Mohsen Javdani, David Jacks and Krishna Pendakur

Publication date:

Last Reviewed: 01-08-2013

Immigrants and the Canadian Economy

Source: Metropolis Working Paper Series: No. 12-09: AUGUST 2012

The objective of this paper is to examine the role immigrants play in the Canadian labour market. This paper highlights the main research findings in the Economic and Labour Market Integration Domain of Metropolis British Columbia (MBC).


This paper highlights the main research findings in the Economic and Labour Market Integration Domain of Metropolis British Columbia (MBC). Established in 1996 as part of the national Metropolis Project and funded by the federal government, the provincial government, and associated universities, MBC is  located at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia, with a Co-director based on each campus. This centre of excellence for research on immigration and diversity was continuously funded from 1996 to 2012, but will close down permanently in Fall 2012.MBC’s main objective has been to

place in the public realm relevant material that will aid the public discourse  on Canada’s emerging immigration policy issues. This paper is based almost entirely on working papers published in the MBC working paper series, available online at works cited are listed in the references at the end of the paper.

Canada is one of the world’s major immigrant-receiving countries, accepting more immigrants per capita over the past 3 decades than any other  country in the world, with the exception in some years of Australia (Canada’s immigration program, October 2004). Immigration has accounted for more than half of Canada’s population increase in the 20th  century, and the share of new immigrants in population increase has grown steadily since the 1930s (Bloom and Gunderson, 1991). Canada also has a broad immigration policy that is reflected in its ethnic diversity. There are 34 different ethnic groups in Canada with at least one hundred thousand members, 10 of these ethnicities consist of over one million people, and 16.2% of the Canadian population is a visible minority immigrant (Statistics Canada, 2008).

Canada has also experienced a steady increase in the education and skill level of immigrants. Of the recent immigrants who entered Canada between 2001 and 2006, 51% had a university degree. This is more than twice the proportion of degree holders among the Canadian-born population at 20% and significantly higher than the proportion of degree holders among immigrants who entered Canada before 2001 at 28% (Statistics Canada, Educational Portrait of Canada, 2006). However, the economic outcomes of newcomers to Canada have declined relative to the Canadian population in the last few 
decades (Statistics Canada, 2007).

All major political parties in Canada support sustaining (or increasing) the current level of immigration. Immigration plays an important role in Canada’s economy, and it has been a key component of Canadian labour market policies. Policy makers use immigration as an important source of labour force growth and also as an instrument to improve the impact of variations in the labour market.

The literature on economics of immigration, including studies reviewed in this report, has mainly focused on analyses of two main questions: How do immigrants fare in the host country labour market? And what effects do immigrants have on the host country labour market? These analyses are motivated by various policy concerns and provide valuable insight into the immigration experience. The remainder of this report is organized as follows: Section 2 reviews the studies that evaluate the labour market performance of immigrants, Aboriginals, and visible minorities in Canada, focusing mainly on employment 
earnings; Section 3 summarizes the studies that investigate the determinants of immigrants’ labour market outcomes; Section 4 focuses on studies examining immigrants’ occupational choice and occupational mobility in Canada; Section 5 provides a summary of studies examining the effect of immigration on Canada; Section 6 looks at studies analyzing immigration patterns and immigration policy; Section 7 provides a summary of studies that evaluate the labour market performance of different classes of immigrants such as business immigrants, refugees, and temporary workers. Finally, Section 8 concludes.

Link 1:

Theme: Immigration Trends, Economic & Job Market Integration

Region: British Columbia, Canada

Subject Group: Immigrants