Recent Immigrants in Metropolitan Areas: Canada—A Comparative Profile Based on the 2001 Census


Very recent immigrants—a snapshot

  • Very recent immigrants, immigrants who landed after 1995, are quite different in some respects from the groups that preceded them. More of them come from South Asia and Eastern Europe. Many have university degrees, far more than are found among the other immigrant groups or among persons born in Canada. Thanks to these qualities and a strong labour market, they reported more jobs and higher incomes in the 2001 Census than immigrants who landed in the first half of the 1990s reported in the 1996 Census.

Immigrants and recent immigrants (Part A)

  • In 2001, there were 2,491,900 recent immigrants in Canada, accounting for 46% of Canada’s total immigrant population of 5,448,500, and for 8.4% of Canada’s population. In this document, the term “recent immigrants” refers to immigrants who became permanent residents or “landed” after 1985 and who were living in the country on May 15, 2001, when Canada’s Census of Population was held. Very recent immigrants are immigrants who landed after 1995.
  • Canada is one of the major immigrant-receiving countries in the world. In 2001, immigrants accounted for 18% of Canada’s population, a higher share than in any other OECD country except Australia and Switzerland. In the United States, immigrants make up 11% of the population, and in most European countries the immigrant share is 10% or less.
  • Four out of five immigrants who landed during the 1986-1995 period had become Canadian citizens by May 2001.

Who are the recent immigrants? (Part B)

  • Recent immigrants come from all over the world. Asian origins are dominant among immigrants who landed after 1985, and even more so among those who landed after 1995. The share of very recent immigrants from China (excluding Hong Kong), the largest source country, is 13%; India has the second-largest share with 10%. South Asia—India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka—has become a more important source of immigrants in the second half of the 1990s.
  • The origins of immigrants have drastically changed over the past few decades. The United Kingdom and Italy used to be the main countries of birth of immigrants, accounting for 18% and 10% of immigrants who landed before 1986 and were still residing in Canada in 2001. Only 2% of very recent immigrants were born in the United Kingdom and less than 1% in Italy.
  • Ontario and British Columbia are the only provinces with a larger proportion of recent immigrants than of the Canadian-born. British Columbia’s share of Canada’s recent immigrants is increasing while the shares of Ontario and Quebec are rather constant and other provinces have attracted a smaller share of recent than of earlier immigrants.
  • Immigrants are increasingly drawn to Toronto and Vancouver, which together are home to six out of ten recent immigrants.
  • The origins of recent immigrants in Toronto are very similar to those of recent immigrants in Canada generally, but with relatively more persons born in South and Central Asia and in the Caribbean. One-half of recent immigrants living in Vancouver were born in East Asia in comparison to almost one-quarter of Canada’s recent immigrants while Western Asia and the Middle East, Africa, Western Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean are common places of birth of recent immigrants living in Montreal. Outside the thirteen urban centres one finds proportionally fewer Asians and more Europeans and Americans.
  • Statistics published by Citizenship and Immigration Canada show that one-half of recent immigrants were admitted to Canada through the economic category—most were skilled workers and their dependants. Economic immigrants make up a particularly large share of very recent immigrants.
  • Recent immigrants are changing the religious landscape of Canada, as Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs are numerous among them. The Muslim share of immigrants has increased most rapidly to reach 18% of very recent immigrants. Nearly one-quarter of very recent immigrants reported no religious affiliation.
  • Nearly one-half of very recent immigrants are 25 to 44 years of age, compared to three in ten Canadian-born. The share of children and youth is about the same in both groups, and there are relatively fewer middle-aged and older persons among very recent immigrants.
  • Nine out of ten very recent immigrants 15 years of age and older reported (in May 2001) that they were able to conduct a conversation in English, French or both. Two-thirds of very recent immigrants 15 years of age and older, and well over one-half of those who landed during the 1986-1995 period, reported that the language most often spoken at home is a language other than English or French.
  • Very recent immigrants have a higher level of education than the Canadian-born, with three in ten women and four in ten men having a university degree, compared to 14% of both men and women born in Canada. Even compared to Canadian-born persons of the same age, very recent immigrants appear to have had more schooling.

Families and households (Part C)

  • Recent immigrants are more likely than the Canadian-born to live with relatives, and they are more than twice as likely to live in extended families. Only 8% of very recent immigrants 65 years of age and over live alone, compared to one-third of their Canadian-born counterparts.
  • One in nine families in Canada has at least one adult member who is a recent immigrant. Recent immigrant families are more likely than Canadian-born families to have children living at home, in particular when the oldest member of the family is 45 years of age or older. Lone-parent families are somewhat less common among recent immigrant families than Canadian-born families.
  • Households in which at least one adult is a recent immigrant account for 9% of all households in Canada. Two out of five of these households have at least one member who immigrated after 1995.
  • Households of recent immigrants are much more likely than Canadian-born households to consist of extended families or more than one family. They also tend to be larger in size, with close to one-half having four or more persons in the household compared to less than one quarter of households of the Canadian-born.

