Patrick Grady
Recent Immigrants from Lower-income Countries Are Doing Much Worse
October 4, 2010
of final version of complete research study presented at annual meetings of Canadian Economics Assocation June 5, 2011

The aggregate data from the 2006 Census confirmed that the deterioration of the performance of recent immigrants, who arrived since 1990 following the big increase in the number of immigrants admitted after 1987, is ongoing (Statistics Canada, 2008,pp.21-25). But it provided no information on how immigrants from different countries and regions are doing relative to each other. This is a major information gap as such information provides important information on how well Canadian immigration policy is doing in selecting the immigrants most likely to succeed in Canada.

Fortunately, however, more disaggregated data on the economic performance of immigrants was made recently available to researchers in the form of the 2006 Census Public Use Microdata File (PUMF). It contains 844,476 records, presenting much relevant census data for individuals representing a sample of 2.7 per cent of the Canadian population. This includes data on the employment income earned by immigrants and much useful information on their characteristics and origins. The downside is that the information is only available to those who are able to manipulate large data bases using sophisticated data base systems.

This notes seeks to fill the information gap by packaging and presenting the data for 2005 on the employment income earned by recent immigrants based on their countries or regions. For the purposes of this note, recent immigrants are defined as those arriving since 1990 and up to 2004. Employment income as defined by Statistics Canada in the Census 2006 Public Use Micro-File “refers to total income received by persons 15 years of age and over during calendar year 2005 as wages and salaries, net income from a non-farm unincorporated business and/or professional practice, and/or net farm self-employment income.”(Statistics Canada, 2009, p.75).

The Census data provided in Table 1 below reveals that these recent immigrants only earned an average of $25,714 in 2005 with immigrants in Canada longer doing better than the most recently arrived. Nevertheless, it is still striking that on average recent immigrants only earned 69.1 per cent of the $37,213 earned on average by non-immigrants in the same year.

Table 1
Employment Income of Recent Immigrants by Year of Arrival and Place of Birth in 2005 (dollars) Sorted in Descending Order for Whole Period

Recent Immigrants Arriving From Year
Place of Birth 1990 to
1990 to
1994 to
2000 to
Total Recent Immigrants 25,714 28,768 27,590 21,314
United Kingdom 49,293 55,984 48,555 41,812
United States of America 45,144 54,650 39,609 41,867
Other Northern and Western Europe 37,291 39,227 40,557 33,848
Germany 34,777 27,597 34,607 42,601
Other Africa 34,695 47,250 34,600 27,141
Other Eastern Europe 32,368 35,472 39,780 25,730
Other Southern Europe 32,215 41,772 31,603 21,517
Italy 31,600 29,667 31,900 34,091
Poland 31,071 32,669 26,926 24,656
Oceania and others 30,658 28,783 27,678 35,309
Portugal 29,789 30,655 27,167 27,452
Jamaica 28,219 28,617 28,382 26,664
Philippines 28,147 29,446 29,489 25,249
Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region 25,798 29,325 21,257 17,657
India 25,030 26,981 26,362 22,878
South America 24,916 27,899 26,423 21,610
Northern Africa 24,001 33,139 33,899 16,004
Eastern Africa 23,723 26,107 24,947 20,046
Central America 22,572 23,691 24,708 19,011
Other Caribbean and Bermuda 22,480 25,583 20,058 19,558
Other Southeast Asia 22,198 23,116 22,637 18,872
Other Southern Asia 21,483 25,658 21,151 16,256
China, People's Republic of 21,411 22,239 25,963 18,351
Pakistan 20,198 23,405 25,538 16,015
West Central Asia and the Middle East 20,033 22,849 24,720 13,817
Other Eastern Asia 15,245 16,801 15,474 13,784

Source:Calculations for recent immigrants and non-immigrant population between 25 and 64 done from Statistics Canada, Census 2006 PUMF. Employment income is provided by the variable empin in the file, and includes wages and salaries, net income from a non-farm unincorporated business and/or professional practice, and/or net farm self-employment income.

The countries and regions shown in Table 1 are ranked from the highest to lowest on the basis of the employment income earned by its emigrants using Place of Birth information from the Census as a proxy for country or region of origin. This table highlights the starkly different performance with income running from highs of $49,293 for those coming from the United Kingdom and $45,144 for the United States, to lows of $20,198 for Pakistan, $20,033 for West Central Asia and the Middle East, and $15,245 for Other Eastern Asia.

Only recent immigrants from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Other Northern and Western Europe earned more than non-immigrants. Recent immigrants from a long list of countries and regions including India, South America, Northern Africa, Eastern Africa, Central America, Other Caribbean and Bermuda, Other Southeast Asia, Other Southern Asia, the People's Republic of China, Pakistan, West Central Asia and the Middle East, Other Eastern Asia, all in descending order, do worse than the average of all recent immigrants with those immigrants coming from Other Eastern Asia only earning 41 per cent of non-immigrants.

Some of the differences in the employment income of recent immigrants among countries and regions can probably be explained by the different composition of immigrants. Other studies have shown in the past that refugee class immigrants earn much less than other immigrants and that family class earn less than economic class. Unfortunately, the 2006 Census does not contain any data on the class of immigrants that can be used to shed additional light on the difference in employment income among countries and regions.

The data from the 2006 Census is examined in more detail in a longer paper, which seeks to explore the underlying causes of the poor performance of recent immigrants in the labour market using econometric techniques.


Statistics Canada (2008) Earnings and Incomes of Canadians over the Past Quarter Century, 2006 Census, Catalogue no. 97-563-X.

Statistics Canada (2009) 2006 Census Public Use Microdata File (PUMF)Individuals File Documentation and User guide, Catalogue no. 95M0028XVB.