How immigration has benefitted Canadian sectors

Julia Hornstein
Published: November 12, 2023

Canadian immigration is vital to Canada’s future. With a low birth rate and an aging population, Canada needs immigrants to fill gaps in the labour market and promote labour force growth.

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According to Statistics Canada, immigrants make important contributions across every sector of Canada’s economy. As of May 2021, immigrants aged 25 to 54 represented:

  • over 36% of people working in accommodation and food services
  • nearly 38% of those working in the transportation and warehousing sector
  • over 34% of those working in professional, scientific and technical services
  • over 20% of those working in construction

Further, immigrants have impacted a variety of sectors like healthcare, business, arts and culture, science and technology and the food service sector. This article will provide an overview the impact of immigrants on each sector, based on the Statistics Canada data.

Healthcare sector

More than 1.6 million people work in Canada’s healthcare sector. Almost half a million of these workers are over the age of 55, and most of these individuals will be retiring in the next decade. In addition, there are recruiting challenges across Canada to find nurses, residential care staff and home health care staff. Therefore, there is a clear opportunity for immigrants to play a vital role in ensuring there are enough people working in the sector.

Immigrants account for 1 out of every 4 healthcare sector workers. In Canada, immigrants make up:

  • 23% of registered nurses
  • 35% of nurse aides and related occupations
  • 37% of pharmacists
  • 36% of physicians
  • 39% of dentists
  • 54% of dental technologists and related occupations

Business sector

In general, Canada’s business sector employs more than 12 million people. More than 2.7 million Canadians are self-employed while over 800,000 of them have paid employees. Entrepreneurs are an important part of the business sector and the Canadian economy as a whole, and immigrant entrepreneurs and business leaders play an important role in Canada having a growing and successful economy.

Immigrants account for 33% of all business owners with paid staff, creating local jobs in all sectors of the Canadian economy such as construction, professional services, healthcare and retail trade.

There are more than 600,000 self-employed immigrants across the country, and over 260,000 of them have paid employees.

In addition, more than 47,000 immigrants work in senior management roles across the country, including:

  • over 15,000 in finance, communications, and business services sectors
  • 12,000 in trade, broadcasting and other services, and
  • more than 12,000 in construction, transportation, production and utilities

The percentage of business owners (self-employed persons with paid staff) who are immigrants, by sector:

  • Software publishers: 30%
  • Dentists’ offices: 36%
  • Data processing, hosting and services: 40%
  • Restaurants: 50%
  • Computer systems design and services: 51%
  • Grocery stores: 53%
  • Truck transportation: 56%

Arts and culture

Canada has a vibrant arts and culture sector, and immigrants play an important role in the growth of this industry, as there are more than 80,000 immigrants working in professional and technical occupations within arts and culture across the country.

For instance, 1 in 4 people employed as an artisan or craftsperson in Canada is an immigrant.

Over a quarter of theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers are immigrants (26% of the total). In addition, 29% of independent artists, writers and performers are immigrants.

Across the country, there are more than 3,000 businesses (defined as self-employed persons with paid employees) in the arts and culture sector owned by immigrants.

Science and technology

Canada attracts talent from around the world to work in and grow the science and technology sector. There is currently a need for more technology workers, and immigrants use that as an opportunity to make their mark in the industry. Specifically, 34% of people working in scientific research and development services across Canada are foreign-born.

In addition, nearly 500,000 immigrants working in Canada are trained in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Immigrants also represent 24% of the national workforce, but account for 39% of computer programmers, 41% of engineers and more than 50% of all chemists.

Further, international students represent 12% of students in the country’s post-secondary education system but account for 27% of all students enrolled in mathematics, computer, and information sciences programs. International students make up 9% of all students in architecture, engineering and related programs.

Many international students enrolled in STEM fields will stay and build their careers in Canada, enhancing the country’s capacity for innovation.

Food services

The food sector is one of the top employers in the country. There are 1.16 million employees in the sector. However, as of September 2019, more than 67,000 jobs were unfilled in the food services sector, more than any other main sector of the Canadian economy.

More than 1 out of every 4 workers in the food and beverage sector are immigrants.

The food and beverage sector employed 11% of all working immigrants who arrived in Canada between 2011 and 2016, making it the top employer of recent immigrants at the time.

Across the country, immigrants make up more than half (53%) of all business owners with paid staff in the food and beverage sector.

In addition, new immigrants are helping to grow the food services sector. In 2016, more than 3,200 recent immigrants across the country owned a food or beverage business.

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