrants. Slightly over one half of them (52.3%, or 5.8 million) would be women, who would then make up 27.4% of Canada's total female population, according to Statistics Canada's population projections.3
In 2006, women made up a slightly larger share of the immigrant population than men : 52% of Canada's immigrants were women. In comparison, women comprised 51% of Canada's total population.
Since 2002, Canada's immigration programs have been based on the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and its regulations. The IRPA replaced the Immigration Act of 1976. While some programs may have been modified or new ones introduced since 2002, Canada's immigration policy continues to follow three broad objectives: to reunite families; to fulfil the country's international obligations and humanitarian tradition with respect to refugees; and to foster a strong, viable economy in all regions of Canada.
Reflecting these objectives, there are three main classes of immigrants under which people are admitted to Canada as permanent residents: Family Class, Refugee Class, and Economic Class.
In 2009, Canada admitted about 252,200 individuals to live as permanent residents; 52% of them were women (Chart 2).
Almost 3 in 10 (29%) immigrant women who were admitted as permanent residents in 2009 were in the Family Class category. Women were more likely to be admitted under the Family Class category and made up 59% of all immigrants admitted from it (Chart 3).
Another 39% of women who came that year were admitted as spouses or dependants in the Economic Class and they accounted for 56% of immigrants in that category.
Start of the text box
Principle applicants in the Economic Class
Immigrants who come as principal applicants of the Economic Class are selected for their suitability for the Canadian labour force based on an assessment of their skills. There are different programs within Economic Class, including skilled workers, Canadian experience class, entrepreneur, investor, provincial nominee programs and live-in caregiver programs.
End of the text box
In 2009, 19% of all female immigrants admitted were Economic Class principal applicants, indicating that women were less likely to come as economic principal applicants than as Family Class applicants or the spouse or dependant of an economic applicant. Of all immigrants in this category, 39% were women and 61% were men.
Immigrants who land under the refugee category represent a relatively small proportion of the permanent residents admitted each year. In 2009, 9% (about 22,800 individuals) of landed immigrants admitted that year were refugees. Approximately 49% (11,300 individuals) of all Refugee Class immigrants were women.
In general, there are four subcategories of the refugee class: refugee landed in Canada, government-assisted refugee, privately sponsored refugee and refugee dependants. Among the immigrant women in the Refugee Class, most (33%) landed as government-assisted refugees. Another 30% landed from inside Canada. That is to say, they were refugee claimants who had already lived in Canada before being admitted as permanent residents. Slightly over one-fifth (21%) were privately-sponsored refugees and a few (15%) were refugee dependants.
The 2006 Census estimated that Canada's 3.2 million immigrant women came from over 220 countries. The largest proportion of these immigrant women, 9%, reported the United Kingdom as their place of birth, followed by the People's Republic of China (8%), India (7%) and the Philippines (5%).
Of the total female immigrant population, 18% landed recently between 2001 to 2006, coming mainly from Asia. Among recent immigrant women, the largest share came from the People's Republic of China (15% or 84,700 individuals), followed by India (11% or 65,900 individuals) and the Philippines (8% or 43,700 individuals).
The source of Canada's immigrants has shifted over the years. In 1971, Europe was the birthplace of 61% of recent immigrant women (Chart 4); by 2006, recent immigrant women came mainly from Asia and the Middle East (59%).
Also in 2006, there was a slight increase in the proportion of recent immigrant women who came from Central and South America and the Caribbean, 11% compared with 9% in 2001. The top three countries of birth of recent immigrant women from these regions were Colombia (2.3% or 13,200 individuals), Mexico (1.5% or 8,900) and Haiti (1.0% or 6,000).
Although relatively small, the proportion of recent immigrant women from Africa also increased slightly in 2006, to 10% compared with 8% in 2001. In comparison, women born in Africa who immigrated to Canada in the later part of the 1960s comprised only 3% of recent immigrants in 1971.
This shift in the source of immigration to Canada since the 1970s was due to a number of factors, such as changes in Canada's immigration programs to build on social, humanitarian and economic goals and international events affecting the movements of migrants and refugees.
Many recent immigrant women belong to visible minorities
As a result of the shifting sources of recent arrivals to regions other than Europe, an increasing proportion of immigrant women belong to a visible minority. In 1981, 55% of recent immigrant women were members of visible minorities (Chart 5); by 2006, that proportion was 76% of all recent immigrant women.
Because the share of visible minorities increased among recent immigrant women, it also increased in the total female immigrant population. In 2006, visible minorities accounted for 55% of the total female immigrant population, up from 22% in 1981. For more information, see the chapter on visible minority women.
The largest visible minority group among recent immigrant women in 2006 was South Asian (28%) followed by Chinese (23%) and Black (11%). Similarly, these visible minority groups were also the largest among the total female immigrant population. Chinese accounted for 26% of visible minority immigrant women, followed by South Asians (25%) and Blacks (13%).
In the male immigrant population, South Asian, Chinese and Black were also the three largest visible minority groups.
Immigrant women, like immigrant men, tend to settle in Canada's large population centres. In 2006, 90% of immigrant women lived in the country's 33 census metropolitan areas (CMAs). In comparison, 68% of the total female population lived in these areas.
Among Canada's CMAs, Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal were home to the largest share of immigrant women: 63% of all immigrant women and 69% of recent immigrant women resided in these three CMAs in 2006. In comparison, a much smaller proportion of Canada's total female population, 35%, lived in these CMAs.
Among these three CMAs, Toronto was home to 38% of all immigrant women and 41% of recent immigrant women. Montréal and Vancouver had the second and third largest shares of recent immigrant women, at 14% each.
