Although their earnings have fallen by 21.1% since 1980, recent immigrant1 families and individuals still earned a similar or higher proportion of their 2005 income from employment, compared with people born in Canada.
In 2005, recent immigrant couples with children received 83.6% of their total income from employment, compared with 87.8% for their Canadian-born counterparts. These proportions were close, even though the immigrant couples earned 46.1% less than the Canadian-born from their jobs. Among lone parents, the proportion of income from earnings was very similar for recent immigrants and other Canadians.
Earnings were particularly important for recently immigrated seniors, compared with seniors who immigrated earlier and their Canadian-born counterparts. Among senior couples, recent immigrants relied on earnings for 53.2% of their 2005 income, compared with 15.2% for the Canadian-born. Earnings were somewhat less prominent for senior non-family persons who had recently immigrated, but the proportion was still more than double that for their Canadian-born counterparts.
Old Age Security Pension benefits are based on length of residency in Canada. Canada and Quebec Pension Plan benefits are based on contribution history. In both cases, those who immigrate later in life will have little or no access to these programs, and so, rely relatively more on earnings.
Other types of government transfers have increased in importance for recent immigrants as their earnings have declined. Since 1980, the proportion of income coming from government transfers doubled for recent immigrant families with children and more than doubled among non-senior individuals.
Recent immigrant families received a somewhat higher proportion of their income from government transfer payments compared to others, but it is important to remember that their total income was much lower. So, in absolute dollars, recent immigrant families received lower government transfer payments than their counterparts in every family type, except couples with children.
Among non-family persons, recent immigrants received less from government transfers than did other Canadians, both in proportionate and absolute terms.