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Canadian News Feb 12, 2019 11:31 AM EST

Statistics Canada: Less than 25% of Syrian refugees are currently employed

For refugees, the first few months or years in a new country can be difficult. They often have fewer education credentials, less language proficiency in English or French than other immigrants

Statistics Canada: Less than 25% of Syrian refugees are currently employed
Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal, QC

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be up to date.

On February 12th, 2019,  Statistics Canada released the census data that was collected of the 25,000 Syrian refugees that were accepted into Canada throughout 2015-2016.

The government of Canada made the ambitious announcement in the wake of the ongoing war in Syria that has been taking place since 2011, and the ensuing humanitarian crisis worldwide.

One of the first challenges that Prime Minister Trudeau’s governments wanted to take on was the refugee crisis.

Less than a week after taking office in October of 2015, Trudeau announced the plan to take in the 25,000 refugees, and the plan was met with criticism immediately.

Refugee settlement groups in Canada were some of the first to say that the decision was unwise.

While they applauded the goal and the good intentions, they feared it was too much, too fast. The government consulted with representatives of major refugee agencies on how to proceed, based on their capabilities at the time.

"Providing more time for this large resettlement movement will lead to better resettlement outcomes," said Chris Friesen, the president of the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance.

Friesen was part of a conference call when federal officials were urged to stretch their future Liberal bosses' ambitions out over a slightly longer horizon.

"Reconsider the time frame, keep the number but let's do it over 2016 to the end of 2016," he told CBC News.

"Twenty-five thousand over two months is problematic."

The Trudeau government proceeded with those targets anyway.

The following information is based around the statistical analysis and breakdown by StatsCan.

For refugees, the first few months or years in a new country can be difficult.

They often have fewer education credentials, less language proficiency in English or French than other immigrants, and they may also have fewer social networks and connections, particularly when they do not benefit from a private sponsor.

As a result, refugees often need time and support to establish themselves in the country, acquire skills and find employment.

Today, for the first time, Statistics Canada released the detailed analysis of the socioeconomic conditions and demographic characteristics of those Syrian refugees who resettled in Canada from January 1, 2015, to May 10, 2016, a period during which many Syrian refugees flooded into Canada.

The vast majority of Syrian refugees are families with children

The demographic and family indicators of Syrian refugees reflect their selection process. Families with children were prioritized, while young adults without children were less likely to be selected.

Specifically, 85% of Syrian families consisted of a couple with children, and these families had 2.8 children on average. This compared with 63% of refugee families from other countries, who had 2.2 children on average.

As a result, the Syrian refugee population had more children than that of other refugees, and a smaller proportion of people aged 15 to 29. In 2016, 44% of Syrian refugees were under the age of 15, compared with 31% for refugees from other countries.

The characteristics of government-assisted refugees are different from those of privately-sponsored refugees

Government-assisted Syrian refugees were less likely to speak at least one official language (about 20%) than privately-sponsored Syrian refugees (67%). They were also far less likely to hold a university degree (2% versus 25%).

Among Syrian refugees who came to Canada in 2015 and 2016, more than half were assisted by the government. That proportion was comparable to that of refugees from other countries.

Because the government gave priority to young families with children and vulnerable refugees, the demographic characteristics of government-assisted refugees were quite different from those of privately-sponsored refugees.

In 2016, 94% of government-assisted Syrian refugee families were couples with children, and these families had 3.2 children on average. The median age of government-assisted Syrian refugees was 13 years old.

In comparison, 78% of privately-sponsored refugee families were couples with children, and these families had 2.2 children on average. The median age of privately-sponsored Syrian refugees was 26 years old.

The profile of government-assisted refugees points to a more vulnerable population with greater labour market integration challenges than privately-sponsored refugees.

After accounting for sociodemographic characteristics, Syrian refugees are as likely to work as other refugees

Syrian refugees had a lower employment rate than other refugees, largely because they had been in the country for a shorter period of time. At the time of the 2016 Census, on which these data are based, Syrian refugees had been in the country for an average of four months, while other refugees had been here for an average of eight months.

Among Syrian refugees aged 20 to 59 who arrived in 2015 and 2016, 24% of males and 8% of females were employed on Census Day (May 10).

This compared with 39% of male and 17% of female refugees from other countries.

Another factor was language proficiency. In 2016, 55% of Syrian refugees did not speak English or French, compared with 28% of refugees from other countries.

When these factors and other sociodemographic characteristics were accounted for, the gap in employment rates between Syrian refugees and other refugees narrowed significantly among men and became virtually non-existent among women.

The labour market participation of refugees can change rapidly in the first few years after admission as they gradually improve their language proficiency and professional skills.

The average income of Syrian refugees was similar to that of other refugees
Annual income levels can be examined for refugees aged 20 to 59 who were admitted to Canada in November and December of 2015 and who, on December 31, 2016, had accumulated between 12 and 14 months of residence in Canada.

The average income of Syrian refugees was comparable to that of other refugees who spent the same length of time in Canada, with annual income levels varying from $15,000 to $20,000.

After 2016, Canada continued to welcome Syrian refugees, mainly via private sponsorship. In total, almost 60,000 Syrian refugees have resettled in Canada since 2015.

Statistics Canada will continue to follow the progress of Syrian refugees as new data becomes available, including more recent data from the Longitudinal Immigration Database.

With the Syrian refugee crisis still ongoing, and with the provided statistics showing less than phenomenal progress in the immigrant communities in these years, we need to ask ourselves if we want to keep traveling down this road.

A lot of these refugees run the potential risk of remaining on welfare for an extended amount of time in a culture they don’t understand, with a language that they do not speak. It runs the risk of Balkanization, and potential dangers that could come along with these types of wreckless immigration programs.

What do you think? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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