Toronto and Vancouver had notably larger shares of recent immigrants than of their population share in Canada. For example, in 2006, Toronto was home to 16% of the total female population in Canada, but 41% of recent immigrant women. Thus, Toronto's share of the population of recent immigrant women was 2.5 times more than its share of the total female population. This was also the case for Vancouver, where its share of the population of recent immigrant women was 2.1 times its share of the total female population. In comparison, Montréal's share of recent immigrant women was only slightly higher than its share of the total female population, 1.2 times higher in 2006.
While Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal were still the three largest population centres where immigrant women settled, the smaller Toronto and Vancouver had notably larger shares of recent immigrants than of their population share in Canada. For example, in 2006, Toronto was home to 16% of the total female population in Canada, but 41% of recent immigrant women. Thus, Toronto's share of the population of recent immigrant women was 2.5 times more than its share of the total female population. This was also the case for Vancouver, where its share of the population of recent immigrant women was 2.1 times its share of the total female population. In comparison, Montréal's share of recent immigrant women was only slightly higher than its share of the total female population, 1.2 times higher in 2006. CMAs such as Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg saw increases in their shares of recent immigrant women. In 2006, 5.2% of recent immigrant women chose to live in Calgary compared with 3.8% in 2001. The shares of recent immigrant women who settled in Edmonton increased from 2.2% in 2001 to 2.9% in 2006 and in Winnipeg from 1.4% to 2.1%.
However, the share of recent immigrant women settling in Ottawa–Gatineau declined, from 3.9% in 2001 to 3.2% in 2006.
With the tendency of immigrants to settle in major urban centers, their numbers have made a demographic impact in several CMAs. Female immigrants comprised 27% of the female population living in all 33 CMAs in 2006.
The impact of immigration was higher in certain CMAs and in certain municipalities within them. The largest share of Canada's female immigrant population resided in Toronto, where immigrant women accounted for 47% of the female population. Within Toronto, the City of Toronto was home to 54% of immigrant women: Mississauga had 15% and Brampton, 9%. In these three municipalities, immigrant women made up about one-half of the female population: 51% in the City of Toronto, 52% in Mississauga and 49% in Brampton (Table 1).
Vancouver CMA also had many women who were born outside of Canada. In 2006, 41% of the female population in Vancouver CMA were immigrants. Among the CMA's municipalities, the City of Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby and Richmond were home to 74% of the CMA's female immigrant population. Richmond had the highest proportion of immigrant women (58%) in its female population, followed by Burnaby (52%) and the City of Vancouver (47%).
As for Montréal CMA, female immigrants made up 21% of the CMA's female population in 2006, almost the same as the national average of 20%. Like Toronto and Vancouver, the female immigrant population had a bigger impact on certain municipalities than others. Two-thirds (66%) of Montreal CMA's immigrant women lived in the City of Montréal and they accounted for three-tenths (30%) of the city's female population. The city of Laval was home to about 10% of the CMA's immigrant women, who accounted for 20% of Laval's female population.
People tend to migrate when they are young. Thus, recent immigrants, both men and women, tend to be in younger age groups. In 2006, almost 58% of recent immigrant women were in the core working age group of 25- to 54-year-olds (Chart 7). A smaller proportion, 4.3%, were in the older working age group of 55 to 64 and only 3.6% of recent immigrant women were 65 and over.
In comparison, 42% of Canadian-born women were 25 to 54 and 11% were 55 to 64. Another 13% of Canadian-born women were 65 and over.
As a whole, immigrant women were more likely to be older than Canadian-born women. In 2006, 86% of immigrant women were 25 and over, compared with 66% of Canadian-born women. One-fifth (20%) of immigrant women were 65 and over, compared with 13% of Canadian-born women. Of the immigrant women who were 65 and over in 2006, most (65%) had landed in Canada before 1970.
As for the youngest age group, only 5.3% of female immigrants were under 15 years of age. In contrast, 20% of the Canadian-born women were in this age group.
Immigrant women and men were more likely to be legally married than the Canadian-born in all age groups. In 2006, 60% of all immigrant women and 66% of those who had arrived since 2001 were married, compared with 43% of Canadian-born women (Chart 8). As for men, 67% of immigrant men and 45% of Canadian-born men were legally married in 2006.
In addition to a higher likelihood of being married, immigrant women were also more likely to be married at younger ages than Canadian-born women. In 2006, 12% of immigrant women aged 15 to 24 were married. In contrast, only 3% of Canadian-born women and 4% of immigrant men in this age group were married.
Among the older age groups, more men than women were married. Of immigrant men aged 55 to 64, 80% were married, compared with 69% of their female counterparts. A smaller gender difference also existed among the Canadian-born of the same age: 62% of women and 68% of men were legally married. For both immigrants and Canadian-born, more women than men in this age group were either divorced or widowed.
Among immigrants aged 65 and over, 78% of men were married compared with 47% of women. Two-fifths (41%) of immigrant women and 48% of recent arrivals of this age groups were widows, compared with one-tenth (10%) of immigrant men.
Most of the Canadian population live in a census family, whether they are immigrants or not. In 2006, 83% of immigrant women aged 15 and over were living in a census family. Conversely, 17% of them did not live with any immediate family member; they lived alone or with relatives or non-relatives.
Of the immigrant women who lived with family members, most of them lived with their spouse (67%) or in a common-law relationship (4%). Another 18% were daughters living with their parents, while 11% were lone parents.
The pattern of family status among immigrant women who lived in a census family was somewhat different than among Canadian-born women. Fewer Canadian-born women than immigrant women lived with a spouse in almost all age groups. The only exception was among women aged 65 and over, when the proportion of those living with a spouse was the same (82%) for both Canadian-born and immigrant women. Of all Canadian-born women aged 15 and over, 41% were living with a spouse.
