Jobs In Canada: Employers Boost Immigrant Wages In Grip Of Labour Shortage

Wages And Number Of People Getting Canada Jobs Climbed In November
Canada immigration free assessment

As Canada employers struggle to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, a Statistics Canada report has revealed immigrant wages are growing and their employment prospects are brighter than ever, as labour shortages make them a much-sought-after commodity.

The federal agency reports the media wage of immigrants who were admitted into the country in 2018 was up 4.2 per cent over that of immigrants admitted into Canada a year earlier. 

Those who came to Canada in 2018 had a median wage of $31,900 in 2019, up from the $30,600 for those who came to the country in 2017.

“Compared with those admitted in 2017, immigrants admitted in 2018 experienced median entry wage increases in all provinces, except Alberta, and Newfoundland and Labrador,” reports Statistics Canada.

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A big reason for the jump in the median wages of more recent immigrants to Canada is the growing number of them arriving under economic immigration programs.

Those immigrants actually tend to earn even more than the median wage for Canadian workers.

Economic Immigrants Earn More Than Average Canadian

“Principal applicants of economic categories are selected for their ability to be integrated into the Canadian labour market and to contribute to the economy,” reports Statistics Canada. “Most of them have post-secondary education and knowledge of at least one official language.”

Immigrants who came to the country under economic programs in 2018 had a median wage of $43,600 in 2019, 12.4 per cent higher than the Canadian median wage in the same year, which was $38,800, and 3.8 per cent higher than the median entry wage of their counterparts admitted in 2017, who earned $42,000 per year.

It’s not just skills and education, though, that determine an immigrant’s wages in Canada. 

Canadian Experience A Big Factor

“Pre-admission experience in Canada, particularly work-related, plays an important role in lifting immigrants’ wages, as it provides a pathway for immigrants to acquire language skills and knowledge of the Canadian labour market,” reports Statistics Canada. 

“Immigrant tax filers having both study and work permits prior to immigration obtained the highest median wage one year after admission, both for those admitted in 2017, who had a median annual wage of $44,900, and in 2018, with a median annual wage of $44,600.”


The Statistics Canada report, Longitudinal Immigration Database: Immigrants’ Income Trajectories During The Initial Years Since Admission, was released in mid-December last year and clearly reflects the growing demand by Canadian employers for skilled and experienced immigrants to fill jobs that are now going begging.

That might account for the relatively low unemployment rate among immigrants to Canada.

Figures for the most recent month for which data is available show the employment rate for recent immigrants to Canada in November last year was up 6.5 per cent compared to 2019, the last full year before the pandemic hit the country.

 Recent immigrants actually had a higher employment rate in November last year, at 71.3 per cent, than did Canadians born in the country, who had an employment rate of 60.9 per cent for that month, down 1.6 per cent compared to the same month in 2019.

Job Vacancies Reach All-Time High

In Canada, labour shortages are growing ever more acute with the number of job vacancies in Canada reaching an all-time high of 912,600 in the third quarter of 2021. Employers are trying to rebuild as the country works its way through the pandemic.

Canada is seeing both staggering job growth and falling unemployment.

Job vacancies in Canada in the third quarter of 2021 were 62.1 per cent higher than in the same quarter in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The job vacancy rate, the number of job vacancies as a proportion of labour demand … was 5.4 per cent (during that period), also a record high and 2.1 percentage points higher than in the third quarter of 2019,” reports Statistics Canada.

A quick solution for many employers facing labour shortages is the Global Talent Stream (GTS) of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) under which Canadian work permits and visa applications are processed within two weeks.

Launched in 2017, the GTS was made a permanent program two years later, after proving to be hugely popular with some of Canada’s largest technology companies. 

Another good way for foreign workers to immigrate to Canada is through the Express Entry system, which manages Canada’s immigration applications intake and allows applicants who meet eligibility criteria to submit an online profile, known as an Expression of interest (EOI), under one of three federal Canada immigration programs or a participating provincial immigration program to the Express Entry Pool.

Comprehensive Ranking System Scores Candidate Profiles

Candidates’ profiles are then ranked against each other according to a points-based system called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The highest-ranked candidates are considered for  Invitations to apply (ITAs) for permanent residence. Those receiving an ITA must quickly submit a full application and pay the processing fees, within a delay of 60 days.

The federal government aims to process these permanent residency applications in six months.

The boom in available jobs in Canada is being felt across the country and in almost all sectors of the economy. 

The biggest percentage growth in available jobs from the third quarter of 2019 to the same period in 2021 was in the Prairie province of Saskatchewan which saw a surge of 82.7 per cent in open positions. The francophone province of Quebec came in second with growth in job vacancies for the period of 73.1 per cent, followed by Ontario at 64.5 per cent. 

Out of 20 industry sectors, 18 saw growth in job vacancies. 

Five industry sectors saw the biggest growth in available jobs. 

Restaurants, catering and hotel businesses more than doubled their vacant positions during that time period with 86,400 job vacancies, a growth of 112.8 per cent. Healthcare and social assistance job vacancies rose by 78.8 per cent, or 52,100 positions. The construction sector’s vacant jobs increased by 83.7 per cent, or 34,300 positions, retail by 45.2 per cent or 32,400 job openings, and the manufacturing sector by 62.4 per cent or 31,200 open jobs.

“Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and real estate and rental and leasing were the only sectors where vacancies were not up in the third quarter compared with the same period two years earlier,” noted Statistics Canada.

PM Trudeau Working To Curb Spread Of COVID-19

As the Omicron variant of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 spreads around the world, hospitals and clinics in Canada are desperate for nurses and orderlies.

“In the healthcare and social assistance sector … payroll employment from the Survey of Employment, Payrolls, and Hours had reached its pre-COVID level in December 2020, indicating that this sector was facing challenges including unmet labour demand in the context of increasing economic activity,” noted Statistics Canada.

“Prior to the unprecedented demands placed on the healthcare system by the pandemic, employment in the sector had been increasing steadily since the third quarter of 2017, partly the result of an aging population. Nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates (which saw an increase in open positions of 24,100) as well as registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses (where vacancies rose by 22,800) in the third quarter were among the occupations with the most vacancies.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is directly involved in the fight against COVID-19 with Ottawa offering more rapid tests to offset a shortfall in early January to detect cases and curb the spread of the illness.

“It’s a new year, and the fight against COVID-19 continues – but I know we’ve got what it takes to get through this,” Trudeau tweeted.

In the food services and hospitality sector, the labour shortage in the third quarter of this year was due to restaurants, bars and hotels ramping up operations again as they re-opened or increased business after COVID-19 public health restrictions, including lockdowns, during the pandemic.

Construction firms looking for workers are having a hard time in many cases because those with the needed skills and experience are quite simply not where the companies want them to be.

“Increased vacancies (in the construction sector) were due in part to labour market imbalances such as shortages of specific skills or geographic mismatches between vacant positions and the workers available to fill them,” noted Statistics Canada. “Within the sector, the largest two-year increases were recorded in the economic regions of the Lower Mainland-Southwest in British Columbia … and Toronto.”

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Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.