Economic lockdowns in response to the Covid-19 pandemic disproportionately affected the immigrant population and disrupted their finances more than the Canadian-born population, a Statistics Canada report said.
More than 8.3 million people, or almost a quarter of the population, were, or had ever been, a landed immigrant or permanent resident in Canada in 2021.
From 2016 to 2021, immigrants contributed to four-fifths of labour force growth in Canada, but when the pandemic first hit, recent immigrants were more likely to transition out of employment than their Canadian-born counterparts due to lockdowns.
This is because Canadian immigrants held more short-tenure and low-wage jobs, such as those in the food and accommodation services industry, the report said.
During the widespread lockdown of economic activities in March and April 2020, the Canadian labour market lost 3 million jobs.
In a 2020 Statistics Canada study, 31 per cent of employed recent immigrants in February 2020 had worked in their positions for less than a year. Additionally, 22 per cent 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).
With lockdowns severely affecting low-wage and short-tenured jobs, immigrants were more likely to apply for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in 2020.
Of all workers who earned at least $5,000 in 2019 and who were in the bottom 10 per cent of the employment income distribution, more than half (55.3 per cent) received CERB payments in 2020, according to a recent Labour Force Survey data.
The report noted that in tax year 2020, the median entry wage of immigrants admitted in 2019 was $30,000, which was 6.5 per cent lower than the median entry wage of the 2018 admission cohort in tax year 2019 ($32,100).
This decrease was observed in all provinces and territories except Manitoba and Prince Edward Island.Interestingly, immigrant women admitted in 2019 experienced greater challenges than both immigrant men counterparts and Canadian women.
The median entry wage of immigrant women fell by 11.1 per cent from $26,100 in 2019 to $23,200 in 2020. 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 (from $33,840 to $33,830) during the same period.
However, certain categories of immigrants, like economic principal applicants, had less of a struggle than others.
The economic principal applicants are admitted based on their skills, professional experience, and an ability to contribute to Canada’s economy.
In 2020, the median wage of economic principal applicants not only remained the highest, but also extended the upward trend with a 3.8 per cent increase from the previous year (from $52,800 to $54,800), according to Statistics Canada,
In terms of knowledge of official languages, the report noted that from 2019 to 2020, immigrants who knew both English and French were the only group that saw an increase in median entry wage (+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 median entry wage.
The median entry wage of immigrants with a study permit was $13,200 in 2020, down from $15,300 in 2019.
“Immigrants without pre-admission experience saw a larger decline in their median entry wage relative to the previous admission cohort than those who had study or work permits in Canada,” the report said.
The report noted that as the economy began to recover, employment had returned to the pre-pandemic level by the end of 2021.
Between 2020 and 2021, the employment rate of Canadian-born workers increased by 2.2 per cent, while the rate of employment went up by 4.8 per cent for immigrants of 10 years or less.
Also, in the same period, the employment rates of recent immigrants rebounded faster than for Canadian-born workers.