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What is the Status of Female Immigrants in the Canadian Labor Market?

Austin Campbell



Female Immigrants

International Women’s Day is a global recognition of women’s contributions to society, including their work in the workplace and at home. It also serves as a reminder of the struggles that women face worldwide. While Canada has a reputation as a progressive country with strong human rights legislation and a commitment to equality, there are still significant gaps in how women, particularly newcomer women, are represented in Canada’s workforce.

Immigrant Women in Canada

According to Statistics Canada data from 2022, there were 4.2 million immigrant women in Canada’s labour market. Of these, 2.9 million were visible minorities while 1.3 million were not. Immigrants are responsible for almost 100% of Canada’s labour force growth and 75% of Canada’s population growth. However, there is a notable unemployment gap between recent immigrant women and Canadian-born women, with recent immigrant women experiencing a 15.2% unemployment rate compared to 8.0% for Canadian-born women. Additionally, among employed immigrant women, particularly racialized women, the sectors in which they are employed tend to have comparatively lower rates of pay.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected newcomer women in low-wage sectors such as accommodation and food services, where many newcomer women start their careers in Canada. Between 2019 and 2020, the median entry wage of immigrant women fell by 11.1%, from $26,100 to $23,200. A recent study on the role of immigrant women in executive positions found that one in four executives were women, and of these, roughly one in seven were immigrant women. However, among executive immigrant women, it was four times more likely that the woman was born in the United States or the United Kingdom.

Family-Class Sponsorship Programs are Used to Bring Immigrant Women to Canada

The majority of immigrant women arrive in Canada through family-class sponsorship programs. In 2022, 1,215,200 women immigrants arrived in Canada as secondary applicants in an economic immigration program, and 1,194,685 arrived through family class sponsorship. Economic immigration programs target candidates with in-demand skills and experience that will allow them to integrate easily and contribute to the economy, while family class sponsorship programs allow spouses, partners, and dependents of someone who applied to immigrate to Canada to come to the country.

Income Disparity for Women in Canada

Canadian women have been active in Canada’s workforce for over 100 years, but there is still a gap between their incomes and that of their male colleagues. On average, women in Canada make 89 cents for every dollar a man makes. However, this does not take into account the gap that exists between new and recent immigrants and Canadian-born women. Statistics Canada data from 2019 reported that new and recent immigrant women made over 20% less in weekly earnings than Canadian-born women. The gap narrowed somewhat to 4.7% less for long-term immigrants.


In August 2021, the federal government implemented the Pay Equity Act to close the wage gap and ensure fair compensation for women. However, this only applies to women who are employed in federally regulated workplaces. Some provinces have legislation that aims to ensure equal pay for women. For example, pay discrimination on the grounds of gender is prohibited by Human Rights legislation in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. Additionally, equal pay for the same or similar work is a requirement of employment standards legislation in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Newfoundland, and Northwest Territories.

In response to lower incomes among racialized immigrant women, the government has recently committed nearly $6 million in additional funding for programs under the Racialized Newcomer Women Pilot Program. Participants in the Pilot have access to settlement services that help with developing soft skills to help them find employment, such as creating resumes. However, much of the funding goes toward projects to assist initiatives preventing gender-based violence.

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