Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Immigration in Quebec: Labour Market Integration and Contribution to Economic Growth

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Immigration in Quebec: Labour Market Integration and Contribution to Economic Growth

Article excerpt


Population aging and skilled labour shortages have prompted many countries to make immigration a key element of their economic development policies. Quebec, like Canada, has adopted a dynamic approach to public policies relating to immigration, with a dual goal: first, to make the best use economically of the resources represented by immigration in the short run and, second, to ensure demographic and economic growth over the long run. However, questions are sometimes raised regarding the policies and impact of immigration as well as Quebec's capacity to integrate the number and type of immigrants admitted by this province every year.

As a result of selection policies, the landscape of immigration has considerably changed over the last four decades. The main changes relate to the newcomers' places of origin and levels of education. In contrast with the pre-1970 period, today, the overwhelming majority of new immigrants come from Africa, the Americas or Asia. New immigrants are also increasingly better educated, but are confronted with the limited transferability of the skills acquired in their countries of origin, very likely due to problems related to language skills, cultural differences, education quality and discrimination (Picot 2008).

Compared to Ontario and British Columbia, Quebec is characterized by a diversified migratory flow and a high percentage of immigrants who know French. However, this province has relatively fewer immigrants and it is more difficult for them to integrate into the labour market here.

Quebec and the rest of Canada will certainly continue to depend increasingly on immigration to provide the labour market with the workforce needed to operate effectively. Their populations do not have all the necessary skills and abilities to meet labour market needs. It is therefore critical to bring in foreign labour through immigration. While recruiting candidates for immigration who have the required skills does not appear to pose a problem, their integration into the labour market constitutes a considerable challenge in terms of maximizing the benefits of immigration. This challenge is different in Quebec, in particular because of the importance of the French language, the high geographical concentration of its immigrants, and the greater barriers than elsewhere to employment access. However, although French is the dominant language in Quebec, English is also used, and immigrants must deal with this reality. The observed characteristics of Quebec immigrants result from the selection policies followed to date. Those policies were implemented in order to optimize the impact of immigration on the province's demographic, linguistic, social, economic and cultural development (Robert 2005). Economically, it is clear that it is difficult for immigrants to integrate into the Quebec labour market, thus reducing the expected benefits of immigration.

This article aims to highlight the situation of immigrants in the Quebec labour market, using the situation in Ontario and British Columbia as a reference. It also aims to provide an accurate picture of the contribution of immigration to economic development. First, we will present an overview of immigration trends in Quebec and the rest of Canada. Second, we will describe the situation of immigrants in the labour market. Third, we will review the main studies having assessed the potential impact of immigration on the economy. Lastly, the article ends with a discussion on public policies based on the present analysis.


Similarities and differences exist between the immigration situation in Quebec and that elsewhere in the world. Figure 1 shows the proportion of immigrants in the total population in selected regions/countries of the world as well as in the three main immigration provinces in Canada. Quebec is comparable to the United States and Europe in terms of the proportion of immigrants. …

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