While immigrant women (11%) were more likely to be lone parents than Canadian-born women (8.0%), this pattern was only true among women aged 55 and over (Chart 9). For example, 11% of immigrant women aged 55 to 64 were lone parents, compared with 6.8% of their Canadian-born counterparts. Among women aged 65 and over, 16% of immigrants, compared with 13% of Canadian-born were lone parents. In the younger age group (25 to 54), Canadian-born women were slightly more likely to be lone parents (13%) than immigrant women (12%).
More immigrant women than men were lone parents. In 2006, 11% of immigrant women and 2.4% of immigrant men aged 15 and over were lone parents.
In all age groups, immigrant women were less likely to be in a common-law relationship than Canadian-born women. In 2006, 12% of Canadian-born women aged 15 and over were in a common-law relationship, compared with 4% of immigrant women.
Immigrant women (18%) were less likely to be daughters living in a census family than Canadian-born women (39%). The difference was mainly because of the older age structure of the population of immigrant women, making it less likely that they would live as daughters in a census family. The difference between the proportion of immigrant and Canadian-born women who lived with their parents disappeared when age was taken into account. In 2006, 83% of immigrant women aged 15 to 24 were daughters living in a census family, compared with 82% of their Canadian-born counterparts.
Among the immigrant women aged 15 and over who did not live with an immediate family member, 62% lived alone, 26% lived with relatives and the remaining 12% lived with non-relatives. Fewer immigrant women lived alone (62%) than Canadian-born women (73%). Among recent immigrant women, living alone was the most common situation for 25- to 54-year-olds (41%); for those aged 65 and over, only (17%) lived alone (Chart 10).
Among women not living in a census family, immigrant women (26%) were more likely than Canadian-born women (11%) to live with relatives or non-relatives (Chart 11).
To be eligible for Canadian citizenship, immigrants must meet several requirements. They must generally have at least three years of residency in Canada and have knowledge of an official language. They may be tested on citizenship knowledge and language ability.
Most eligible female immigrants had Canadian citizenship. In 2006, 85% of immigrant women who were eligible for Canadian citizenship had already acquired it. This naturalization rate was about the same as that of immigrant men, 86%.
Most immigrant women who were Canadian citizens reported having only Canadian citizenship (86%). Another 14% reported Canadian citizenship in addition to the citizenship of at least one other country.
The proportion of immigrant women who acquired Canadian citizenship by naturalization increased with years of residency in Canada. In 2006, 90% of immigrant women who had come to Canada before 1990 had already become Canadian citizens. The naturalization rate was slightly lower, 84%, among women who immigrated during the 1990s. Forty-eight percent of recent immigrants who were eligible for Canadian citizenship became citizens by 2006.
Immigration has played a significant role in shaping Canada's linguistic diversity. Among the female immigrant population in 2006, nearly 150 languages were reported as a mother tongue (the first language a person learned at home as a child and still understood at the time of the census). For 70% of immigrant women, these mother tongues were not official languages, that is, they were neither English nor French (Chart 12). This linguistic diversity was due to the changing source regions from which immigrant women came to Canada in recent decades. In 1981, 52% of immigrant women had a mother tongue other than English or French. The proportion increased throughout the years to 59% in 1991 and 67% in 2001.
Conversely, the proportion of immigrant women reporting English or French, with or without a non-official language, declined from 48% in 1981 to 30% by 2006.
In 2006, among the immigrant women who had a mother tongue other than English or French, the largest proportion reported Chinese languages—including dialects such as Mandarin, Cantonese and Hakka—(19%), followed by Italian (6.3%), Spanish (5.9%) and Punjabi (5.7%).
Among the 30% of immigrant women who had at least one official language as their mother tongue, 82% reported English alone, 10% French alone and 8% reported multiple mother tongues with at least one official language.
Among the immigrant women who reported English alone as their mother tongue, 59% arrived before 1980. For those who had French alone as their mother tongue, 38% arrived before 1980.
The proportion of women who had a mother tongue other than English or French was higher among recent immigrants and increased over time. In 1981, 55% of recent immigrant women reported a non-official language as mother tongue, a share that rose to four in five (80%) in both 2001 and 2006.
Not surprisingly, immigrants' use of official languages increased the longer they resided in Canada. While 30% of immigrant women reported English or French as their mother tongue, 57% reported using English or French most often at home. Immigrant women who had arrived before 1991 were most likely to use English or French at home (69%) because they had resided longer in Canada.
As well, even though many had neither English nor French as a mother tongue, 92% of immigrant women reported that they could converse in at least one official language. This was also the case for recent arrivals: 89% of them reported knowledge of either or both official languages.
Conversely, 7.9% of all immigrant women and 11% of recent immigrant women said they did not know English or French. Nevertheless, the need for official language training among immigrants is higher for women than men. In 2006, 4.8% of all immigrant men and 7.5% of recent immigrant men were unable to converse in English or French.
Immigrant women were more likely to have completed university than women born in Canada. In 2006, 23% of immigrant women aged 15 and over had a university degree or certificate at the bachelor's level or above, compared with 16% of their Canadian-born counterparts. The higher educational attainment among the immigrant female population was even more evident for those in the core working-age group, aged 25 to 54. One-third (33%) of immigrant women in this age group had a university degree, compared with less than one-quarter (23%) of their Canadian-born counterparts (Table 2).
The higher level of educational attainment among immigrant women was partly because of Canada's immigration policy, which tends to emphasize educational and occupational qualifications in selecting immigrants. In 2006, 49% of recent immigrant women aged 25 to 54 reported having a university degree or certificate at the bachelor's level or above.
