Much of Canada’s conversation around refugees has focused on the assumed cost of the initiative such as the most common misconceptions surrounding the assistance refugees receive, and what they’re required to repay once they arrive in Canada. The other side of the equation is interesting to note: how refugees fare in the years and decades following their arrival.
Statistics Canada data shows how swiftly refugees and immigrants start working and earning once they become permanent residents. The figures also indicate the way entry to Canada can influence financial trajectory afterward. Within five years, 57 per cent of government-assisted refugees, 65 per cent of refugees who claim asylum once they’re in Canada and 70 per cent of privately sponsored refugees reported employment income.
And the percentage of refugees earning employment income rises the longer they’re in Canada. At the same time, newcomers’ reliance on government assistance decreases the longer they’re in Canada. There’s one significant exception, however: “Business class” or “investor” immigrants who’d been in Canada 20 years reported the lowest employment income of any immigrant category in 2013.
According to University of Ottawa professor Ravi Pendakur, “One thing that, at least in the past, that Canada has done really well is bring in a wide variety of people — different educations, different knowledge sets — and, by and large, people have done well.”
Regardless of country of origin, research shows that people with connections do better, professionally. Jennifer Hyndman, director of York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies says privately sponsored refugees tend to out-earn their government-sponsored counterparts, in part because their sponsors help ease their transition into Canadian life.
However, those who claim asylum once they’ve arrived in Canada also tend to do well. That could be because they have the resources to make it to Canada on their own to begin with, Hyndman said.
Disparities between immigrant and refugee categories show the importance of linking government-assisted refugees with social and professional networks in their new communities. Government-assisted refugees are faced with “the greatest number of obstacles,” Hyndman said.
The figures indicate Canadian newcomers of all backgrounds have been astonishingly resilient when it comes to putting down roots and in 2002 Canada implemented a new policy that made it easier for impoverished refugees to settle in Canada.
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