The work and expertise that OLIP brings to our community is so important as it helps us to build bridges and break down silos.  I look forward to our continued work together. 

Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa
In our city’s history, immigrants have always played an important role. They build our economic prosperity, diversify our culture, contribute to our social vitality.

Jim Watson
Mayor of Ottawa
All the WOW events that I went to were great – WOW does give a sense of a community trying to improve its attraction and retention!

Caroline Andrew
Professor, University of Ottawa
Canada has been shaped by people who came from all over the world to build this country. WOW offers a platform for us to celebrate this history and the future it will help…

Alex Munter, Chair of the OLIP Council and President and CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre
The OLIP Council is committed to leadership.  In only a few years, we have a common vision and priorities, and are up to the task of implementing the Ottawa Immigration Strategy.

Salimatou Diallo
OLIP Council Vice Chair, Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario
The Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre is so happy to have joined the OLIP Health and Wellbeing Sector Table. It is clear that OLIP cares about immigrants and refugees and…

Wendy Tang, Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre
The WOW seminar on immigrant women’s nutrition and health was a step in the right direction towards closing the gap between academic researchers and service providers.

Josephine Etowa
Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of Ottawa
I’m really impressed with the level of energy and commitment around the Health and Wellbeing table and look forward to continuing collaboration between OLIP and OPH.

Marcela Tapia
Ottawa Public Health
I was happy to see integration to Algonquin territory and indigenous culture related programming in 2014 WOW. Please continue to involve local Aboriginal organisations and…

Linda Manning
WOW 2014 participant, Senior Fellow, University of Ottawa
OLIP helps to unite and share scarce resources for greater impact by working together in the field of student education.

Walter Piovesan
Associate Director of Education, Ottawa Carleton District School Board

Barrier to Employment for Immigrants

June 2, 2021

By Bolanle Alake-Apata

Canadian immigrants face a lot of barriers and challenges, not only in entering the labour market, but also in advancing their careers at the same pace as individuals born in Canada. At every level of education, immigrants tend to have higher unemployment rates compared to those born in Canada.  Similarly, previous research has also identified an earnings gap between international and Canadian students in the year following graduation from university. Given these known issues, there is a concern that the pandemic could have an outsized impact on the labour market outcomes of immigrants. As such, this article examines the employment rate of immigrants before and during the pandemic. However, due to the lack of publicly available labour market information (LMI) on diverse groups of immigrants (i.e., non-permanent residents), the analysis focuses only on landed immigrants.

Box of chocolates: good and bad news

We use data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) that identifies landed immigrants (i.e., individuals granted permanent resident status) and those born in Canada. These categories exclude Canadian citizens born abroad and non-permanent residents, such as international students and temporary workers. Using the three-month moving average from the LFS, we find that the employment rate for individuals born in Canada has typically been higher than that for landed immigrants. However, in recent years, the gap in employment has been shrinking and even closed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (see Figure 1). In April 2006, landed immigrants’ employment rate was 57%, while the rate for individuals born in Canada was significantly higher at 63%. By April 2019, the gap had closed: the employment rate for landed immigrants increased to 61% and decreased for those born in Canada to 61%.  A possible reason for this is that the age profile of Canadian-born workers is skewed towards older workers as compared to landed immigrants.

Between April 2019 and April 2020, both groups experienced a sharp drop in employment. Employment among immigrants had fallen by 8% at the start of the pandemic compared to the prior year and fell 6% for Canadian-born workers. This employment loss translated to an employment rate of about 53% for landed immigrants and 55% for those born in Canada in the three months up to April 2020.

As the economy began to recover, landed immigrants and those born in Canada both returned to work. Between April 2020 to April 2021, employment recovered at a slower pace for immigrants than others. By April 2021, immigrants’ employment had returned to a rate equal to Canadian born individuals, at 59%. However, the twelve months of lower employment for immigrants means they are likely to suffer larger labour scarring effects, meaning longer-term consequences to career development due to extended periods of joblessness.

Employment rate trends for landed immigrants versus Canadian-born individuals (April 2006-2021). Source: LMIC; Statistics Canada. Three-month moving average, unadjusted for seasonality. Table 14-100-082-01.


Way forward

The Labour Market Information Council’s (LMIC) public opinion survey research identified the top employment barriers for unemployed recent immigrants. The lack of Canadian work experience was the top barrier, followed by lack of professional contacts and lack of Canadian education. Addressing these barriers by providing a variety of support programs could help improve the labour market outcomes of immigrants. LMIC will continue to work with the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP) group, and other stakeholders, to report on the labour market outcomes and employment barriers of immigrants and other under-represented groups.

Bolanle Alake-Apata is an Economist with Labour Market Information Council.