A Demographic Profile of Immigrants in Hamilton
Compiled by Sarah V. Wayland, PhD
Foreword and Acknowledgments
From its origins, Hamilton‟s growth has depended on immigration. The economic,
social, and cultural contributions of immigrants have been invaluable to this city. In turn, Hamilton provided a safe and affordable community for newcomers to bring and grow their families, and to integrate into Canadian society.
Today, Hamilton finds itself at a crossroads in many respects. It is no longer attracting the immigrants it needs to grow its population and economy, and indeed it is losing many native citizens to other parts of the province and country. While neighbouring municipalities in southern Ontario continue to grow through immigration, Hamilton is attracting less than its “fair share” of newcomers, and especially of skilled immigrants.
Hamilton‟s immigrant or foreign-born population is an aging one, with almost 40%
having arrived in Canada prior to 1971. Reflecting migration patterns of the time, this population is predominantly European in origin, coming especially from the British Isles, Italy and Portugal.
Yet Hamilton continues to receive more than 3,000 immigrants each year, plus another 3,000 temporary migrants who arrive as foreign students or temporary foreign workers (mostly agricultural workers). Recent immigrants (including refugees) are among the most vulnerable in our population, and it is to their needs that we must especially attend. For the most part, they have high levels of education and competence in English or French. Yet they are struggling. Data presented in this report indicates that many newcomers need assistance improving their language skills and finding employment that suits their many skills and abilities.
Recent immigrants to Hamilton (arriving since 2000) are likely to live in poverty: 42% experience low income after tax, compared to 14% of the city‟s total population. Most alarming, fully half of the children of recent immigrants are living below the poverty line. In a related finding, immigrant women are particularly vulnerable. They earn considerably less income than men and are at risk of social isolation due to language and other barriers related to being the primary caregiver for children. Households led by immigrant women earn only 56 cents for every dollar earned by immigrant households with two parents. This level of hardship is unacceptable.
Findings in this report also point to great opportunities. For example, recent immigrants are a younger population than Hamilton as a whole. Immigrant children and children born here to immigrant parents will participate in our own early childhood programs and educational system, not to mention be able to access various social, cultural and recreational programs. If properly resourced and inclusive in their design and implementation, they can help ensure the creation of a new generation of confident and active citizens. Many of them may
elect to stay in Hamilton, pursuing higher education at one of our own colleges or universities and participating in our local labour market.
This report is meant to serve as a background paper to inform the development of an immigration strategy for Hamilton. Any strategy that impacts newcomer settlement and integration must be part of a bigger picture of revitalizing Hamilton. As such, it must be undertaken in partnership with other organizations working towards a common vision.
I hope that this demographic profile of immigrants in Hamilton provides the solid foundation we need to move forward on improving the situation for immigrants and refugees in Hamilton, and for allowing them to contribute to our wonderful city. We all deserve better.
I am very grateful for the comments of various reviewers, and especially for the guidance and patience of Tim Rees from the City of Hamilton. Gerald Bierling was instrumental to the data collection and presentation. Some of the figures and text in this report are reprinted from the Diversity Scan that he and I
completed for the Hamilton Community Foundation in 2008. They are reprinted with permission.
Sarah V. Wayland, PhD
This report presents data on immigrants in Hamilton, including recent immigrants as well as the more established foreign-born population. Its objective is to increase our understanding of Hamilton‟s immigration populations, including how the characteristics of immigrants have changed over time as well as how Hamilton measures up when compared to other cities in Ontario as well as to the province as a whole.
The report is divided into eleven sections, listed below with key findings from each:
Population growth in Hamilton
Hamilton‟s population growth rate slowed in the early 2000s but rose again in the
second half of the past decade. Although Hamilton‟s actual growth rebounded
from 2007 to 2009, it still falls short of the models for population growth that are relied upon by our city planners and other decision makers. Immigration numbers from overseas were somewhat offset by people moving out of the province and to other parts of Ontario.
Immigration flows to Hamilton
Immigration flows to Hamilton have for the most part been rising over the past decade, peaking in 2005 but maintaining annual levels of above 3500 arrival per year since that time.
Hamilton is home to 4.1% of Ontario‟s total population, but Hamilton received
2.6% of the new landings (official arrivals of permanent residents) to Ontario for the period 2003-2008. As such, Hamilton attracts under its “fair share” of
immigrants to the province.