Foreign-Born vs Native-Born Canadians: A Comparison of Their Inter-Provincial Labor Mobility

Statistics Canada Working Paper No. 114

40 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 1999

Date Written: September 1998


This paper investigates the inter-provincial labor mobility behavior of immigrants relative to that of native-born Canadians. Foreign-born Canadians differ a great deal from their domestically-born counterparts. The foreign-born population is geographically concentrated in a few provinces and a few big cities. As a whole, they are older, better educated, more likely to be married, and more likely to have dependent children and bigger households. They are less active in participating in full-time education and training. They fare relatively better in the labor market. As a result, a higher proportion of them receive social security benefits that are directly tied to the presence of dependent children or age such as family allowance benefits and pension income, but a lower proportion receive benefits that are related to labor market performance such as employment insurance benefits and social assistance benefits.

As a whole, immigrants are relatively less mobile inter-provincially. This is true both nationally and across almost every province. Among those who move to other provinces, destinations for foreign-born migrants are highly geographically concentrated. Most of them make their new homes in Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia. A significantly lower proportion of them relocate to other provinces for economic considerations, but a much higher proportion move to go to school or after retirement. Earnings return to their inter-provincial migration is significantly more substantial. This is the result of both wage increase and more hours of work after migration.

Multi-variate regression results show that there are no statistically significant structural differences in the determinants of inter-provincial migration decisions between comparable foreign- and native-born Canadians. The probability of moving to other provinces, for immigrants as well as for domestically-born Canadians, is higher if earnings potentials elsewhere are relatively higher, lower if it is relatively harder to find employment elsewhere, higher among better educated workers, lower among French-speaking Canadians, lower among union members, and decreases with age, family size and job tenure. None of the proxies for government's labor market interventions significantly affect the decision to move inter-provincially. The lower mobility rates among the foreign-born are fully attributable to distributional and compositional differences between the immigrant and non-immigrant populations.

These findings have a direct policy implication on immigration selection. To encourage population and labor force growth in economically less prosperous provinces, one might consider amending the current immigration selection and approval system, considering intended destinations as an additional factor and awarding additional points to applicants who choose designated provinces to settle upon arrival.

JEL Classification: J61, J62

Suggested Citation

Lin, Zhengxi, Foreign-Born vs Native-Born Canadians: A Comparison of Their Inter-Provincial Labor Mobility (September 1998). Statistics Canada Working Paper No. 114, Available at SSRN: or

Zhengxi Lin (Contact Author)

Statistics Canada ( email )

Ottawa, Ontario
613-951-0830 (Phone)
613-951-5403 (Fax)

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