Participation in the economy (Part D)

  • The more recent their arrival, the lower the labour force participation rate and the higher the unemployment rate of immigrants. Earlier immigrants participate at more or less the same rates as the Canadian-born.
  • This pattern of increasing convergence to the Canadian-born with longer stay in Canada occurs across all age-gender groups and all but the lowest level of education. The disparities between recent immigrants and the Canadian-born are smaller for men than for women.
  • Lack of knowledge of official languages is a major barrier to labour force participation. However, it accounts for only a small part of the disparity in labour force participation of very recent immigrants, as most can converse in English, French or both.
  • Labour force participation was higher and unemployment lower in 2001 than in 1996. The Canadian-born and all cohorts of immigrants showed gains across the age spectrum. The gains were larger for women than for men, and also larger for the young and old than for the prime labour force age group 25 to 44 years of age. Employment was significantly higher in 2001 among immigrants who landed in the five years before the 2001 Census than it was in 1996 among immigrants who landed in the five years before the 1996 Census.
  • In comparison to the Canadian-born, recent immigrants were more likely to be employed in processing and sales and services occupations, in the manufacturing sector, in business services, or in hospitality and other services. A smaller share of recent immigrants than the Canadian-born held jobs in administrative and management and social occupations, or in construction and transportation, or the public sector. While jobs of recent immigrants require a relatively low level of skill, the very recent cohort held jobs with higher skill requirements than their predecessors did in 1996.

Income (Part E)

  • On average among persons reporting income for the year 2000, the income of very recent immigrants was 70% of that of the Canadian-born, while those who immigrated during the 1986-1995 period had close to 80% of that level. Earnings from employment make up a larger share of income of recent immigrants than of earlier immigrants and persons born in Canada. Other private income—investment, pension and other income—is particularly low for recent immigrants.
  • The average income of very recent immigrants in the year 2000 was 40% higher than in 1995 compared to increases of 17% for the Canadian-born and 26% for immigrants who had been in the country for more than five years.
  • Relative to Canadian-born households, transfers from government make up a somewhat larger share of the income of recent immigrant households in the 25 to 64 age group. For households of recently immigrated seniors, the share of transfers is lower than for the Canadian-born.
  • One-third of very recent immigrants are in a low-income situation, twice as large a share as for the Canadian-born.

Housing (Part F)

  • More than one in five recent immigrant households live in crowded conditions—that is, have one person or more per room—compared to 3% of Canadian-born households. Among households of very recent immigrants, the incidence of crowding is 30%.
  • One in three recent immigrant households spends more than 30% of their income on shelter, compared to one in four Canadian-born households.
  • The state of repair of the housing stock among recent immigrants is comparable to that among the Canadian-born.
  • At just over one-half, the proportion of recent immigrant households that own their home is approximately 15% lower than the share of Canadian-born households. Only one-quarter of households consisting exclusively of very recent immigrants own their home.

Diversity across Canada (Part G)

  • In this section of the profile, the country is subdivided into six geographic areas for the purpose of making comparisons among them. The six areas are: Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal—the three largest recent immigrant destinations, the five second-tier recent immigrant destinations combined, the five third-tier recent immigrant destinations combined, and the rest of Canada.
  • Seven in ten recent immigrants live in Canada’s three largest metropolitan areas of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver in comparison to about one-half of earlier immigrants and one-quarter of the Canadian-born.
  • Slightly more than one-fifth of the residents of both Toronto and Vancouver immigrated to Canada during the fifteen years from 1986 to 2001. Eight percent of the population of Montreal and also of the five second-tier cities combined were recent immigrants compared to about 2.5% of the population of the five third-tier cities combined and of the rest of Canada (where approximately one-half of the population of the country resides).
  • Vancouver was the intended destination of relatively more very recent economic immigrants who landed between 1996 and 2001 than other parts of Canada. Refugees initially settle in a more dispersed pattern than other immigrants.
  • Nearly one-third of the Canadian-born population of Toronto is less than 15 years of age. This group includes many children born to recent immigrants after arrival in Canada. The population share is so high because there are so many recent immigrants in Toronto. In Vancouver, children (including children of recent immigrants) also make up a large share of Canadian-born residents.
  • In the three large centres of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, recent immigrants have a somewhat lower level of education than the Canadian-born. Recent immigrants in the third-tier cities and in the rest of Canada have better educational credentials than the Canadian-born., although overall educational attainment is lower than in the large centres.
  • Of the six areas, Vancouver has the lowest labour force participation by recent immigrants and the largest gap relative to the Canadian-born. Unemployment rates among recent immigrants are highest in Montreal. With respect to both labour force participation and unemployment, recent immigrants have much the same outcomes outside the three largest centres as in Toronto.
  • Average income of very recent immigrants is highest in the second-tier cities, followed by Toronto. Relative to the Canadian-born, the income of recent immigrants is highest in the third-tier cities and the rest of Canada.
  • The incidence of low income among recent immigrants is higher in Vancouver and in Montreal than in other parts of Canada.


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