Report finds immigrant wage gap costing Canada $50 billion a year in GDP

The gap in median earnings is nothing new but has risen over the past three decades

The growing wage gap between immigrants and Canadian-born workers has hit a new high, with new Canadians earning 10 per cent less on average, says a new report.

The gulf, which spans age, gender, region and occupation, is costing the country $50 billion each year, according to an RBC Economics study set for release Wednesday.

The problem stems from a failure to adequately recognize credentials and work experience abroad, said Dawn Desjardins, deputy chief economist at RBC Economics.

About 38 per cent of university-educated immigrants aged 25 to 54 work at a job that fits their education level, compared with more than half of their Canadian-born counterparts.

“That means we’re not really maximizing that education, but as well we’re not necessarily maximizing the experience that some of these workers have,” Desjardins said in a phone interview.

“We’re not really correctly valuing their contribution to Canada’s economy, to the labour market. And therefore we’re leaving on the table, I would say, some of this excess return we could be accruing to the economy overall.”

More than half of the earnings gap — the shortfall is 18 per cent for immigrants aged 45 to 54 with a bachelor’s degree or higher — can be attributed to employers discounting work experience gained in other countries, she said.

The gap in median earnings is nothing new but has risen over the past three decades, climbing to 10.3 per cent in 2016 from 3.8 per cent in 1986.

The report notes that Canada remains popular among — and reliant upon — immigrants. A recent Gallup poll found that the country came second only to the U.S. as a desired destination.

“Pretty good for a country of 37 million with a long winter,” the RBC study states.

ALSO READ: With so many Irish immigrants, B.C. now home to 2nd Irish consulate

ALSO READ: Excluding non-permanent families from Canada Child Benefit unfair: report

Immigrants make up one-fifth of Canada’s population, a number that’s expected to rise to 28 per cent by 2036, according to the report, titled “Untapped Potential.”

“Canada needs to close its immigrant wage gap,” it states, arguing that doing so would boost the country’s annual GDP by as much as 2.5 per cent, or about $50 billion.

Desjardins said the federal government should upgrade its credentials assessments — a “longstanding problem” — to help employers recognize foreign work experience and devote more resources to aiding immigrants’ transition into the workforce.

The report gives a nod to government efforts to fill labour gaps with skilled immigrant workers, including the Express Entry program introduced by the federal Conservatives in 2015, expanded Provincial Nominee programs and beefed-up pre- and post-settlement services.

The earnings gap is particularly stark in manufacturing — about 23 per cent— and agriculture — roughly 16 per cent — and sits at between 10 and 15 per cent in education, law and trades.

The divide is greatest in the Prairies, with hourly wages hovering at about 20 per cent less for immigrants. It is narrowest in the Atlantic provinces, possibly due to efforts to attract a younger workforce, the report says.

In March, Ottawa announced a two-year extension of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot to facilitate hiring of skilled labour and recent graduates. “Programs like this one, that link employment to immigration from the beginning, may be a path towards faster integration and helping immigrants attain greater wage parity,” the study says.

Of 10 sectors profiled, natural and applied sciences is the only one where new Canadians made more on average than those with deeper roots in the country.

Immigrants who arrived before their 16th birthday earn five per cent more on average than workers who were born citizens.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Body found after SUV found fully engulfed in flames in Abbotsford field

Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has been called in

Advocate for the homeless receives UFV’s Young Distinguished Alumni Award

Jesse Wegenast of Chilliwack recognized for extensive community work in Abbotsford

PHOTOS: West Coast Christmas Show and Artisan Market at Tradex

Over the past 11 years the show has been attended by over 175,000 visitors

Man stabbed in Abbotsford during altercation in restaurant parking lot

Victim taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries Friday afternoon

Pilot Sonya Sangster receives UFV Distinguished Alumni Award

Former grad flies planes and works in international development

Teen with cancer whose viral video urged Canadians to vote has died, uncle tweets

Maddison Yetman had been looking forward to voting in her first federal election since junior high school

Security camera records hatchet attack on Langley store owner

Target escaped uninjured, but was ‘upset’ by incident

PHOTOS: Snoozing seal pup captures attention at White Rock Pier

Dozens of seals spent the day at White Rock’s iconic structure

VIDEO: Collision in Surrey breaks axle off SUV

Two people were reportedly sent to hospital

Rowing Canada, UVic investigate celebrated coach for harassment, abuse

Lily Copeland says she felt intimidated and trapped by Williams

Cleanup in the works after tanker truck fire leads to oil spill in B.C.’s Peace region

The province said the majority of the spilled oil likely burned away in the fire.

BC VIEWS: Action needed on healthcare workplace violence

While we’ve been talking about it, the number of B.C. victims has only grown

VIDEO: Vancouver Giants blank Cougars 4-0

Goaltender David Tendeck turned aside all 38 Prince George shots for his WHL-leading third shutout

Most Read