Latinos form a mosaic of nationalities and cultures, and one million of them live in Canada.
More than 92,000 Latinos were admitted as permanent residents in Canada between January 2007 and April 2021 – topping the list are Brazilians, Mexicans, Colombians and Venezuelans.
Because of the limited research on this ethnic group, we know very little about Latin Americans’ experiences with economic integration in Canada. Economic integration, in this context, refers to the extent and degree to which immigrants and refugees are integrated into the workforce while stimulating the local economy.
Through our most recent exploratory research and drawing from 2016 census data, we analyzed how well Latinos are doing in terms of economic integration.
We found that while they are present in all Canadian labor markets, they lag behind Canada’s median total income ($68,100). This is because their area of employment, location and income are strongly shaped by their nationality, time spent in Canada (or being born) and their gender.
Latinos and the Labor Market
Our research found that Latino participation in the Canadian labor market varied. For example, 22 percent of Latinos work in sales and services while five percent work in health-related sectors.
Among Latinos working in the health sector, half of men (50.4 percent) and 44.1 percent of women are employed as nurse aides, and 8.5 percent of men and 15.1 percent of women are employed as registered nurses.
Their significant involvement in front-line jobs has increased their health risks during the pandemic. Latinos are seven times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than any other anti-racial group in Toronto. They have the second highest mortality rate among immigrant communities affected by COVID-19 in Canada.
Gender, nationality and time spent in Canada
Gender plays a major role in which Latino men and women work in the industry. For example, while nearly one in five women work in a business, only one in 10 men does.
There are significantly more Latino women (16 percent) in education, with several nationalities represented – Nicaraguans, Peruvians, Chileans, Colombians, Costa Ricans, Brazilians, Argentines and Bolivians. Only eight percent of men work in this sector, especially Salvadorians, Chileans and Cubans.
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Time spent or birth in Canada also shapes the place where Latinos work. Among men, Salvadorians, Venezuelans, Chileans and Cubans who have lived in Canada between the ages of five and 14 often work in areas that require more education.
Among immigrant women, the more years spent in Canada, the more likely they were to work in areas that required more education. And among Canadians of Latin American descent, more women than men work in fields that require more education.
More Latino women than men have made significant employment-related progress. This has been done by getting jobs that require more education. However, not all Latin American groups have achieved this degree of economic integration. And while Latina women work in fields that demand more education, their income doesn’t reflect that – it’s something that needs attention.
Latinos working in management, business, science, health and education (64 percent) were paid an average of $13,400, compared to 48 percent of Latino men working in similar fields. Men earned an average of $55,300 and women $41,900.
For those working in the arts, sales and services, trades, resources and construction, women were paid an average of $11,400 less than men – men earned an average of $33,600 and women $22,200.
Across the board, Latin Americans earn less than the average Canadian. This creates unequal economic conditions, and can make it more difficult to come and work in Canada.
Recognizing education and experience
The labor force of immigrants has become indispensable due to the aging demographics. By evaluating the economic integration of Latinos, we can assess the degree to which they have been allowed and can contribute further to the Canadian economy.
However, it is important to consider that the international credentials and experience of immigrants and refugees are generally not recognized in Canada. For this reason, Latinos’ income may not reflect their skills, knowledge and experience.
To reach economic parity with the average Canadian, Latino workers must overcome several obstacles. These include pronunciation and language barriers, professional recognition issues, discriminatory recruitment processes and the influence of gender.
The relationship between the education, experience and economic integration of immigrants and refugees matters. It can tell us whether Latinos are unemployed or underemployed or contributing to the Canadian economy. It can also highlight areas of improvement, and whether specific areas of the labor force need additional support.
The economic integration journey of Latinos requires both individual and collective efforts as well as policy intervention to ensure good outcomes for this important labor force group.