Who Drives a Taxi in Canada?

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2.1. Half of the taxi drivers in Canada are immigrants

In the 2006 Census, a total of 50,110 Canadian born and immigrants reported driving a taxi as their major labour market activity. Taxi drivers account for 0.2% of the population 15 years and over. Half of those who reported driving a taxi (50.1%) are immigrants. This percentage is much higher than the percentage of immigrants in the Canadian population of the same age range (23.0%). Thus, immigrants are significantly overrepresented in the taxi driving occupation. In some cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver, more than 80% of taxi drivers are immigrants.

Table 1: Composition of taxi drivers by immigration status and by immigrant landing cohort
Group Taxi drivers Total population 15 and over
Number Percent Number Percent
Total 50,110 100.0 25,433,620 100.0
Canadian born 24,990 49.9 19,592,380 77.0
Immigrants 25,125 50.1 5,841,240 23.0
Established immigrants 18,440 73.4 4,209,790 72.1
Recent immigrants 3,995 15.9 744,670 12.8
Very recent immigrants 2,690 10.7 886,795 15.2

Source: 2006 Census.

The majority (73.4%) of immigrant taxi drivers are established immigrants; the percentage is similar to the percentage of established immigrants among total immigrants (72.1%). Recent and very recent immigrants account for 15.9% and 10.7% of immigrant taxi drivers respectively. Taxi drivers account for a small share of immigrants 15 years old and over among all three landing cohorts: 0.4% for established immigrants, 0.5% for recent immigrants and 0.3% for very recent immigrants. The percentages for all these three immigrant cohorts, however, are much higher than that of their Canadian-born counterparts (0.1%).

Table 2: Gender composition of taxi drivers by immigration status and landing cohort
Group Total Female Male
Total 50,110 8.7 91.3
Canadian born 24,990 14.9 85.1
Immigrants 25,125 2.5 97.5
Established immigrants 18,440 2.5 97.5
Recent immigrants 3,995 1.9 98.0
Very recent immigrants 2,690 2.6 97.4

Source: 2006 Census.

In Canada, taxi driving is a male dominated occupation. The vast majority of taxi drivers are males (85.1%), especially among immigrants (97.5%).

2.2. More than one third of immigrant taxi drivers were born in India and Pakistan

Not all immigrant source countries are equally represented in the taxi driving occupation. The top 10 source countries of immigrant taxi drivers are India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Haiti, Iran, the United Kingdom, Somalia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Greece.

Table 3: Immigrant taxi drivers by country of birth and immigrant landing cohort Footnote 2
Country of birth   Total immigrants Established immigrants    Recent immigrants   Very recent immigrants
Number % Number % Number % Number %
Total 25,125 100.0 18,440 100.0 3,995 100.0 2,690 100.0
India 6,220 24.8 4,555 24.7 1,075 26.9 590 21.9
Pakistan 2,960 11.8 950 5.2 1,005 25.2 1,000 37.2
Lebanon 1,790 7.1 1,655 9.0 85 2.1 50 1.9
Haiti 1,455 5.8 1,280 6.9 90 2.3 85 3.2
Iran 1,040 4.1 820 4.4 175 4.4 50 1.9
United Kingdom 830 3.3 x x F F F F
Somalia, Republic of 775 3.1 615 3.3 145 3.6 15 0.6
Ethiopia 765 3.0 630 3.4 105 2.6 30 1.1
Bangladesh 500 2.0 290 1.6 155 3.9 55 2.0
Greece 415 1.7 x x F F F F
Eritrea 380 1.5 360 2.0 F F F F
Afghanistan 360 1.4 225 1.2 85 2.1 50 1.9
Italy 360 1.4 x x F F F F
Sri Lanka 315 1.3 225 1.2 60 1.5 30 1.1
Jamaica 305 1.2 270 1.5 x F F F
Algeria 300 1.2 105 0.6 135 3.4 60 2.2
Poland 265 1.1 x x F F F F
Morocco 260 1.0 215 1.2 10 0.3 30 1.1
China, People's Republic of 255 1.0 165 0.9 35 0.9 55 2.0
Iraq 245 1.0 x x x F F F
Other 5,335 21.2 4,060 22.0 725 18.1 550 20.4

F: Too unreliable to be released.
x: Suppressed for confidentiality.
Source: 2006 Census.

The 2006 Census enumerates 6,220 people who were born in India and worked as taxi drivers in 2005-06, which is to say that one out of every four immigrant taxi drivers was born in India. Pakistan follows as a distant second and contributes about 2,960 or 11.8% of immigrant taxi drivers. Immigrant taxi drivers born in Lebanon, Haiti, and Iran rank in third, fourth, and fifth place, accounting for 7.1%, 5.8% and 4.1% respectively. Although China ranks as the top immigrant sending country in Canada in 2005-06 and contributes about 7.3% of all immigrants 15 years old and over, only 255, or 1.0% of immigrant taxi drivers, were born in China.

