Recent Immigrants in Metropolitan Areas: Ottawa—A Comparative Profile Based on the 2001 Census


Very recent immigrants—a snapshot

  • Very recent immigrants, those who landed after or on January 1, 1996 and were living in Ottawa on May 15, 2001, are quite different in some respects from the groups that preceded them. One in five is from China, by far the predominant source country, with no other country supplying more than 4% of very recent immigrants. One in two has a university degree, twice as large a share as among the Canadian-born. Well over nine in ten speak English. Thanks to these qualities and a strong labour market, very recent immigrants reported more jobs and higher incomes in the 2001 Census than immigrants who landed in the first half of the 1990s reported in the 1996 Census.

Immigrants and recent immigrants (Part A)

  • In 2001, there were 85,900 recent immigrants in Ottawa, 3.4% of all recent immigrants living in Canada. These recent immigrants, who landed after 1985, accounted for slightly more than one-half of immigrants in Ottawa and 11% of the population of the city. In this document, the term “recent immigrants” refers to immigrants who became permanent residents or “landed” after 1985 and who were living in the country on May 15, 2001, when Canada’s Census of Population was held. Very recent immigrants are immigrants who landed after 1995.
  • Eighty-six percent of Ottawa’s immigrants who landed in Canada between 1986 and 1995 had become Canadian citizens by May 2001.

Who are the recent immigrants? (Part B)

  • Recent immigrants to Ottawa come from all over the world. The share of very recent immigrants from China (excluding Hong Kong), the largest source country, is 20%. India, Somalia and Iran each account for 4%. Of recent immigrants to Canada from Somalia, one in four lives in Ottawa, as does one in eight recent immigrants from Ethiopia and Lebanon.
  • Statistics published by Citizenship and Immigration Canada show that among very recent immigrants, one-half entered as economic immigrants. The share of the family category was lower for more recent immigrants than for immigrants who had been in Canada longer. The refugee share of Ottawa’s recent immigrant population exceeded 20%.
  • Recent immigrants are changing the religious landscape of Ottawa. More than one-quarter of recent immigrants are Muslims, and another 8% are Buddhists, Hindus or Sikhs.
  • More than one-half of recent immigrants are 25 to 44 years of age. In Ottawa’s Canadian-born population, this group accounts for less than one-third.
  • Ninety-three percent of persons who immigrated between 1996 and 2001 reported (in May 2001) that they were able to conduct a conversation in English or French. More than three in four speak English only, 14% speak both languages, and 3% speak French only. For two in three very recent immigrants, the language most often spoken at home is a language other than English or French.
  • The level of education of very recent immigrants in Ottawa is quite high compared to that of the Canadian-born, with 43% of women and 57% of men having a university degree, compared to about one-quarter of Canadian-born men and women.

Families and households (Part C)

  • Recent immigrants are more likely than the Canadian-born to live with relatives, and they are nearly twice as likely to live in extended families. Only 8% of recent immigrants 65 years of age and over live alone, compared to three in ten of their Canadian-born counterparts.
  • Recent immigrant families are more likely than Canadian-born families to have children at home, in particular when the oldest member is 45 years of age or older. Of both recent immigrant families and Canadian-born families, about one in six are headed by a single parent.
  • Households in which at least one adult is a recent immigrant account for 10% of households in Ottawa. About two out of five of these households have at least one member who immigrated after 1995.
  • Households of recent immigrants are much more likely than Canadian-born households to consist of extended families or more than one family. They also tend to be larger, with 42% having four or more persons, compared to 22% of Canadian-born households with four or more persons.

Participation in the economy (Part D)

  • The more recent their arrival, the lower the labour force participation rate and the higher the unemployment rate of immigrants. Earlier immigrants participate in the labour force at more or less the same rates as the Canadian-born.
  • This pattern of increasing convergence to the Canadian-born with longer stay in Canada occurs across all age and gender groups and all but the lowest level of education. The disparities between recent immigrants and the Canadian-born are smaller for men than for women.
  • Lack of knowledge of an official language is a major barrier to labour force participation. However, it accounts for only a small part of the disparity in labour force participation of very recent immigrants, as lack of knowledge of English is rare. Women who speak French participate in the labour force more than those without knowledge of either official language, but they have substantially higher unemployment rates than those without knowledge of either official language.
  • Labour force participation was generally higher and unemployment lower among immigrants in 2001 than in 1996. Immigrants who landed in the five years before the census showed remarkable gains compared to the same group in 1996. Many new immigrants were drawn into Ottawa’s high-tech sector during the late 1990s.
  • In comparison to the Canadian-born, recent immigrants were much more likely to be employed in health and science occupations, and in the manufacturing sector and, for very recent immigrants, in business services. A smaller share of recent immigrants than the Canadian-born held jobs in administrative and management and social occupations, or in construction and transportation, or the public sector. The jobs of very recent immigrants require a relatively high level of skill.

Income (Part E)

  • On average among persons reporting income for the year 2000, the income of women who landed after 1995 was 62% of that of the Canadian-born, while the income of women who landed during the 1986-1995 period and the income of men who landed after 1995 were respectively about three-quarters of that of the Canadian-born.
  • Average income of very recent immigrant women who had income in the year 2000 was half as high as for the comparable cohort in 1995, while for very recent immigrant men who had income in the year 2000 it was almost twice as high as for the comparable cohort in 1995. Income of the Canadian-born and immigrants who had been in the country for more than five years was 20% to 35% higher than for the comparable cohort five years earlier.
  • As a share of income of households with all members in the 25 to 64 age group, transfer payments from government were about twice as large for recent immigrant households as for Canadian-born households.
  • Nearly four in ten very recent immigrants are in a low-income situation, more than twice as large a share as for the Canadian-born.

Housing (Part F)

  • In Ottawa, 21% of recent immigrant households live in crowded conditions—that is, have one person or more per room—compared to 2% of Canadian-born households. Among households consisting only of very recent immigrants, one in three lives in crowded accommodations.
  • More than one in four recent immigrant households spend more than 30% of their income on shelter, compared to one in five Canadian-born households
  • The state of repair of the housing stock among recent immigrants is comparable to that among the Canadian-born.
  • Home ownership is quite rare among households consisting only of very recent immigrants. Even among other recent immigrant households, less than one-half own their home.
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