Who are Recent Immigrants and What are their Economic Activities: An Analysis of Socio-Demographic Profiles and Economic Activities Across Immigration Categories

Policy and debates around immigration over the last two decades have focused on immigrants’ capacity to make meaningful contributions to the Canadian economy. This paper uses the Longitudinal Immigrant Data Base (IMDB) to analyze the economic outcomes of five cohorts of economic and family sponsored immigrants to Canada and Nova Scotia between 1990-1994 and 2010-2012. We specifically examine how economic and non-economic category immigrants fare in terms of economic outcomes and what are their rates of employment and average earnings.

Analyses show that family sponsored immigrants achieve meaningful economic outcomes and at times even outperform economic principal applicants. Nationally, economic principal applicants have the highest rate of holding jobs compared to other categories of immigrants. Interestingly, family sponsored spouses and partners have higher rates of labour market participation than spouses and partners coming under the economic stream. Here there appears to be a gap in the economic outcomes of economic stream spouses and partners.

In Nova Scotia, family sponsored spouses and partners had higher rates of employment than economic principal applicants, until the 2010-2012 cohort. We also find that rates of employment for economic principal applicants are lower than the national trend, but over time this improves and even exceeds the rate for Canada as a whole.

With respect to earnings, economic principal applicants have higher earnings than immigrants from other immigration categories. Again we find that family sponsored spouses and partners earn more than spouses and partners coming under the economic stream. When Nova Scotia is examined, we find that both economic principal applicants and family sponsored spouses and partners earn more on average than immigrants of the same categories nationally.

Overall, our analysis shows that policy makers should not under-estimate sponsored family immigrants. They clearly gain employment and substantial earnings and, in the case of spouses and partners, those coming under family streams do better than those coming with economic principal applicants. Our analysis also shows that family sponsored immigrants fare well and, at times, better than economic immigrants in a region that has low immigration, economic struggles, and high out migration. It is time for policy makers to think outside of the econocentric box that has yielded most immigration policy decisions over the last decade.