The information, obtained by the Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act, shows a persistent gap between female immigrants, both new and established in Canada, compared with their Canadian-born counterparts.
The data also shows that more women arrive in Canada as the spouses of economic immigrants or as non-economic newcomers or refugees and have lower employment rates and earn less than the average wage.
That, the internal government report says, indicates selection policies for immigration programs are not tailored to capitalize on the economic value of female immigrants.
The report uses internal government data to provide an overview of economic and social outcomes of immigrants from all sources, including economic-class, family-class and refugee streams.
It flags labour market integration as more challenging for female newcomers.
“Unlike male immigrants, a persistent gap exists between very recent, recent and established female immigrants and their Canadian-born counterparts,” the report states.
The data shows similar employment barriers also exist for the children of immigrants, especially those whose parents are visible minorities, despite the fact they achieve higher levels of education than Canadian-born children. Children of immigrants from nearly all visible minority groups earn less than their Canadian-born peers.
Pari Karem, general manager of immigrant services at the YMCA in Kitchener, Ont., works directly with newcomer youth and women.
She says she has seen the children of immigrants attain master’s degrees and PhDs, yet still have difficulty finding good jobs. She attributes this partly to a lack of connections among their parents.
Some clients have told Karem they felt employers passed over them for jobs because of their race, she added, calling it a form of “hidden racism” among some employers.
“Just because they finished their education here does not take away some of the stereotypical factors that some employers judge these (people) by, which is their name, their visible minority and it’s unfortunate,” Karem said.
But Karem believes it’s more complicated when it comes to why women work and earn less.
Many immigrant women come from cultures where they are raised to take on a secondary or caregiver role.
“If I, as a female, think it is my role to only stay home and look after my children, no matter how many programs are out there for me, I’m not going to try them.”
She suggests immigrant women instead need better education about balancing family life with employment opportunities.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen acknowledges that gaps in employment and wages do exist, but says government has been working on designing settlement programs to improve opportunities for immigrant women and their children.
“Of course we want all newcomers to succeed and restart their lives in Canada as fast as possible and succeed and contribute back to Canada,” Hussen said.
He pointed to $31.8 million earmarked in this year’s federal budget for a pilot program to support newcomer women entering and staying in the workforce. Money has also been dedicated to test new ways to target groups of newcomers who are not achieving the same outcomes as others.
“There is also now money within our ministry to encourage settlement service providers to test out new ideas, to borrow good ideas from the private sector, to implement good things that are happening in one part of the country to another part of the country,” Hussen said.
Karem believes more education among Canadian-born residents should also be a key part of addressing inequalities facing newcomers.