A further breakdown shows that the composition of immigrant taxi drivers by country of birth varies between immigrants who landed in different periods. The most noticeable trend is the decrease of the share of taxi drivers from India and the increase of the share from Pakistan among very recent immigrants. Taxi drivers from India have a stable share of around 25% for established and recent immigrants, but this share decreases to 21.9% for very recent immigrants. Among established immigrants, taxi drivers from Pakistan only account for 5.2%, but the share increases to 25.2% and 37.2% for recent and very recent immigrants. Among very recent immigrants, Pakistan surpasses India by 15 percentage points and jumps to the top as a source of immigrant taxi drivers.

Another significant change occurs for immigrant taxi drivers from Lebanon. Although the percentage of Lebanese immigrants aged 15 years and over relative to all immigrants of the same age group only change marginally across the three immigrant landing cohorts, the percentage of taxi drivers born in Lebanon decreases from about 9% among established immigrants to 2.1% and 1.9% among recent and very recent immigrants.

2.3. Highly-educated immigrants account for a sizable portion of immigrant taxi drivers

According to NOC 2006, taxi driving is classified as a skill level C occupation which usually requires secondary school and/or occupation-specific training. Table 4 shows that in Canada, among 50,110 taxi drivers, 56% of them have no high school diploma or are high school graduates, 31.5% have a trade or college diploma, and about 9% are bachelor’s degree graduates. There are also 1,525 (3.0%) taxi drivers holding a master’s degree and 255 (0.5%) holding a doctorate or medicine and related degree. Overall, about 44.1% of taxi drivers have at least some postsecondary education and may be overqualifiedFootnote 3 for their jobs.

Table 4: Composition of taxi drivers by highest educational attainment
Group Total  in Canada Canadian born Immigrants  Established immigrants  Recent immigrants Very recent immigrants
# % # % # % # % # % # %
Total 50,110 100.0 24,990 100.0 25,125 100.0 18,440 100.0 3,995 100.0 2,690 100.0
No certificate, diploma or degree 11,765 23.5 8,105 32.4 3,660 14.6 3,050 16.5 360 9.0 250 9.3
High school graduation certificate or equivalency certificate 16,250 32.4 8,080 32.3 8,170 32.5 6,225 33.8 1,185 29.7 760 28.3
Trades or college diploma A 15,805 31.5 7,585 30.4 8,220 32.7 6,500 35.2 1,130 28.3 590 21.9
Bachelor's degree B 4,515 9.0 985 3.9 3,530 14.0 1,960 10.6 865 21.7 710 26.4
Master's degree 1,525 3.0 180 0.7 1,345 5.4 615 3.3 375 9.4 355 13.2
Doctorate  or  medicine and related degree C 255 0.5 55 0.2 200 0.8 95 0.5 80 2.0 25 0.9

A: Including trades certificate, college diploma and university certificate or diploma below bachelor level.
B: Including university certificate or diploma above bachelor level.
C: Including earned doctorate or a degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry.
Source: 2006 Census.

Figure 1: Taxi drivers by highest educational attainment: immigrants and the Canadian born

Taxi drivers by highest educational attainment: immigrants and the Canadian born

Text version: Taxi drivers by highest educational attainment: immigrants and the Canadian born

Figure 2: Immigrant taxi drivers by highest educational attainment: three landing cohorts

Immigrant taxi drivers by highest educational attainment: three landing cohorts

Text version: Immigrant taxi drivers by highest educational attainment: three landing cohorts

Figure 1 shows that there are large differences in the distribution of educational attainment of taxi drivers between the Canadian born and immigrants. Among immigrant taxi drivers, 52.9% have at least some postsecondary education, 20.2% have bachelor’s degree or above; these percentages are much higher than that for Canadian-born taxi drivers, at 35.2%% and 4.8% respectively. Breaking down by landing cohort (Figure 2) shows that the percentages of those with at least some postsecondary education among recent and very recent immigrants are similar (61.4% and 62.4%), but more than 10 percentage points higher than for established immigrants (49.6%). If we consider the percentage of those with bachelor’s degrees or above, the differences among established immigrants, recent and very recent immigrants are even more striking: 14.4%, 33.1% and 40.5 %.

To what extent, do PhDs and MDs, particularly immigrants, turn to taxi driving for employment in Canada? The 2006 Census shows that in total, about 255 or 0.5% of the 50,110 taxi drivers in Canada have a doctorate or a medicine and related degree. Among them, 200 are immigrants. There are also 55 Canadian-born PhD and MD taxi drivers.

Overeducation occurs both among Canadian-born and immigrant taxi drivers, but is at a higher rate among immigrants, especially among recent and very recent immigrants.

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