Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

The Deteriorating Economic Welfare of Canadian Immigrants

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

The Deteriorating Economic Welfare of Canadian Immigrants

Article excerpt


Both the low-income and the earnings gap between immigrants and the Canadian born are observed to have increased, particularly for recent immigrants. While the incidence of low income fell among the Canadian born during the 1990s, it increased among immigrants in all education and age groups, and from most "non-traditional" source countries. In Canada's major cities virtually all the increase in low-income rates during the 1990s was concentrated among the immigrant population.

The deterioration in immigrant economic welfare occurred despite policy changes designed to select individuals with greater potential contribution to the Canadian economy. We find that changes in immigrant characteristics accounted for roughly one-third of the increase in the gap. Decreasing economic returns to foreign work experience and education also played a large role.

Keywords: Immigrants, poverty, earnings, integration, immigration.


Cet article analyse la recente augmentation du taux de pauvrete et l'ecart salarial entre les immigrants et les Canadiens nes pendant les deux dernieres decennies. Alors que le taux de pauvrete a diminue parmi les Canadiens nes au cours des annees 1990, il a toutefois augmente parmi les differents groupes et categories d'immigrants (i.e. niveau d'education, tranches d'age etc.) et parmi les immigrants des pays source non traditionnels. L'on constate egalement que l'augmentation du taux de pauvrete dans les villes principales du Canada pendant les annees 1990 est concentree parmi la population d'immigrants.

Ainsi l'on constate une deterioration des conditions economiques des immigrants malgre les changements de la politique d'immigration au Canada basee sur la selection d'immigrant en fonction de leur contribution potentielle au developpement economique. D'une part, nous constatons que ces changements (caracteristiques de selection d'immigrants) representent environ un tiers de l'augmentation de l'ecart salarial et du taux de bas salarie. D'autre part, la diminution de retours economiques de l'experience de travail a l'etranger et le niveau d'education a egalement contribue a la deterioration des conditions economiques des immigrants

Mots cles : immigrants, pauvrete, remuneration, integration au travail


Host countries, such as Canada, look to the skills and initiative of immigrants to promote economic growth. In the "knowledge-based" economy, host countries are increasingly seeking highly educated workers to drive economic growth. Immigrants, particularly the highly educated, look to the host country for opportunities to use their skills and abilities to achieve high economic standards of living. However, if immigrants are unable to convert their training to productive use, the expectations of both the host country and the arriving immigrants will not be met. Immigrant contributions to the host country, which are central to the economic justification for relatively open immigration policies, may not be fully realized. In light of these considerations, there is significant concern regarding the deteriorating economic outcomes among recent immigrants to Canada over the past two decades.

Immigrants arriving in Canada during the late 1990s were highly educated. In 2001, fully 42 percent of "recent" immigrants (those who arrived in Canada within the last five years) had a university degree, and an historically high 54 percent of these immigrants entered Canada under the "economic" admissions class. Only 31 percent were in the family class. The situation was very different twenty years earlier. In 1981, only 19 percent of recent immigrants had degrees. During the early 1980s, 37 percent of immigrants entered Canada under the "economic" class and 43 percent entered in the family class. Immigrants of the late 1990s were increasingly selected for their potential contributions to the Canadian economy. …

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