At the same time, immigrants who arrived at young ages had a high propensity of attaining a university education.4 This is because their immigrant parents tended to be highly educated and parents' educational aspirations strongly influence the likelihood that their children will obtain higher education.5
Recent immigrant women were less likely to have a university degree than recent immigrant men. Of recent immigrant men in the core working-age group, 57% had a university degree, 8 percentage points higher than recent immigrant women in the same age group. Recent immigrant men were also more likely than recent immigrant women to hold a university degree above the bachelor level, (at the master's or doctoral level). Among recent immigrant men aged 25 to 54, 28% had a degree above the bachelor level, compared with 21% of recent immigrant women in the same age group.
Of immigrant women who had a degree, 62% earned it from an educational institution outside Canada. The proportion was even higher among recent arrivals, of whom 90% had obtained their university education outside Canada. The People's Republic of China (15%), India (14%), the Philippines (11%), Pakistan (5.2%) and the United States of America (4.8%) were the most common countries where recent immigrant women obtained their university education. The high proportion of immigrants who had been trained outside Canada (especially in countries with a somewhat different education system than Canada's) had a direct impact on the economic and labour market integration of immigrants.6
The transferability of international credentials among immigrants has been one of the priorities in many public policy discussions in recent decades. Immigrants who received their training in regions other than Europe, Australia and North America generally had lower education–job match rates.7 Furthermore, the education-job match rate of internationally trained immigrant women was lower than that of their male counterparts.
Fewer immigrant women aged 15 and over (15%) than Canadian-born women (19%) were attending school full-time or part-time during the nine month period before Census Day (May 16, 2006). However, this was likely because of the different age structures of the immigrant and Canadian-born female populations. Among women aged 15 to 24, a higher proportion of immigrant women (72%) were attending school than Canadian-born women (68%). This was also the case for women aged 25 to 44: 18% of those who were immigrants were attending school, compared with 14% of those who were born in Canada.
For some newcomers, taking further education or training could help get their international credentials transferred and facilitate their integration in Canada. The school attendance rate, full-time and part-time, was notably higher among recent immigrant women and men aged 15 and over. The school attendance rate of recent immigrant women, 30%, was double that of the total immigrant female population, 15%, and was 11 percentage points higher than that of Canadian-born women (Chart 13).
Immigrant women and Canadian-born women chose similar fields of study for their postsecondary education. In 2006, the highest proportion of women, regardless of immigrant status, was in business, management and public administration—27% of immigrant women reported this as their major field of study (Table 3). The other top major fields of study reported by immigrant and Canadian-born women were health, parks recreation and fitness; social and behavioural sciences and law; education and the humanities. These four fields were reported by 48% of all immigrant women aged 15 and over with a postsecondary education. As for Canadian-born women, 53% reported these four fields as their major area of study.
The education profile of recent immigrant women was also similar to the profiles of all immigrant women and of Canadian-born women. The only exception was that recent immigrant women were more likely to study in architecture, engineering and related technologies (11%) as well as humanities (10%).
However, the education profile of immigrant women differed from that of immigrant men, with the men concentrated in just two areas of study. Among immigrant men aged 15 and over with a postsecondary education, 44% reported architecture, engineering and related technologies as their major field of study, followed by business, management and public administration, at 16%.
In 2006, more immigrant women (95%) than Canadian-born women (80%) were of working age (aged 15 and over). Of the women in this age group, roughly 1.7 million immigrants, or 55.8%, were in the labour force in 2006. They accounted for 21.0% of Canada's total female labour force in that year, which stood at 8.1 million.
From 2001 to 2006, Canada's total female labour force population increased by 9.5%. The rate of increase for immigrant women, however, was more than double that for Canadian-born women. During this five-year period, the female labour force increased 16.8% among the immigrant population and 7.4% among the Canadian-born.
The employment rate for immigrant women aged 15 and over increased to 51.5% in 2006 from 50.0% in 2001. However, the rate was still lower than that of Canadian-born women, who also experienced a slight employment rate increase from 57.9% to 59.5%.
Among the female immigrant population, recent arrivals were the least likely to be employed. In 2006, 56.8% of recent immigrant women aged 25 to 54 were employed (Chart 14). In comparison, the employment rate for the total immigrant women population in that age group was 70.5% and for their Canadian-born counterparts, 78.5%. Nevertheless, recent immigrant women experienced a slightly better employment situation in 2006 than in 2001, when their employment rate was 53.2%.
Employment rates increased with longer residence in Canada. In 2006, the employment rate among core working age immigrant women who had arrived in the 1990s was 69.5%, and for those who had arrived before 1991, it was 77.3% (Table 4).8
As with Canadian-born women, immigrant women had a lower employment rate than their male counterparts. In 2006, 85.3% of core working age immigrant men were employed, as were 78.6% of those who had recently immigrated.
In 2006, the unemployment rate for immigrant women aged 15 and over was 7.8%, compared with 6.2% of their Canadian-born counterparts. However, unemployment was highest among recent arrivals at 14.7%. Among women of core working age, there was also a gap of 2.6 percentage points between the unemployment rate of immigrant women (7.6%) and those born in Canada (5.0%).
Among older immigrant workers aged 55 to 64, the employment rates of women and men were both higher than for their Canadian-born counterparts. In 2006, the employment rate for immigrant women in this age group was 50.4%, 2 percentage points higher than for Canadian-born women (48.4%) (Table 5). For men in this age group, the employment gap between immigrants (70.2%) and men born in Canada (62.5%) was even wider, an almost 8 percentage point difference.
However, the employment rate of recent immigrants in the older age group was notably low. These were individuals who had arrived in Canada since 2001 and were aged about 50 and over when they came: Immigrants who came to Canada at older working age, they could face bigger challenges integrating into the labour market. In 2006, recent immigrant women aged 55 to 64 had an employment rate of 29.9%; the rate of their male counterparts was 55.9%.
