Immigrants bypassing Toronto to follow money West, study finds
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
September 4, 2008 at 4:50 AM EDT
A new study shows immigrants earn more money in Calgary, Regina and Saskatoon than they do in Toronto, a significant trend that could help explain why the city's share of immigrants is steadily declining.
While Toronto remains overwhelmingly the dominant hub for newcomers, its proportion of Canada's total annual immigrant intake dropped to nearly one-third in 2007 from half in 2001. In contrast, the numbers settling in western cities such as Calgary, Edmonton, Regina and Saskatoon have increased every year in the past five years.
"This represents a significant shift in immigration patterns," said Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies, which released the study on immigrant family income this week.
"We think of Alberta and Saskatchewan as a place for internal migration, but now the West is drawing immigrants as well."
Immigrants often settle where family members live, but are also drawn by economic opportunities. The oil and natural-gas booms in Alberta and Saskatchewan have led to huge labour demands and a rise in wages as business owners struggle to fill jobs.
In 2005, the average annual income for an immigrant family in Calgary was $102,118, which is $33,000 more than in Montreal, $22,000 more than in Vancouver and $12,000 more than in Toronto, according to the census data analyzed in Mr. Jedwab's paper.
The average income was $92,932 in Regina and $91,356 in Saskatoon. Between 2001 and 2005, Saskatchewan moved from the bottom three provinces to the top three in terms of average income for immigrant families, behind Alberta and Ontario.
The wage differential between non-immigrant families in Toronto - who earned on average $139,926 a year - and those born elsewhere was 55 per cent. In contrast, the gap narrows to 33 per cent in Calgary, where non-immigrant families earn on average $136,380, and 19 per cent in Edmonton.
In Regina and Saskatoon, non-immigrant families actually earn 1 per cent less on average than their immigrant counterparts. The income gap reflects social mobility. "People are asking the question, 'How am I doing as an individual, and how am I doing compared to others?' " Mr. Jedwab said.
For his study on family incomes, all foreign-born Canadians were considered immigrants. But more recent cohorts of arrivals show a similar trend. Their wages are substantially lower than for the overall immigrant population; however, they still fare much better economically in the West, as well as in some smaller Ontario cities such as Oshawa and Ottawa, than in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
For example, the average annual income for an immigrant family who settled in Calgary between 2001 and 2005 was $69,148. The only city where they earned more money was Sudbury, while in Toronto, the average annual family income was $57,239; in Vancouver $53,028; and in Montreal $45,435.
Ottawa's goal has always been to disperse immigrants more evenly across the country and avoid concentrating too many new arrivals in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. In 2007, cities outside the "MTV" received nearly one in three of Canada's total 236,000 newcomers.
This trend is healthy, said Myer Siemiatycki, a Ryerson University professor of immigration and settlement studies, although he noted that Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver still receive the lion's share of immigrants and Montreal has actually increased its share.
Well-educated newcomers may be faring better in smaller cities such as Regina because there is less competition for high-paying jobs. "Saskatchewan traditionally had problems attracting high-end talent," Prof. Siemiatycki noted.
As well, the economy is not as robust and dynamic in Toronto and Montreal as it has been in Alberta and, more recently, in Saskatchewan.
Ratna Omidvar, executive director of the Maytree Foundation, a charity that aims to reduce poverty and inequality in Canada, said Toronto is still a huge draw, as are surrounding cities such as Brampton and Mississauga.
"For sure, there are fewer immigrants coming to Toronto, but they are going to the outlying suburbs comprising the city region," she said.
Where new immigrants are finding work and putting down roots in Canadian cities.
The number of foreign permanent residents is rising in these communities:
...while declining in these cities
SOURCE: SHIFTING PATTERNS OF IMMIGRATION IN CANADA'S URBAN CENTRES BY JACK JEDWAB