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Study: Labour market outcomes of immigrant women who arrive as dependants of economic immigrant principal applicants

Released: 2017-02-27

The points-based selection of immigrants has implications for the characteristics of immigrant couples who are admitted to Canada and for the subsequent labour market outcomes of immigrant families. For example, immigrant women who arrived as accompanying spouses of economic immigrant principal applicants were better educated, and more likely to know English or French, be employed after landing, and have higher earnings than women who arrived as family-class immigrants.

A new study, "Labour Market Outcomes of Immigrant Women Who Arrive as Dependants of Economic Immigrant Principal Applicants", compares the characteristics and labour market outcomes of immigrant women who arrived in Canada as the spouse of an economic immigrant principal applicant or as a family-class immigrant.

Points-based selection of economic immigrants directly selects principal applicants based on their potential ability to integrate into the Canadian labour market, including education level and official languages ability. When these principal applicants are married or in a common-law relationship, their spouse or partner often has similar characteristics. For example, among married, university-educated men who were economic immigrant principal applicants, over 70% had a university-educated spouse.

In the sample of adult immigrants who landed in Canada between 1990 and 2009, 54% of all women who arrived as economic immigrant spouses had a university degree at the time of landing, compared with about 30% of married or common-law women who arrived in the family class. Around 70% of the economic immigrant spouses knew at least one official language at the time of landing, compared with about 61% of women in the family class. The spouses of economic immigrants were also older than their counterparts in the family class.

Differences in characteristics at landing persisted with time spent in Canada and were reflected in labour market outcomes. Nearly 74% of economic immigrant female spouses were employed in 2010, 8 percentage points higher than women who arrived in the family class. Similarly, economic immigrant female spouses earned, on average, $829 a week in 2010, compared with $742 among women who arrived in the family class.

Canada at 150: A historical perspective on young immigrant wives

Changing norms regarding age at first marriage are evident in Canadian immigration throughout the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries. Data from Immigration, Citizenship, and Refugees Canada's immigrant landing file suggest that in recent years, less than 2% of men and about 3% of women who arrived in Canada between the ages of 15 and 19 were married at the time of arrival. This was not always the case.

In most years from 1933 to 1976—years for which archival data are available—at least 15% of women who immigrated between the ages of 15 and 19 were already married when they arrived in Canada. This share spiked to just over 70% in 1945 and 1946, when over 4,300 married women aged 15 to 19 immigrated to this country. The 1960s and 1970s also saw the arrival of many young brides in Canada, with about 20% to 25% of young women being married by the time they arrived in Canada.

The share of young men who were married at the time of immigration remained low at less than 2% in each year between 1933 and 1976, and throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Immigrants aged 15 to 19 at landing – Percent who were married at landing, by sex and selected years
Immigrants aged 15 to 19 at landing – Percent who were married at landing, by sex and selected years

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The research paper "Labour Market Outcomes of Immigrant Women Who Arrive as Dependants of Economic Immigrant Principal Applicants," part of the Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series (Catalogue number11F0019M), is now available.

Contact information

For more information contact Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Aneta Bonikowska (613-864-0571; aneta.bonikowska@canada.ca), Social Analysis and Modelling Division.

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