Quebec is getting better at integrating immigrants into labour market, study finds

Quebec has seen improvements when it comes to the retention and employment, but still lags behind Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, according to a new study that comes amid heated debate over immigration in the election campaign.

New study shows unemployment numbers down, but retention still lags behind Ontario, B.C., Alberta

The unemployment rate among immigrants between the age of 25 and 54 dropped to 8.7 per cent last year, compared with rates ranging between 10 and 13 per cent in the decade prior. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec has seen improvements when it comes to the employment of new immigrants, but the province still lags behind Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta when it comes to keeping them in the province, according to a new study.

The study, published by l'Institut du Québec, comes in the midst of the provincial election campaign where immigration has emerged as a key issue.

It found that the unemployment rate among immigrants between the age of 25 and 54 dropped to six per cent in August, down from 8.1 per cent in January and 8.7 per cent last year. A decade ago, those rates ranged between 10 and 13 per cent.

"Since 2018, the main challenge facing Quebec is decreasing," said Mia Homsy, director of the institute, a public policy think tank, and a former economic advisor to the Liberals.

Trailing Ontario

According to the study, 84.3 per cent of Quebec immigrants stay in the province after five years.

After 10 years, that number drops to 81.8 per cent. In terms of retention, Quebec ranks below Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta but is ahead of the Atlantic provinces, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

If Quebec had the same retention rate as Ontario in 2015 (90.7 per cent of immigrants were still in the province five years after arriving), it would mean an additional 2,500 people in the province. 

CAQ Leader Francois Legault, left, looks on as Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard speaks during their English debate Monday. (Allan McInnis/Canadian Press)

One thing that hasn't changed is the province's difficulties in attracting immigrants to the regions outside Montreal. Roughly 85 per cent settle in the wider Montreal area, along with 5.4 per cent in the area in and around Quebec City.

That means less than 10 per cent of new arrivals settle in the regions outside Montreal, where the labour shortage is seen most acutely.

François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec, which is leading in the polls, is proposing to cut the number of immigrants by more than 20 per cent, to 40,000 a year, and to impose French-language and values tests on new arrivals.

He says the province needs to do a better job at ensuring immigrants are integrated and working before bringing in more people.

Liberal Leader Phillippe Couillard said during Monday's debate that the CAQ's policy is "not acceptable." Given the province's labour shortage, he said the province cannot afford to reduce the number of new arrivals. 

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With files from Radio-Canada's Kim Vermette