British Columbia

Immigrants in B.C. earn 18% less than 3rd-generation Canadians, survey finds

Immigrants in B.C. earn less than Canadians whose parents were born in Canada and at least half struggle to find work that matches their experience and credentials, a new survey suggests.

Less than half of those surveyed said they found work to match their credentials

Half of immigrants in B.C. surveyed say they haven't found work that matches their workplace credentials and have taken lower-wage jobs. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Immigrants in B.C. earn less than Canadians whose parents were born in Canada, and at least half struggle to find work that matches their experience and credentials, a new survey suggests.

The problem is especially acute in Vancouver, where immigrants earn 18 per cent less than third-generation Canadians, compared to immigrants elsewhere in B.C. who earn nine per cent less on average, according to a joint study by Vancity Credit Union and Angus Reid.

"We know anecdotally that this is the experience of newcomers to Canada," said Catherine Ludgate, Vancity's senior manager of community investment.

"But it's so stark. To have the wage challenges run as deep as they are, that truly is shocking." 

The report casts a light on the hurdles that newcomers face in getting their foreign credentials recognized in Canada.

A 2016 report found that nearly 850,000 Canadians were unemployed or underemployed — more than 60 per cent of whom were immigrants — because their credentials were not fully recognized.

If their credentials were recognized, the group would earn up to $17 billion annually.

In B.C., only 49 per cent of newcomers found work that matched their workplace credentials, while the rest took work in junior positions or different fields entirely, according to the latest survey.

As a result, many newcomers have trouble paying off living expenses and end up amassing debt, the study says.

Other highlights include:

  • Immigrants in B.C. with manual labour jobs are five times more likely than third-generation Canadians to have university degrees.
  • The immigrant wage gap in B.C. represented $4.8 billion of unearned potential income 2016.
  • Two-thirds of respondents say it's urgent that employers treat professional foreign credentials the same as Canadians credentials.

The findings are based on two surveys conducted in January, and a third-party analysis of census data by an independent economist.

The first survey had a sample size of 400 immigrants who came to B.C. after they were 15 years old. A sample of this size has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The second survey had a sample of 800 adult residents in B.C. with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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