A Statistics Canada report reveals economic lockdowns triggered by the arrival of COVID-19 in Canada hurt immigrants’ job prospects more than those of Canadian-born workers and more of them had to collect federal government aid during the pandemic.
“When the pandemic first hit, recent immigrants, especially immigrant women, were more likely than their Canadian-born counterparts to transition out of employment,” reports the statistical and demographic services agency.
“A higher share of immigrants work in low-wage and short-tenured jobs and in certain sectors such as food and accommodation services, all of which were more strongly affected by pandemic lockdowns. As a result, immigrants were more likely to apply for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in 2020.”
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The CERB program offered financial support to employed and self-employed Canadians who were directly affected by COVID-19, providing them with $2,000 every four weeks.
The pandemic also pushed down the annual earnings of many immigrants in Canada.
“The pandemic triggered a labour market contraction that negatively affected many Canadians but new immigrants who were admitted during 2019 were particularly vulnerable,” reveals Statistics Canada.
Immigrants who arrived in Canada in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, reported a median entry wage of $30,000. That was 6.5 per cent lower than the $32,100 median entry wage for those immigrants who arrived in 2018.
“This decrease was observed in all provinces and territories except Manitoba and Prince Edward Island,” notes Statistics Canada.
“The overall Canadian population experienced a slight increase of 0.8 per cent of their median wage, going from $39,440 in 2019 to $39,760 in 2020. This difference in trends between the total population and new immigrants widened the wage gap between them.”
Immigrant Women Hardest Hit By Pandemic Job Losses
The hardest hit were immigrant women. Their median entry wage dropped by 11.1 per cent to $23,200 in the first year of the pandemic, a time when restaurants and retail outlets were forced to lock down and later cut their capacity due to COVID-19 public health restrictions.
“Immigrant men saw a decline in their median entry wage of 5.2 per cent, from $38,100 to $36,100, while the median wage for Canadian women was virtually unchanged, going from $33,840 to $33,830 during the same period,” reports Statistics Canada.
In Canada, economic immigrants are ranked through the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) based on many factors, including their level of education and work experience. During the pandemic, this group of immigrants fared best and saw the smallest drop in earnings, only three per cent as a group.
“Among all immigrants admitted in 2019, economic principal applicants had the highest median entry wage in 2020, $42,600, and the lowest rate of decrease in median entry wage from 2019 to 2020,” reports Statistics Canada.
“Economic spouses and dependents had the second highest median entry wage in 2020, $25,200, followed by family-sponsored immigrants at $21,400. The entry wage declined the most for immigrants sponsored by the family, who saw a drop of 13.4 per cent, followed by refugees whose median entry wage fell by 11.9 per cent.”
Solid language skills also helped immigrants weather the pandemic.
“Knowledge of official languages at admission makes it easier for new immigrants to integrate into the Canadian labour market,” notes Statistics Canada.
“From 2019 to 2020, immigrants who had knowledge of both English and French were the only group that saw an increase in median entry wage, rising 0.3 per cent from $35,600 to $35,700.
“In contrast, immigrants with no knowledge of official languages experienced a substantial median entry wage decrease of 18.6 per cent, from $15,600 in 2019 to $12,700 in 2020. Those who only knew English or French saw a decline of 6.5 per cent in their median entry wage.”