METRO VANCOUVER: Chinese immigrants likely to report low incomes
A recent federal government analysis found immigrants from China, Taiwan and South Korea reported among the lowest incomes in Canada.
While this may appear to be at odds with examples of wealthy Chinese snapping up Vancouver mansions, the 2014 Citizenship and Immigration Canada report also said that immigrants from these countries were less likely to claim social assistance than average Canadians. This may be because immigrants from the East Asian countries tend to represent business-class investors who own significant unreported assets and might be “strategic” in reporting their income, said the report.
The report, which linked 2011 census data on income to country of birth, was obtained by Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland though an access to information request.
The findings come as no surprise to David Ley, a University of B.C. geography professor and author of the book Millionaire Migrants. The analysis, he said, is one of several by the federal government which found that people arriving on the immigrant investor visa tended not to be economically successful in Canada and that the economic growth the visa was intended to generate in Canada was not happening. This analysis and others like it are the reason the federal government first cancelled and then dramatically limited the program last year, he said.
Immigrants who reported higher incomes shared a number of characteristics, the report said. They were the immigrants who had been here longest, arriving before 1991, and they tended to be from countries with a longer history of immigration to Canada. Immigrants from these countries outperformed their Canadian-born counterparts in that they were less likely to report low incomes.
They were also more likely to be seniors in 2010, the year the data was collected. This may be because seniors had generally been in Canada the longest, arriving as working-age adults who were employed here long enough to pay into public and private pension plans, which act as a buffer against low income, the report noted.
Immigrants who lived outside large cities were less likely to report low incomes, in part because money tends to go further outside urban areas, but also because cities typically attract the more recent arrivals. Those who did move to the cities reported doing so mainly to join family and friends, while those who moved to smaller towns were more likely to say a job was their primary motivation.
The people an immigrant lives with also affect their income level. Those living with non-immigrants who were employed were less likely to report low incomes.
By contrast, immigrants who reported low incomes were more likely to have arrived within the previous five years and come from countries with a much shorter history of immigration to Canada. They are more likely to be working-age adults with a high school diploma or less, live in a big city and have a limited ability to communicate in English or French. They were less likely to live with a non-immigrant, less likely to be employed and more likely to be refugees.
The report also identified pockets of low-income immigrants with college and university educations, often obtained from institutions outside North America and Western Europe.