Of the immigrant women in the labour force (aged 15 and over), 89% were employed and earning a wage. A much smaller proportion, 10%, were self-employed; the remaining 1% were unpaid family workers (such as in a family business). This breakdown was similar for those of core working age: 90% of immigrant women aged 25 to 54 were wage-earners in 2006, another 10% were self-employed and less than 1% were unpaid family workers.
Immigrant women were slightly more likely to be self-employed than Canadian-born women. In 2006, 10% of immigrant women were self-employed, a percentage almost 2 points higher than for Canadian-born women, at 8.2%. However, immigrant women had a lower self-employment rate (10%) than immigrant men (18%).
In general, women, whether immigrant or Canadian-born, were more likely than men to work part time. As well, immigrant women were more likely than Canadian-born women to work part time. In 2006, 49% of immigrant women aged 25 to 54 worked part-time, compared with 43% of their Canadian-born counterparts and 36% of immigrant men. The proportion of part-time work among recent immigrant women was even higher, at 64%.
Whether they were immigrants or Canadian-born, women continued to work in traditional female occupations. Women were most commonly employed in the sales and services area and in the business, finance and administrative field. Of the immigrant female labour force 15 and over, 29% worked in sales and services and 25% were employed in business, finance and administrative occupations.
Among women of core working age (25 to 54), instead of sales and services, occupations related to business, finance and administration came first, reported by 26% of immigrant and 30% of Canadian-born women (Table 6). Sales and services was the second-most common occupational group among immigrant women (26%) and Canadian-born women (23%). As well, immigrant women were commonly employed in health (10%) and social science, education, government service and religion (10%). These two areas were also among the top occupational groups for Canadian-born women.
Immigrant women (9.2%) were more likely than Canadian-born women (3.2%) to work in occupations unique to processing, manufacturing and utilities.
Among immigrants, men worked in a wider range of occupational groups than women: 23% of immigrant men reported working in trades, transport and equipment operator and related occupations. Another 17% worked in sales and services, 15% in natural and applied sciences and related occupations, 13% in management, 10% in business, finance and administration, 10% in occupations unique to processing, manufacturing and utilities.
Finding employment can be a challenge for many newcomers, particularly employment that reflects their training. This is the case even for newcomers who immigrated with higher educational attainment.9
According to the results of the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC), the number of immigrant women who reported difficulties related to settlement declined over a period of four years after arriving in Canada. However, of those who still experienced difficulties by the fourth year, the largest proportion (32%) reported that finding an adequate job was the greatest challenge they had to face.
Among recent immigrant women of core working age who had a job in 2005, the 2006 Census estimated that 30% worked in sales and service occupations, a higher proportion than for Canadian-born women (22%) by about 8 percentage points (Table 6). Although recent immigrant women who had a university degree were somewhat less likely to work in sales and services (23%), the proportion that did so was still three times higher than that for their Canadian-born counterparts (7.4%).
Another 5.8% of recent immigrant women with a university degree reported working in occupations unique to processing, manufacturing and utilities. In contrast, 0.4% of Canadian-born women holding a university degree worked in these occupations.
A higher proportion of Canadian-born women who were university-educated were employed in management occupations (11%) than their recent immigrant counterparts (6.4%).
According to the results from the LSIC, the greatest challenge among newcomers having difficulties finding employment was to get their non-Canadian qualifications and job experience accepted in Canada. In 2005, an estimated 15,400 immigrant women aged 25 to 44 who had arrived in 2001 reported problems with finding employment. The largest proportion, 37%, reported that their problems were related to transferring foreign qualifications or job experience or to their lack of enough Canadian job experience. An even higher proportion of immigrant men of the same age group reported the same challenges (41%). However, 19% of immigrant women aged 25 to 44 who landed in 2001 reported language problems as their greatest barrier in finding a job, compared with 13% of their male counterparts.
Labour Force Survey10 data collected from 2006 to 2010 shows that immigrant women, especially those who arrived recently, had a higher unemployment rate and a lower employment rate than both immigrant men and Canadian-born women. Recent immigrant women were the most likely to be unemployed and the least likely to be employed when compared with women who had been landed immigrants for a longer period. Among immigrant women aged 25 to 54, the employment rate improved the longer they resided in Canada.
Other research suggests that an important factor of immigrants' economic integration is the timing of their entry into the labour market.11 Immigrants who arrive during an economic downturn would have additional challenges in finding employment.
Data from the Labour Force Survey captured the employment situation of the Canadian labour force during the 2008-2009 recession, which seems to have affected men more than women. During these two years, both Canadian-born and immigrant women had relatively fewer fluctuations in their employment rates than men. From 2008 to 2009, the employment rates for Canadian-born and immigrant women aged 25 to 54 dropped at about the same magnitude, 1.0 and 0.9 percentage points, respectively. In comparison, employment rates for immigrant men dropped by 4.4 percentage points and for Canadian-born men, by 2.9 percentage points. During that same period, the unemployment rate for immigrant women increased by 2 percentage points, and for immigrant men, it increased by 3.5 percentage points.
By 2010, the employment rate for Canadian-born women of core working age returned to about the same level as in 2007, the year before the economic downturn. However, the employment rate for immigrant women had not returned to the same level as it was in 2007.
There are generally two components in an individual's total income: market income, such as employment earnings and investment income, and government transfers, such as Employment Insurance and the Canada or Quebec Pension Plan.
Among all immigrant women aged 15 and over who had income during 2005, 67% of their income came from employment (wages and salaries and self-employment). The share of income from employment was even higher among recent immigrant women, at 73%. In comparison, 72% of the income for their Canadian-born counterparts was from employment.
