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Refugees Are Good For Canada

supporting refugees canada
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Somali refugee Iqra Ali Gaal attends ESL classes as part of the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada program (LINC) at College Boreal in Hamilton, Ontario. © UNHCR/Chris Young
supporting refugees canada
Supported by:
Somali refugee Iqra Ali Gaal attends ESL classes as part of the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada program (LINC) at College Boreal in Hamilton, Ontario. © UNHCR/Chris Young

Research proves that while refugees benefit from the safe, new life that Canada provides, they’re also a major asset to the country.


Whether recognized as refugees in Canada or resettled from overseas, Canada has opened its doors, offering protection and the chance to build a new life to 1,088,015 refugees since 1980. Refugees have a low unemployment rate of nine percent, which is close to the Canadian unemployment rate — sitting at six percent (between the ages of 25 and 54).

refugee arrivals in canada
 Adapted from Statistics Canada, 2018 IRCC Permanent Residents Database in Cédric de Chardon, “An Overview of Economic Outcomes and Contributions to Refugees: Towards an Impact Story,” Canadian Council for Refugees Fall Consultation, 27 November 2018, slide 3.

As they acclimatize to their new home, refugees tend to join the national middle-class around five years after their arrival. Despite facing lower-than-average income when they first get to Canada, they rapidly advance. Data from the 2014 tax year shows that one in four refugees annually earned between $40,000 and $79,999. This compares the percentage of Canadians (27%) and total immigrants (24%) earning a middle-class income. Plus, it’s proven that refugees contribute more income tax than they utilize in public services and benefits.

refugee skill level
Adapted from Statistics Canada, 2016 Census in Cédric de Chardon, “An Overview of Economic Outcomes and Contributions to Refugees: Towards an Impact Story,” Canadian Council for Refugees Fall Consultation, 27 November 2018, slide 7.

Substantial economic contributions

The economic achievements of refugees are significant considering most arrive with little to no financial resources. Refugees fill jobs in a variety of industries — often in places where the Canadian economy needs it most. Of all employed refugees, 51 percent work in high-skilled jobs — including dentists, architects, doctors, software engineers, and service managers. According to 2016 data, 33 percent of refugees between the ages of 25 and 54 were employed in jobs that required a high school education or specific training, while one-fifth were working in jobs that required a university degree or higher.

refugee education level
Adapted from Statistics Canada, 2016 Census, IRCC Custom Table.

Additionally, refugees are building businesses and job opportunities. In fact, the rate of entrepreneurship among refugees is higher than Canadians, with the former at 14 percent, and the latter at 12 percent. This includes those who are self-employed and own their own companies, between the ages of 10 and 30. Embracing the opportunities that living in Canada offers, these refugees use their individual skillsets to build businesses that improve our economy’s health and diversity.

Settlement locations and filling gaps

Many refugees choose to settle in smaller Canadian towns and cities. From the north of Nunavut, NWT to western Prince Rupert, BC, or eastern Fredericton, NB – they’ve resettled throughout the country.

The 2016 census data showed that newcomers, followed by refugees, are most likely to resettle in smaller, more rural areas. The refugees who arrived from 2011 to 2016 proved that a slightly higher 48 percent lived in smaller towns and cities when compared to 44 percent of all other immigrants.

These smaller communities benefit from refugee resettlement because they fill work gaps. Canada’s population is drastically aging — and we need more young people to boost our economy. Most refugees come to Canada early in their lives, with the average age being 28.9 years old in 2016. Compared to Canada’s average age, which went from 37.7 in 2001 to 41.0 in 2016, refugees are approximately 11.1 years younger. The refugee population aged 25 to 54 in 2016 was 57 percent, while Canada-born citizens in that age demographic was 38 percent.

Home ownership and education

Owning a home is a sign of a stable, healthy financial situation, and indicates a sense of permanence in a community. Despite economic, social, and cultural struggles they may have faced in their first years of resettlement, two out of three refugees become homeowners after 10 years in Canada — that’s 65 percent of families — in comparison to 79 percent of Canadian-born citizens. In fact, one third of refugee families buy their own home within the first five years of moving to Canada.

In schools, refugee children are as proficient and hard-working as Canadian-born children. Actually, they surpass their Canadian-born counterparts in completion rates of high school, university, college, and graduate programs. Based on the 2016 census data, the completion rate of a bachelor’s degree or schooling above a bachelor’s level for refugees is 25.5 percent, compared to Canadian-born students, sitting at 18.5 percent. Becoming highly skilled workers and entering various industries, these young people are extremely valuable members of society.

Citizenship and belonging

Many people migrate with the hopes of establishing a permanent new home, particularly those who come to Canada. Of all immigration categories, refugees have the highest citizenship rates. In order to become a Canadian citizen, they must pass a test, pay a fee, and live in Canada for at least three years. The test includes Canadian history, geography, economy, laws, symbols, and levels of government. Of all refugees, 89 percent eventually become Canadian citizens, while 84 percent of Economic Class immigrants and 80 percent of Family Class immigrants also gain citizenship.

refugee citizenship uptake
Adapted from Statistics Canada, 2016 Census in Cédric de Chardon, “An Overview of Economic Outcomes and Contributions of Refugees: Towards an Impact Story,” Canadian Council for Refugees Fall Consultation, 27 November 2018, slide 11.

Although they may at times face cultural differences, racial discrimination, or xenophobia, refugees express a strong sense of belonging in Canada. They actually feel more included than people born in Canada. About 95 percent of refugees feel a strong sense of belonging, compared to 91 percent of Canadian-born citizens. Dedicated to building good lives for themselves in their new home, refugees are committed to integrating into society.

Building a brighter future

Often fleeing war and persecution, refugees enter Canada with the hopes of creating a new, prosperous life for themselves and their families. As the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) attests, these new community members have a positive impact on the country. Bringing ambition and skill, they are a great addition to Canada, enriching the country economically, culturally, and socially.


This article is repurposed from the UNHCR’s Refugees Are Good For Canada website, published in June 2019.

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