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Recent Canadian immigrants endured disproportionate economic strain due to COVID-19: Statistics Canada

December 9, 2022

By CIC News |

The economic contributions of Canadian immigrants cannot be understated.

They are integral in helping lessen the impact of Canada’s shrinking natural labour force. At the same time, however, Canadian immigrants were disproportionately disadvantaged by the COVID-19 pandemic compared to this country’s Canadian-born population.

Job loss due to pandemic lockdowns
According to the new report from Statistics Canada, at the beginning of the pandemic, recent immigrants were more likely to “transition out of employment” than Canadian-born workers due to pandemic lockdowns. This is because Canadian immigrants held more short-tenure and low-wage jobs, such as those in the food and accommodation services industry.

In a 2020 study referenced by Statistics Canada’s latest release, 31% of employed recent immigrants in February 2020 had worked in their positions for less than a year. Additionally, 22% of recent immigrants worked in low-wage occupations where hourly wages equalled less than two-thirds of the 2019 annual median wage ($24.04/hour). Conversely, those numbers were reported at 15% and 12%, respectively, among Canadian-born workers. The result of this employment structure became evident in April 2020, when “the rate of transition to non-employment” peaked at 13.5% for Canadian-born workers and 17.3% for recent immigrants.

Turning to the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit
Due to heightened job loss from the pandemic, recent immigrants were also more likely to apply for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in 2020, indicating further struggles with economic integration during COVID-19. Both low-wage workers and workers most significantly impacted by economic lockdowns, two groups that are disproportionately represented by Canadian immigrants, were more likely to seek and receive CERB payments.

In fact, more than half (55.3%) of all workers who “earned at least $5,000 in 2019 and … were in the bottom 10% of the [2019] employment income distribution” received CERB in 2020. Likewise, almost two-thirds of all employees (66.6%) who worked in the accommodation and food services industry and earned at least $5,000 in 2019 received CERB the following year.

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