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Study Finds Skilled Immigrants are Highest Earners Among Newcomers to Canada

According to a recent Queen’s University study examining immigrant earnings in different admission categories, skill-assessed economic immigrants had consistently and substantially the highest annual earnings levels in their first ten years after landing, whereas family class immigrants or refugees generally had the lowest.

Entitled “Immigrant Earnings Difference Across Admission Categories and Landing Cohorts”, the study examined the annual earnings outcomes of immigrants in four major admission categories (skill-assessed independent economic principal applicants, accompanying economic immigrants, family class immigrants, and refugees) and for three different admission years (1982, 1988 and 1994) over the first ten years of their arriving in Canada as permanent residents.

The study showed that, across the three arrival years studied, the ten-year average median earnings levels of skill-assessed economic immigrants exceeded those for all immigrants by 30-37 percent for men and by 39-56 percent for women. Family class immigrants or refugees, on the other hand, generally had the lowest earnings levels over their first ten years in Canada.

The study also found sizeable differences in earnings growth rates across the four admission categories: refugees showed substantially the highest earnings growth rates post-landing for both males and females in all three arrival years, while independent economic and family class immigrants had the lowest earnings growth rates.

A third finding was that economic recessions had major negative effects on immigrants’ earnings levels and earnings growth rates, particularly for male immigrants. Thus earnings growth rates for immigrants in all four admission categories were generally lowest for the group that arrived in 1988 — which encountered the early 1990s recession soon after landing in Canada—and highest for the 1994 arrival group — which experienced more favourable economic conditions over its first ten years in Canada.

The study’s authors suggest that, based on their findings, Canada should continue to place heavy weight on skill-assessed immigrants and not reduce the proportion of new immigrants in this category in relation to other categories. Further, given the adverse effects of economic recessions on immigrant earnings levels, thought should be given to ways to reduce total immigrant admission levels when the country experiences severe recessions.