The share of total income from employment was larger in the core working-age group (25 to 54). For immigrant women in this age group, 84% of their income came from employment, and for Canadian-born women, the share was 87% (Table 7).
In general, immigrant women earned less than their Canadian-born counterparts. Immigrant women of core working age who worked full time, full year in 2005 had a median employment income of $35,000, about $3,000 less than Canadian-born women ($38,000). For recent immigrant women, the full-time, full-year median employment income in this age group was $26,700.
As was the case for Canadian-born women and men, there was a gender gap in earnings between immigrant women and men. Immigrant women earned less than their male counterparts. At $35,000, immigrant women of core working age earned 78% of the median employment income of immigrant men of the same age group ($44,800).
Immigrant women generally received 19% of their total income from government transfer payments, such as Old Age Security pensions, Canada or Quebec Pension Plan, child benefits and Employment Insurance. In comparison, Canadian-born women received about 15% of their total income from transfer payments.
The share of total income that consisted of government transfers varied by age, regardless of immigrant status. When they were 65 and over, immigrant and Canadian-born women received 51% and 50% of their total income from government transfers, respectively. The largest share of their government transfers was from Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement. For example, senior immigrant women received 30% of their total income from Old Age Security or Guaranteed Income Supplement and another 18% from Canada or Quebec Pension Plan (Table 7).
Younger women had a much smaller share of total income from government transfer payments and different sources of government transfers than senior women. About 11% of the total income of immigrant women aged 15 to 24 were from government transfers such as child benefits, Employment Insurance and others like social assistance.
As for immigrant women of core working age, 11% of their total income came from government transfers. The two most common sources of government transfers for this group of immigrant women, as for their Canadian-born counterparts, were child benefits (6.3%) and Employment Insurance (2.3%). In comparison, Canadian-born women of core working age received 4.0% of their total income from child benefits and 2.4% from Employment Insurance.
In 2005, immigrant women of all ages were more likely to be living in a low-income situation than Canadian-born women. Among the immigrant girls and women in an economic family, 20% lived below Statistics Canada's low income cut-off before tax, compared with 10% of the Canadian-born girls and women (Table 8). The incidence of low income among immigrant girls and women was also slightly higher than among their male counterparts (19%).
Of the total female immigrant population who lived in an economic family, girls under age 15 had the highest incidence of low income (40%). In contrast, senior immigrant women aged 65 and over had the lowest incidence of low income (9%). The high incidence of low-income among immigrant children was likely because of the difficult labour market conditions experienced by their parents whereas the lower incidence of low income for senior immigrants was mainly concentrated among those who immigrated to Canada many years ago and would have worked in Canada for a long period.12
Government transfers reduced the level of low income by 5 percentage points for immigrant girls and women who lived in an economic family. Their level of low income before tax in 2005 was 20% and after tax, it was 15%.
Incidence of low income also dropped with longer residence in Canada. In 2005, prevalence of low income after tax for recent immigrant women was 32%. It dropped to 20% among those who arrived in the second half of the 1990s and to 16% among those who immigrated from 1991 to 1995. After-tax low income was lowest for immigrant women who arrived before 1991—at 7%, their incidence of after-tax low income was on par with Canadian-born women.
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Employment earnings increased over time for immigrants of all admission categories
The Longitudinal Immigration Database examined the economic trajectories of immigrants who were admitted under different categories. It showed that as immigrant women's length of residence in Canada increased, so did their employment earnings, regardless of the categories under which they were admitted.
Immigrants who came as principal applicants in the Economic Class were admitted on the basis of their suitability for the Canadian labour force, therefore they generally had a more positive economic outcome than their counterparts admitted under the other categories (i.e., Family Class and Refugee Class). Immigrant women of core working age who came to Canada in 1991 as principal applicants in the Economic Class reported median earnings of about $18,000 (in 2007 constant dollars) during their second year in Canada. Fifteen years later, by 2007, their median employment earnings had climbed to about $33,000. Although those who came under the Family Class category had lower median earnings, these also increased over the 15-year period, from $11,000 to $25,000.
Share of total income from government transfers declined over time
Among immigrant women of core working age who arrived in 1991, employment earnings accounted for about three-quarters (75%) of total income by the second year after they landed. Another 6% of their total income came from self-employment and investment incomes. The remaining 19% came from government transfers such as employment insurance or welfare benefits.
The proportion of income from employment earnings for this cohort of immigrant women increased over time. By their fifteenth year in Canada, 86% of the total income was from employment earnings. Close to 10% was from self-employment and investment incomes. The remaining 4% came from government transfers.
The share of total income from employment earnings was higher among immigrant women who came as principal applicants in the Economic Class. It was 87% during their second year after arrival and increased to 91% after 15 years residing in Canada. Conversely, their share of government transfers dropped from 9% to 2% over the period.
Immigrant women who arrived in 2001 as principal applicants in the Economic Class also had a large proportion of their total income from employment earnings, around 90% during the second year after arrival.
Principal applicants who arrived after 2002 had higher median earnings than earlier cohorts
Studies have shown that immigrants who arrived during the 1990s tended to experience more challenges in the labour market and hence had lower economic outcomes than immigrants who came in previous decades.13
In comparison with immigrant women of the 1990s, those who arrived after 2000 experienced better economic outcomes in terms of employment earnings. Among core working age principal applicants in the Economic Class who came in 2004, the median earnings in their second year after landing were about $16,000, about $2,000 more than their counterparts who came in 1991. However, by their 5th year in Canada, median earnings of the 2004 cohort increased to $29,000, about $7000 more than those of the 1991 cohort. In other words, median earnings increased at a faster pace among female economic principal applicants who came to Canada since 2000.
