Canada's Racialized Immigrant Women and the Labour Market

two racialized women working together on a laptopThe number of racialized immigrant women in Canada has steadily increased over recent decades, from 55% of newcomer women immigrants (that is, those who arrived in Canada within the last 5 years) identifying as visible minorities in 1981 to 84% in 2016 (Hudson 2016; Statistics Canada 2016a), but their employment numbers lag. Even when women immigrants are employed, they are more likely to be underemployed, part-time, precarious, and poorly remunerated. The lack of participation of racialized immigrant women in the labour market represents a significant economic loss in communities across Canada.
This project is being funded in part through Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada's (IRCC) Settlement Program Funding.

Publications

Knowledge Synthesis Report on Canada's Racialized Immigrant Women and the Labour Market (PDF)

Knowledge Synthesis Report Cover PageThe number of racialized immigrant women in Canada has steadily increased over recent decades, from 55% of newcomer women immigrants (that is, those who arrived in Canada within the last 5 years) identifying as visible minorities in 1981 to 84% in 2016 (Hudson 2016; Statistics Canada 2016a), but their employment numbers lag. Even when women immigrants are employed, they are more likely to be underemployed, part-time, precarious, and poorly remunerated. The lack of participation of racialized immigrant women in the labour market represents a significant economic loss in communities across Canada. 

Drawing on an interdisciplinary review of scholarly research, this report synthesizes existing research on the barriers faced by racialized immigrant women in the Canadian labour market. Previous research in this area has been conducted using a largely siloed approach, leaving knowledge gaps and overlooking opportunities to apply lessons learned. Disconnects in research also appear because of changing and disputed definitions of key terms relating to race and sex, which we discuss at length in Appendix A. In this report, we adopt the broad language of racialized immigrant women, only substituting in other terms like visible minority and ethnicity when the available data precludes the accurate use of this terminology. With an eye to the rapidly changing nature of the labour market, including the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the role of women in the workforce, we emphasize research conducted in this area in the past decade. In so doing, we offer insights into the underemployment of racialized immigrant women in Canada today.  

To begin to rectify the labour market barriers faced by racialized immigrant women, this report also identifies both federal and provincial policies and policy recommendations designed to improve their labour market outcomes. In so doing, we find gaps in available policies and programs and identify challenges in evaluating their successes. We also briefly preview international policy research to shed light on some best practices to improve the labour market outcomes of racialized immigrant women.