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The Chinese in Canada

Three Socioeconomic Approaches

von De Zhong Gao (Autor) Daciana Andrada Muntean (Autor)

Forschungsarbeit 2011 10 Seiten

Orientalistik / Sinologie - Chinesisch / China


Canada is one of the most culturally various countries in the world. It shelters different individuals who fled their home nation, such as for economic reasons, searching for better opportunities and standards of living. One such ethnic group that is part of this multicultural compound characterizing the Canadian population are the Chinese. As many others, they chose Canada to be their new home, envisioning an ameliorated and fairer life than the one they left behind. This is not surprising since, worldwide, Canada has a reputation of being based on meritocracy – with hard work, motivation, and ambition, one can get wherever one wants to. However, below the surface of appearances, this may not be quite so. Indeed, this paper is intended to explore the standing of the Chinese population in Canada from three socioeconomic approaches. But first, who are the Chinese? It is to this point that we turn next.

Demographic Profile

According to Statistics Canada (2006), the Chinese make up 3.9% of the total Canadian population; in other words, 1,216,565 out of 31,612,895 individuals in Canada self-identify as Chinese. The ratio of male to female is almost equal, with Chinese women (52% of the total Chinese population in Canada) being slightly more numerous than Chinese men (48%). Together, they are mostly concentrated in the province of Ontario (576,980) and British Columbia (407,225), and the least in the territory of Nunavut (80). Amongst those who are considered to be part of the labour force, 61.5% are employed, with a higher proportion of Chinese men (67.3%) holding a job than Chinese women (53.3%).

In their book, Social Problems (2007), Tepperman, Curtis, and Kwan inform the readers that “[t]he Chinese in Canada originally did heavy labour, helping to build the railways” (p. 156). Moreover, by the time they arrived, Canada’s best jobs were already taken by descendants of the early French and English settlers. The question is, then: relative to the dominant group, have the Chinese progressed to an improved standing in the Canadian society regarding labour, income, and education? The following section is, in fact, concerned with this matter.

Socioeconomic Status and Comparisons


illustration not visible in this excerpt

Note. Adapted from Statistics Canada.

ªThe labour participation rate represents the percentage of workers from the total population who participate in the labour force.
ᵇThe employment rate measures the percentage of people in the labour force who are employed.
ᶜThe average Canadian represents the whole Canadian population, including all visible minorities and otherwise.

The table above illustrates the labour force activity, including the participation, the employment and the unemployment rates for the non-visible (i.e., white) and average Canadians, and the Chinese in Canada, covering people of all sexes, age groups, immigration statuses, periods of immigration, and non-immigrants. According to Statistics Canada, 1,162,150 Chinese are recorded in the total labour force activity. Approximately 731,005 of them are taking part in the labour force, estimating the labour participation rate for the Chinese to be 62.9%. Comparatively, the labour participation rate for both whites and average Canadians is higher (67.4%). Furthermore, the employment rate amounts to 58.1% for the Chinese, 63.25% for whites, and 63.07% for average Canadians, with the former rate being lower than the latter two. The Chinese unemployment rate is estimated to be 4.8%, which is slightly higher in comparison to the unemployment rate for whites (4.22%) and average Canadians (4.39%).

One can argue that the employment rate for the Chinese does not differ too greatly from that of white and average Canadians. Nevertheless, this does not imply that the Chinese are as economically well-off as them; they may participate at almost the same rate as whites and average Canadians in the labour force, but they may not earn as much as they do. The following topic will shed some light on this issue.


illustration not visible in this excerpt

ªAll income is in Canadian dollars.
ᵇThe average income for the whole Canadian population is not provided by Statistics Canada for the 2006 census.

This table includes a comparison of the average and median income for the year 2005 between the Chinese population in Canada, those who are not considered a visible minority (i.e., white Canadians), and the average Canadian. In this case, the statistics for both Chinese and white populations cover all age groups, all sexes, all educational degrees (i.e., highest certificate, diploma, etc.), and all generation statuses (i.e., 1st, 2nd generations, etc.). The average Canadian group includes all sexes, all occupations, and all groups (i.e., minority or otherwise) in Canada.

As it can be noticed, the Chinese earn, on average, $8,981 less than white individuals; specifically, the Chinese individual earns $27,866 in contrast to the white Canadian, who earns $36,847 per year. The median also differs, with the Chinese ($18,355) having a lower median income than whites ($26,863) by $8,505. To an even greater, and possibly alarming, extent, the median income for the average Canadian ($41,401) is more than double than the median income for the Chinese population alone ($18,355). Consequently, it seems that the Chinese in Canada are not as economically well off as their fellow white Canadians and are even worse off than the average Canadian. Could it be that the Chinese are not attaining, on average, the same educational level as other Canadians?

Education Level and Income

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Note. Adapted from Statistics Canada.

ªThis table describes the income of Chinese, whites and average Canadians having the same highest certificate, degree or academic diploma.

Table 3 describes the mean and median income of average and white Canadians, and Chinese individuals with the same highest level of educational degree achieved in Canada. The three groups include people of all sexes, age groups, and generations.



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McGill University
chinese canada three socioeconomic approaches



Titel: The Chinese in Canada