Polarity: Growing Poverty and Wealth Among Newcomers in Canada


More than 36% of immigrants who have been in the country for less than 5 years live in poverty. This rate has increased from the 25% recorded in the 1980s. This issue may stem from credential recognition. Canadian immigration policy has been geared towards skilled and educated immigrants in order to increase the chances that immigrants to Canada will be economically successful upon their arrival and will help stimulate the economy. Despite this, problems arise when the credentials of highly-skilled and educated Canadian immigrants are not recognized.

There is also the growing concern that more native born Canadians will view the steady flow of immigrants as an impediment to their likelihood of getting a good job and salary. Canada’s high immigration rates are twice larger than the per capita rates of the US, leading many Canadians to believe that too many immigrants are allowed into their country.

However, three economists have made the argument that Canada’s more open policy toward immigration actually generates a net benefit for its domestic citizens. They propose that, in the long-run, immigrants are the cause of a slight net increase in the per capita income of the average Canadian.

The scholars’ analysis about immigration poverty rates places newcomers into two polar categories. The first includes immigrants who struggle economically and financially, which can eventually lead to higher incidences of poverty. The other category portrays the opposite, where newcomers build themselves up and become very well-off.

Two Canadian Labour Market Reports demonstrated findings of increasing levels of poverty among immigrants, especially among older immigrants. Similarly the Bank of Montreal survey found that 48% of the country’s millionaires have either immigrated to Canada, or have one parent who was an immigrant. “High-net-worth” British Columbians are individuals with investable assets of $1 million or more. Among these individuals 68% are first or second-generation immigrants, which is the highest rate in the country.

Some believe the Federal government is allowing too many people to immigrate to Canada who will not be able to make ends meet. Another Labour Market Study indicated that immigrants who arrive after 50 years of age struggle more in the Canadian labour market than younger immigrants or native-born Canadians of the same age. According to economists Ted McDonald of the University of New Brunswick and Christopher Worswick of Carlton University, older immigrants have great difficulty when trying to get their credentials recognized and developing a private or public pension plan. For this reason, many older immigrants end up working well past the normal age of retirement.

FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration, follow FWCanada on FacebookTwitter, and Linkedin.

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