ARCHIVED – Impact of Canadian postsecondary education on recent immigrants’ labour market outcomes

Professor Paul Anisef, York University
Professor Robert Sweet, Lakehead University
Dr. Maria Adamuti-Trache, University of British Columbia

This research was funded by the Research and Evaluation Branch of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. This document expresses the views and opinions of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official policy or opinion of Citizenship and Immigration Canada or the Government of Canada.

Copies of the full report are available upon request to

Executive summary

This paper uses data from three waves of the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC) that cover the period 2000-2004 to assess short-term employment outcomes for recent immigrants who had prior university education and chose either to enrol in a Canadian university, college, or other postsecondary educational institution. The key research question we sought to answer is: Do different PSE pathways lead to successful employment outcomes among recent immigrants with prior university education? The pathways examined were:

  1. Recycling – those who seek further job-related education and training in the form of a credential in non-university institutions (e.g., community and career colleges, institutes, trade school)
  2. Value Added – those who enrol in university to pursue a degree in same field
  3. Starting Anew – those who seek a university degree in a different field
  4. Non-participation – those with no education or non-PSE education or training.

We found that all pathway groups as well as non-participants improve their employment status in Canada after arrival, but the level of improvement is lower for non-participants and those in the Recycling pathway group and higher for the two university pathway groups (Value Added and Start Anew). Furthermore, immigrants in the latter two categories also showed greater improvement in occupational prestige, as measured using a scale developed by Goyder and Frank (2007). The greatest gains were made by those in the Value Added group.

We investigated whether participation in post-secondary education increases within four years of arrival, the factors that shape the decision to enrol in further education, and the effects of PSE on the formation of social capital. We also explored differences based on immigrants’ prior field of university study.

Although pursuing further university studies in Canada appears to ensure the best outcomes, many immigrants choose to pursue education through non-university channels. Although individual preferences play a role in this decision, the responsiveness of Canadian PSE institutions to immigrants’ needs should be considered. Efforts to improve the student experience for adult immigrants will help provide an enabling environment for effectively integrating them into the Canadian labour market.

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