Filipino immigrants most likely to be employed

Those from Africa struggle the most finding jobs
By Shannon Klie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/07/2009

In real estate, location is everything. The same can be said for an immigrant’s likelihood of finding employment in Canada, with timing playing a key role as well.

A new study by Statistics Canada has found an immigrant’s country of origin and arrival date in Canada are strongly correlated with her chances of finding a job.

The Canadian Immigrant Labour Market in 2006: Analysis by Region or Country of Birth

found immigrants born in Southeast Asia and aged 25 to 54 had employment levels close to or better than those of their Canadian-born counterparts, regardless of when they arrived in Canada.

Immigrants from the Philippines did especially well. Very recent immigrants, those who arrived between 2001 and 2006, had an unemployment rate of 5.4 per cent, only slightly higher than that of the Canadian-born population (4.9 per cent). Established Filipino immigrants, those who had been in Canada for more than 10 years, did even better with an unemployment rate of 2.4 per cent.

But that doesn’t mean they’re as successful as Canadian-born workers, said Naomi Alboim, vice-chair of the Queen’s University Policy Forum in Kingston, Ont.

“Many of the people coming from the Philippines are coming with arranged work,” said Alboim. “They are going to work, but the question is, how well paid are the jobs?”

Filipinos often come to Canada as live-in caregivers, such as nannies, or through provincial nominee programs, especially in Manitoba, she said.

For immigrants from the rest of Asia, Europe and Latin America, unemployment was higher for very recent immigrants but approached Canadian-born levels for recent immigrants (who arrived between 1996 and 2001) and established immigrants (see chart).

However, African immigrants fared much worse. Very recent immigrants had the highest unemployment rate at 20.8 per cent, more than four times the rate of the Canadian-born population. While unemployment rates improved the longer they were in Canada, the rate for established immigrants was still 1.5 times higher than the rate for Canadian-born residents.

Social networks, education can influence success

There are several factors that influence an immigrant’s ability to find a job, said Jason Gilmore, a Statistics Canada analyst and co-author of the study. Proficiency in English, social networks, education, recognition of credentials and knowledge of the Canadian labour market prior to immigrating all play a role.

Some of the success Filipinos experience in Canada is due to their higher level of education, said Gilmore. Eighty per cent of Filipino immigrants aged 25 to 54 have some form of post-secondary education compared with 65 per cent of all other immigrants combined and 60 per cent of the Canadian-born population.

English is also one of the two official languages in the Philippines, so most if not all of them have some degree of English proficiency, said Gilmore.

There are also many Filipino communities across Canada, and not just in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal — there are established communities in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Ontario’s Peel and York regions.

“If you’re coming to Canada and you either have friends or family or there are established communities of people from certain regions in the city that you’re moving to, that could help you in finding work quicker if you don’t have something set up already,” he said.

Comparison flawed

Some of the study’s shortcomings are that it only looks at employment and unemployment rates, not wages, and it doesn’t compare immigrants who came to Canada under the same status, such as skilled-worker or refugee classes, said Alboim.

“We’re comparing the success rates of very different groups of people who have been selected for very different reasons under very different criteria,” she said.

There are probably fewer differences between skilled immigrants from Southeast Asia and skilled immigrants from Africa than there are between the two groups as a whole, said Alboim.

About 20 per cent of African immigrants are refugees and many of them probably weren’t able to bring their documentation with them, said Gilmore. They might not have their school records, work history or references to give to employers, which affects their ability to find a job, he said.

“They tend to be probably the most vulnerable of the folks coming into Canada,” said Alboim.

African immigrants also have fewer supports in Canada than immigrants from other parts of the world, she said.

“There’s a smaller African community here in Canada to act as a support system. The community as a whole is not as established, not as wealthy,” said Alboim.

Going forward, Gilmore and his co-author, Vincent Ferrao, plan to examine if the country where an immigrant received his highest level of education has an effect on his employment success. They will also look at other aspects of labour market performance beyond employment and unemployment rates, such as wages, full-time work and union involvement.

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