Filed taxation on employment earnings soon after arrival
Both immigrant women and men filed their employment earnings taxes soon after landing in Canada. The time taken to report earnings for the first time since landing has declined for more recent immigrants. It took an average of 1.5 years after landing in 1991 for immigrant women of core working age to first file their taxes. This time before filing taxes dropped to about seven months for their counterparts who immigrated in 2001.
Immigrant women who came as principal applicants in the Economic Class filed taxes on employment earnings even sooner than women who were admitted under other categories. For example, principal applicants in the Economic Class took about four months to first file taxes on earnings, while those who came as a spouse or dependant of a principal economic applicant or as a Refugee Class applicant took about five months.
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Immigrant population refers to a person who is or has ever been a landed immigrant. A landed immigrant or permanent resident is a person who has been granted the right to live in Canada permanently by immigration authorities. Immigrants are either Canadian citizens by naturalization (the citizenship process) or permanent residents (landed immigrants) under Canadian legislation. Some immigrants have resided in Canada for a number of years, while others have arrived recently. Most immigrants are born outside Canada, but a small number are born in Canada.
Recent immigrants (also known as newcomers) are landed immigrants who came to Canada up to five years prior to a given census year. For the 2006 Census, recent immigrants are landed immigrants who arrived in Canada between January 1, 2001 and Census Day, May 16, 2006. Similarly, recent immigrants in the 2001 Census were newcomers at the time of the 2001 Census, i.e., they came to Canada between January 1, 1996 and Census Day, May 15, 2001.
Non-permanent residents are people from another country who had a Work or Study Permit, or who were refugee claimants at the time of the census, and family members living in Canada with them.
Permanent residents , defined by The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, fall intothree basic categories: Economic, Family and Protected Persons. Permanent residents are persons who have not become Canadian citizens, but have been authorized to live and work in Canada indefinitely, provided that they meet residency requirements and do not lose their status by reason of serious criminality, security, human rights violations, organized crime or misrepresentation.
Temporary residents are foreign workers, international students and visitors who gain temporary entry by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The concepts of permanent residents and temporary residents are used when administrative data from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada is analysed. They are both different from the concepts of immigrants and non-permanent residents used in the Canadian census.
Generation status indicates for how many generations a person and their family have been in Canada. It is derived from place of birth of respondent, place of birth of father and place of birth of mother and it pertains only to the population aged 15 and over. A person is defined as either 'first generation,' 'second generation' or 'third generation or more,' which are defined as follows:
- first generation: Persons born outside Canada. For the most part, these are people who are now, or have ever been, landed immigrants in Canada. Also included in the first generation are a small number of people born outside Canada to parents who are Canadian citizens by birth. In addition, the first generation includes people who are non-permanent residents.
- second generation: Persons born inside Canada with at least one parent born outside Canada. This includes: (a) people born in Canada with both parents born outside Canada and (b) people born in Canada with one parent born in Canada and one parent born outside Canada (these people may have grandparents born inside or outside Canada as well).
- third generation or more: Persons born inside Canada with both parents born inside Canada (these people may have grandparents born inside or outside Canada as well).
The Employment Equity Act defines visible minorities as "persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour." Under this definition, regulations specify the following groups as visible minorities: Chinese, South Asians, Blacks, Arabs, West Asians, Filipinos, Southeast Asians, Latin Americans, Japanese, Koreans and other visible minority groups, such as Pacific Islanders. For details on each of the groups that make up the visible minority population, see the Visible Minority Population and Population Group Reference Guide, 2006 Census. Catalogue no.97-562-GWE2006003
Census metropolitan area is an area consisting of one or more neighbouring municipalities situated around a major core. A census metropolitan area must have a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more live in the urban core.
Marital status refers to a person's de facto conjugal status.
- Married and common-law: Persons currently married whose spouse is living, unless the couple is separated or divorced, and persons living common-law.
- Separated, but still legally married: Persons currently married, but who are no longer living with their spouse (for any reason other than illness or work) and have not obtained a divorce. Persons who are separated but who live with a common-law partner are not included in this category.
- Divorced: Persons who have obtained a legal divorce and who have not remarried. Persons who are divorced but who live with a common-law partner are not included in this category.
- Widowed: Persons who have lost their spouse through death and who have not remarried. Persons who are widowed but who live with a common-law partner are not included in this category.
- Never legally married (single): Persons who have never married (including all persons less than 15 years of age) and persons whose marriage has been annulled and who have not remarried. Persons who are single and live with a common-law partner are not included in this category.
Citizenship refers to the legal citizenship status of the respondent. Canadian citizenship is obtained either by birth or by naturalization. A small number of individuals who were born outside Canada, but to at least one Canadian parent, are considered Canadian citizens by birth. Only those landed immigrants who have met certain criteria are eligible for Canadian citizenship by naturalization.
Naturalization refers to the process by which a person is granted citizenship of Canada under the Citizenship Act. Permanent residents who have met certain criteria such as residency, language and other requirements are eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship through naturalization.
Attendance at school refers to the attendance and the type of school attended during the nine-month period from September 2005 to May 16, 2006. An individual's attendance could be either full time or part time (day or evening), even if the individual dropped out after registration. Attendance was counted only for courses that could be used as credits toward a certificate, diploma or degree from a recognized educational institution (elementary or secondary school, registered apprenticeship programs, trade schools, colleges, CEGEPs and universities).
Major field of study refers to the predominant discipline or area of learning or training of a person's highest postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree. For more information on the classification of the fields, refer to 2006 Census Dictionary, Catalogue no.92-566-XWE.
Occupation refers to the kind of work people were doing during the reference week, as determined by their kind of work and the description of the main activities in their job. If the person did not have a job during the week (Sunday to Saturday) prior to enumeration (May 16, 2006), the data relate to the job of longest duration since January 1, 2005. People with two or more jobs were to report the information for the job at which they worked the most hours. For more information on the classification of the occupational group, refer to 2006 Census Dictionary, Catalogue no.92-566-XWE.
