The majority of refugees arrive in Canada with limited financial resources and face the daunting task of mastering a new language and adapting to a new culture. Yet, these hurdles don't hold them back. Instead, the results clearly demonstrate that refugees do not just benefit from the safety and security offered by Canada. They wholeheartedly seize the opportunities to create a brighter future for themselves and, in the process, emerge as valuable contributors to both the Canadian economy and its rich cultural diversity.
Canada has a long-standing tradition of embracing refugees, extending open arms to over 1,088,015 of them since 1980.
This includes those who were officially recognized as refugees within Canada and those who were resettled from other parts of the world. Refugees find their way to Canada through two primary avenues. Firstly, they may seek asylum either at the Canadian border or from within the country, and then be determined as refugees by the authorities. Second, they may be chosen from abroad to participate in one of Canada's resettlement programs, including the Government-Assisted Refugees program, the Private Sponsorship of Refugees program, or the Blended Visa Office-Referred program.
Refugees and Canadians have pretty similar rates of unemployment.
This means that refugees are not a financial burden on Canadian taxpayers because most of them are gainfully employed. The unemployment rate for refugees between the ages of 25 to 54 is around 9%, not far off from the rate among Canadians born in the country, which stands at 6%. The longer refugees stay in Canada, the better their job prospects become. For instance, refugees who came to Canada between 1981 and 1990 have an unemployment rate of 6%, which is the same as those who were born in Canada.
Refugees make remarkable economic strides and integrate into Canada's middle-class within five years of their arrival.
One in four refugees earns an annual income ranging from $40,000 to $79,999, a pattern that closely mirrors income statistics for those born in Canada. Upon their initial year in Canada, refugees who arrived as adults typically generate an average employment income of $20,000, which, while less than half of the Canadian average, shows a consistent upward trajectory in annual earnings. Additionally, data from the 2014 tax year highlights that a significant percentage of refugees residing in Canada for at least five years attain middle-class incomes, with nearly 23% earning between $40,000 and $79,999 annually, similar to the proportions observed among Canadian citizens (27%) and the broader immigrant community (24%) who also achieve middle-class financial status.
Canada's support for refugees turns out to be a smart investment. After living in Canada for 20 years, refugees end up contributing more in income taxes - not counting all of the other tax they pay - than the value of public benefits and services they receive.
It's worth mentioning that this calculation only considers income taxes, not other types like sales taxes.Furthermore, as they settle into Canadian life, they close the financial gap between income tax and public benefits and service more and more, demonstrating their growing financial stability in the country.
Refugees bring their skills to a wide range of professions, from management to trade positions. In fact, around half of working refugees (51%) are in high-skilled roles, such as doctors, dentists, architects, service managers, and software engineers.
In 2016, about 33% of refugees held jobs that demanded a high school education or specific training, including roles like truck drivers, food servers, and industrial butchers. Moreover, approximately one-fifth of refugees were employed in professional fields requiring a university degree, such as doctors, dentists, and architects.
Refugees play a vital role in job creation, for both themselves and Canadians.
A significant 14.4% of refugees are self-employed or run their own businesses. When we include both self-employed individuals and business owners, we find that 14.4% of refugees who have lived in Canada for 10 to 30 years are entrepreneurs, compared to 12.3% of Canadians. Refugees leverage their diverse skills and talents to launch businesses, contributing to job opportunities for both themselves and Canadians.
Canada has an increasingly aging population and a growing need for younger individuals.
Refugees often arrive in Canada at a younger age, with many productive years ahead. In recent years, Canada's population has aged significantly, with the average age rising from 37.7 in 2001 to 41.0 in 2016. Refugees, on the other hand, are typically around 11.1 years younger than those born in Canada, making them more likely to be in the working-age group. As of 2016, the average age of a refugee in Canada was approximately 28.9 years, highlighting their potential to contribute to the workforce and help address the challenges posed by an aging population.
Many refugees choose to settle down in smaller Canadian cities and towns, not just in major urban centers.
They have established new lives in every corner of the country, from as far north as Whitehorse, Yukon, to the easternmost reaches of St. John's, Newfoundland, and as far west as Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Recent census data indicate that newcomers, particularly refugees, exhibit a strong tendency to settle in various regions of the country. Among refugees who arrived between 2011 and 2016, 48% have chosen to reside in smaller cities and towns, in comparison to 44% of all immigrants. This highlights the diverse and widespread settlement patterns of refugees across Canada.
In Canada, two out of three refugees realize their dream of becoming homeowners within a decade of their arrival.
This data is derived from the 2013 General Social Survey conducted by Statistics Canada and presented in Carla Painter's research at the 2015 CARFMS Conference. Owning a home reflects not only a household's financial well-being but also a family's commitment to a community. Despite facing initial financial constraints, 65% of refugee families who have resided in Canada for ten years or more have accomplished the feat of home ownership, although this percentage is slightly lower than the 79% of Canadian-born citizens who own their homes. Moreover, approximately one-third of refugee families manage to purchase their own homes within the first five years of their stay in the country.
Refugees express a deep sense of connection and belonging to Canada.
Surprisingly, refugees even surpass those born in Canada when it comes to this feeling. An impressive 95% of refugees report a "strong" sense of belonging to Canada, while 91% of native-born Canadians share this sentiment. This strong sense of belonging among refugees showcases their wholehearted commitment to becoming an integral part of Canadian society and embracing Canada as their cherished home.
Refugees are the champions of becoming Canadian citizens, leading the way among various immigrant categories.
In fact, their rates of acquiring citizenship surpass those of other immigration groups. To obtain Canadian citizenship, refugees need to reside in Canada for a minimum of three years, meet certain fee requirements, and successfully pass a knowledge test covering aspects like Canadian history, geography, economy, government, laws, and symbols. Remarkably, a significant 89% of refugees choose to become Canadian citizens, compared to 84% of Economic Class immigrants and 80% of Family Class immigrants, illustrating their strong commitment to making Canada their permanent home.
Refugee children perform just as effectively in school as children born in Canada, showcasing their valuable knowledge and skills that enrich Canada's workforce.
What's even more remarkable is that refugees who came to Canada at a young age exhibit higher completion rates for high school, college, university, and even graduate degrees when compared to their Canadian-born peers. This underlines the significant educational achievements and contributions of refugee children to CanadaSources: UNHCR, the IRCC & Statistics Canada
Sources: UNHCR, the IRCC & Statistics Canada
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