Immigrants More Likely To Be Self-employed – Foundational Data #2

Immigrants have higher rates of self-employment when compared to the Canadian-born population in Ontario, according to data obtained from the 2006 Canadian Census and 2011 National Household Survey. In Ontario as a whole, 10% of the native-born population were self-employed in 2006, compared to 14% of immigrants.  In 2011, the figures were 10% and 12% respectively.

The rates of self-employment were much higher in some regions of the province, notably Stratford-Bruce Peninsula (28% for immigrants in 2006) and Muskoka-Kawarthas (26% for immigrants in 2006). Self-employment among immigrants was also high in Kingston-Pembroke and the Northeast part of the province, and they were lowest in Toronto.  Low self-employment rates for immigrants in Toronto indicate that they may have more employment options in such a large, diverse city and that employment rather than self-employment is the preferred option for at least some immigrants.

Table 1  Percent of employed persons who are self-employed, Ontario, 2006 and 2011


Figure 1 In 2011, 28% of employed immigrants were self-employed in the Stratford Bruce Economic Region


(‘Self-employed’ includes unpaid family workers who made up roughly 2.9% of those classified as self-employed in Ontario in 2011.)

Table 2 shows that, among immigrants, self-employment rates increase with length of time in Canada. In every region of the province, immigrants who arrived before 2001 have higher rates of self-employment than do immigrants who arrived between 2001 and 2011.  In 2011, 14% of Ontario immigrants who arrived before 2001 were self-employed, while 10% of immigrants who arrived between 2001 and 2011 were self-employed. This trend may be explained by the need for steady income among newcomers as they pay off immigration-related debts and adjust to living in Canada.  They may be establishing themselves in their fields before starting their own businesses.

Table 2 Percent of employed immigrants’ who are self-employed, Ontario, 2011


This data raises many questions, including:

  • Why is self-employment so high in certain regions of Ontario?
  • What kinds of businesses do immigrants own?
  • Do immigrants own businesses in the same industries as the Canadian-born populations, or have they carved out certain niches?

Please share your own thoughts on immigrant self-employment and regional differences in the comments section below.

Sarah V Wayland
Sarah Wayland, Principal Investigator


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