Employment rate is the number of persons for a particular group (age, sex, marital status, geographical area, etc.) employed in the week (Sunday to Saturday) prior to Census Day (May 16, 2006), expressed as a percentage of the total population in that particular group.
Unemployment rate is the unemployed persons in a particular group (age, sex, marital status, geographical area, etc.) expressed as a percentage of the labour force in that group, in the week (Sunday to Saturday) prior to Census Day (May 16, 2006).
Employment income or earnings refers to total income received by people 15 years of age and over during calendar year 2005 as wages and salaries, net income from a non-farm unincorporated business or professional practice or net farm self-employment income.
Low-income cut-offs (LICOs) are income thresholds, determined by analysing family expenditure data, below which families will devote a larger share of income to the necessities of food, shelter and clothing than the average family would. To reflect differences in the costs of necessities among different community and family sizes, LICOs are defined for five categories of community size and seven of family size. LICOs before and after tax can all be used.
Work activity refers to the number of weeks in which a person worked for pay or in self-employment in 2005 at all jobs held, even if only for a few hours, and whether these weeks were mostly full time (30 hours or more per week) or mostly part time (1 to 29 hours per week).
The term 'full-year, full-time workers' refers to people aged 15 and over who worked 49 to 52 weeks (mostly full time) in 2005 for pay or in self-employment.
Census family refers to a married couple (with or without children of either or both spouses), a couple living common-law (with or without children of either or both partners) or a lone parent of any marital status, with at least one child living in the same dwelling. A couple may be of opposite or same sex. Children in a census family include grandchildren living with their grandparents but with no parents present.
Economic family refers to a group of two or more persons who live in the same dwelling and are related to each other by blood, marriage, common-law or adoption. A couple may be of opposite or same sex. For 2006, foster children are included.
- Statistics Canada, 2011. Quarterly Demographic Estimates: October to December 2010. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.91-002-X. Ottawa, Ontario. (accessed April 20, 2011).
- Chui, Tina, Kelly Tran and Hélène Maheux. 2007. Immigration in Canada: A Portrait of the Foreign-born Population, 2006 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.97-557-XIE. Ottawa, Ontario. December 4. (accessed January 13, 2011).
- Caron Malenfant, Eric, André Lebel and Laurent Martel. 2010. Projections of the Diversity of the Canadian Population. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.91-551-X. Ottawa, Ontario. (accessed January 13, 2011).
- Bonikowska, Aneta and Feng Hou. 2011. Reversal of Fortunes or Continued Success? Cohort Differences in Education and Earnings of Childhood Immigrants. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.11F0019M2011330. Ottawa, Ontario. Analytical Studies Research Paper Series, no. 334. (accessed January 25, 2011).
- Finnie, Ross, Eric Lascelles and Arthur Sweetman. 2005. Who Goes? The Direct and Indirect Effects of Family Background on Access to Post-secondary Education. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.11F0019MIE2005237. Ottawa, Ontario. Analytical Studies Research Paper Series, no. 237. (accessed March 12, 2011).
- Gilmore, Jason. 2008. The Canadian Immigrant Labour Market in 2006: Analysis by Region or Country of Birth. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.71-606-XWE2008002. Ottawa, Ontario. TheImmigrant Labour Force Analysis Series, no. 2. (accessed January 13, 2011).
- Plante, Johanne. 2010. Characteristics and Labour Market Outcomes of Internationally-educated Immigrants.No. 84. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.81-595-M. Ottawa, Ontario. (accessed January 28, 2011).
- Xue, Li. 2010. "A Comprehensive Look at the Employment Experience of Recent Immigrants." Canadian Immigration: Economic Evidence for a Dynamic Policy Environment. T. McDonald, E. Ruddick, A. Sweetman and C. Worswick (eds.). Montréal and Kingston. Queen's Policy Studies Series, McGill-Queen's University Press. Zietsma, Danielle. 2007. The Canadian Immigrant Labour Market in 2006: First Results from Canada's Labour Force Survey. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.71-606-XWE. Ottawa, Ontario. The Immigrant Labour Force Analysis Series, no. 1. (accessed April 12, 2011).
- Galarneau, Diane and René Morissette. 2008. "Immigrants education and required job skills." Perspectives on Labour and Income. Vol. 9, no. 12. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.75-001-X. p. 5–18. (accessed January 13, 2011).
- Since January 2006, additional questions have been added to the Labour Force Survey (LFS) to identify immigrants and to determine the year and month when immigrants landed in Canada, the country in which they were born and the country in which they received their highest level of education. The information from the LFS is to provide more up-to-date labour market characteristics for the immigrant population in Canada. However, the estimates derived from the LFS were somewhat different from those of the census. 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 with those of the census. 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 derived by the census. That said, the labour market experience of immigrant women as estimated by the LFS resembled that estimated by the census.
- Aydemir, A. 2003. Effects of Business Cycles on the Labour Market Assimilation of Immigrants. Statistics Canada. Catalogue no. 11F0019MIE2003203. Ottawa, Ontario. Analytical Studies Research Paper Series, no. 203 (accessed March 12, 2011).
- Hou, Feng, Yuqian Lu and Garnett Picot. 2009. "Immigrant low-income rates: The role of market income and government transfers." Perspectives on Labour and Income. Vol. 10, no. 12. December. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.75-001-X. accessed January 13, 2011).
- Chui, Tina and Danielle Zietsma. 2003. "Earnings of immigrants in the 1990s." Canadian Social Trends. no. 70. Fall. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.11-008. (accessed December 20, 2010).