Greater efforts required to integrate immigrants into the Quebec labour force

MONTREAL, April 7 /CNW Telbec/ - While Quebec today welcomes immigrants who are more educated, more proficient in French, and younger than was formerly the case, it struggles to integrate them into the workforce. In the context of an aging population and predicted labour shortages, this means that Quebec is not making full use of its available resources.

According to the study Immigration au Québec : Politiques et intégration au marché du travail, written by Brahim Boudarbat and Maude Boulet and published by CIRANO: "If the government of Quebec wants new Quebeckers to be fully engaged in battling this anticipated labour shortage, it should do more to promote their integration into the workforce. It must also strive to guarantee that immigrants face economic conditions that are comparable, if not superior, to those prevailing in the other provinces of Canada. Failure to do so will make it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain the most qualified and skilled immigrants."

Integration more difficult in Quebec than elsewhere

In 2006, the employment rate of immigrants was 11.4 points below that of native born Canadians living in Quebec. This gap appears to be much smaller in the rest of Canada: It was 5 percentage points in Ontario, 5.1 points in British Columbia, and 4.9 points for Canada as a whole. However, the share of the immigrant population in the total population is much higher in Ontario and British Columbia than in Quebec.

The data also indicate that there has been a reversal in the situation over the course of the past 25 years. In 2006, the employment rate of native-born Canadians living in Quebec was 82.6%, as opposed to only 71.2% for immigrants. In 1981, this was inverted: The employment rate of immigrants was higher than that of native-born Canadians living in Quebec.

"The situation of immigrants in the workforce is more problematic in Quebec than in the other provinces of Canada. Nevertheless, Quebec stands out for its hands-on involvement with immigration, giving a special urgency to understanding the reasons why Quebec is straggling," M. Boudarbat and Mme Boulet explain.

Immigrants who are educated, young, and proficient in French

The education level of Quebec's immigrants has risen astronomically in the past 20 years. The proportion of recent immigrants (aged 25 and over) to Quebec having at least a bachelor's degree rose from 15.4% in 1981 to 51% in 2006.

New immigrants to Quebec are also more fluent in French. In total, 60.4% of those who arrived in Quebec in 2008 speak French. Among the provinces examined, Quebec has the lowest proportion of immigrants unable to speak either official language at their time of arrival.

Finally, immigrants coming to Quebec also belong to the population group that is most active on the labour market. In 2008, the proportion of immigrants aged 25 to 44 years accepted in Quebec was up 10 percentage points from its 1998 level.

Several factors play a role in labour market integration

The integration of immigrants into the labour market appears highly correlated with their region of origin, where they obtained their diploma, and their age upon arrival. At nearly 19%, immigrants from North Africa and South Asia experienced the highest unemployment in Quebec in 2006. At the other extreme, those from the United States and Western Europe (including both Northern and Southern Europe) posted higher employment and lower unemployment rates than immigrants from other regions.

Immigrants to Quebec with postsecondary degrees obtained in Canada have a higher employment rate than those whose credentials are from abroad (81.7% vs. 69.1% in 2006). By way of comparison, native-born Canadians residing in Quebec having postsecondary degrees are employed at a rate of 88.0%. This is slightly higher, incidentally, than the corresponding values for Ontario and British Columbia.

Age on arrival in Quebec also appears to factor into workforce integration. Overall, immigrants who landed before the age of 20 perform better than those who arrived later in life. Globally, their employment rate is comparable to that of native-born Canadians, in Quebec as well as in Ontario and British Columbia. With regard to immigrants who arrived aged 30 or older, the gap between their employment rate and that of native-born Canadians is highest in Quebec, at 17.3 percentage points, versus only 7.8 points in Ontario, and 10.6 points in British Columbia.

"Qualified and skilled immigrants are positioned to contribute effectively and rapidly to the socioeconomic development of la Belle Province. Neglecting to act to promote this contribution from qualified workers would burden the government, and society as a whole, with the consequences of the failure to integrate immigrants," the authors conclude.

The study, entitled Immigration au Québec : Politiques et intégration au marché du travail was written by Brahim Boudarbat and Maude Boulet. It is published by the Center for Interuniversity Research and Analysis on Organizations (CIRANO). The complete text of the study will be available (in French) at

Brahim Bourdarbat is an associate professor in the industrial relations department of the Université de Montréal and an analyst at CIRANO. Maude Boulet is a doctorand in the industrial relations department of the Université de Montréal.


The Center for Interuniversity Research and Analysis on Organizations (CIRANO) is an independent, non-profit organization with a dual mission of fostering research and promoting liaisons and the transfer of state-of-the-art knowledge. Bringing together over 100 professor-researchers, CIRANO focusses its activities on five principal areas of research: public policy, experimental economics, finance, risk, and sustainable development. Thanks to its high level of expertise in these fields, CIRANO is a key institution for any firm or organization, whether private or public, that seeks to find innovative ways to improve the efficiency of its activities.

SOURCE Center for Interuniversity Research and Analysis on Organizations (CIRANO)

For further information: For further information: or to request a meeting: Mathieu Laberge, economist and project director, CIRANO, (514) 282-7630, (514) 985-4000, extension 3110,

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