Employment Experiences of Visible Minority Immigrant Women: A Literature Review


  • Bharati Sethi Western University
  • Allison Williams CIHR Research Chair in Gender, Work & Health, Professor, School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University




Literature review, Employment, Visible minority women, Immigrant, Health


This literature review provides an overview of the employment experiences of visible minority immigrant women based on a critical review of the international English language peer-reviewed publications from 1980 to 2011.The overall goal of the review was to raise awareness and understanding of immigrant women's employment experiences, health experiences, and the link between employment and health for this subpopulation. Approximately 126 papers articles were analysed. The key findings specific to women's employment experiences are: 1) Economic welfare of immigrants continues to deteriorate with post-2000 arrivals to Canada facing much more occupational downward mobility than their 1990's cohort; 2) Gender, ethnicity and immigrant status intersect to shape visible minority women's employment experiences of deskilling, discrimination, and marginalization; 3) Collaboration is required with all three levels of government (federal, provincial, and municipal) employers, educational institutions, and community agencies to foster immigrant visible minority women's economic integration in Canadian society.


A commitment to training and employment for women (2008). Retrieved September 30, 2010, from http://www.actew.org
Aydemir, A., & Skuterud, M. (2005). Explaining the deteriorating entry earnings of Canada’s mmigrant cohorts, 1966-2000. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 12(2), 179-204.
Banerjee, R. (2009). Income growth of new immigrants in Canada: Evidence from the survey of labour and income dynamics. Relations Industrielles, 64(3), 466-488.
Bancej, C. M. (1997). Immigrant women, work and health (M.Sc. Dissertation, McGill University, 1998). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.(Publication Number: AAT MQ44122). Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb? did=732033751&Fmt=7&clientId=27850&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Bartley, M., (1994). Unemployment and ill-health: understanding the relationship. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 48, 333-337.
Bauder, H. (2003). Immigrants in urban labour markets: Place of birth and immigrant concentration in British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 12(2), 179-204.
Bloom, D. E., Grenier, G., & Gunderson, M. (1994). The changing labor market position of Canadian immigrants. NBER Working Paper Series, Vol. w4672, 1994. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w4672.pdf
Borjas, G. J. (1987). Immigrants, minorities, and labor market competition. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 40(3), 382-392.
Borjas, G. J. (1990). Friends or strangers: The impact of immigrants on the U.S. Economy. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Borjas, G. J. (1995). The economic benefits from immigration. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 9(2), 3-22.
Borjas, G. J. (2003). The labor demand curve is downward sloping: Reexamining the impact of immigration on the labor market. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118(4).
Browne, I., & Misra, J. (2003). The intersection of gender and race in the labor market. Annual Review of Sociology, 29, 487-513. doi: 10.1146/annurev.soc.29.010202.1
Buhr, K. J. (2010). Do immigrant nurses in Canada see a wage penalty? An empirical study. Business Economics, 45(3), 210-223.
Canadian Immigrant. (2013). Remove “Canadian experience” barrier: Ontario Human Rights Commission. Retrieved from http://canadianimmigrant.ca/news-andviews/remove canadian-experience-barrier-ontario-human-rights-commission
Chiswick, B. R. (1978). Is the new immigration less skilled than the old? Journal of Labour Economics, 4(2), 168-192.
Chui, T., & Maheux, H. (2011). Visible minority women. (Catalogue no. 89-503-X). Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/ pub/89-503-x/2010001/article/11527-eng.pdf
Citizenship and Immigration Canada. (2012). News release. Revised federal skilled worker program unveiled, Retrieved from http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2012/2012-08-17.asp
Cobb-Clark, D., & Crossley, T. F. (2001). Gender, comparative advantage and labor market activity in immigrant families. Labour Economics, 11(3), 373-393.
De Jong, G. F., & Madamba, A. B. (2001). A double disadvantage? Minority group, immigrant status, and underemployment in the United States. Social Science Quarterly, 82(1), 117-130.
DeVoretz, S. (2013). Ontario collaborating with employers to improve opportunities for immigrants. Retrieved from http://canadiani-mmigrant.ca/news-and-views/ontariocollaborating-with-employers-to-improve-opportunities-for-immigrants
Espiritu, Y. (1999). Gender and labor in Asian immigrant families. American Behavioral Scientist, 42(4), 628-647.
Evans, S., & Bowlby, S. (2000). Crossing boundaries: Racialized gendering and the labour market experiences of Pakistani migrant women in Britain. Women’s Studies International Forum, 23(4), 461-474.
Gilmore, J. (2008). The Canadian immigrant labour market in 2006: Analysis by region or country of birth. Catalogue no. 71-606-X2008002, Labour Statistics Division, Statistics Canada. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/71-606-x/71-606-x2008002-eng.pdf
Grondin, C. (2005). Knowledge of official languages among new immigrants: How important is it in the labour market? Catalogue no. 89-624-XIE, Special Surveys Division. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-624-x/89-624-x2007000-eng.pdf
Guo, S. (2010). Understanding immigrants’ downward social mobility: A comparative study of economic and social integration of recent Chinese immigrants in Calgary and Edmonton. Prairie Metropolis Centre Working Paper Series. Retrieved from http://teresawoopaw.ca/info/ESL_documents/Guo%202010%20PMC%20WP1012.pdf
Houle, R., & Yssaad, L. (2010). Recognition of newcomers’ foreign credentials and work experience, Perspectives, Statistics Canada—Catalogue no. 75-001-X. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2010109/pdf/11342-eng.pdf
Hum, D., & Simpson, W. (2010). The declining retirement prospects of immigrant men. Canadian Public Policy, 36(3), 287-305.
Iredale, R. (2005). Gender, immigration policies and accreditation: Valuing the skills of professional women migrants. Geoforum, 36, 155-166.
Krahn, H., Derwing, T., & Abu-Laban, B. (2005). The retention of newcomers in second- and third-tier cities in Canada. International Migration Review, 39(4), 872–894.
Li, P. S. (2001). The market worth of immigrants’ educational credentials. Canadian Public Policy/Analyse de Politiques, 27(1), 23-28.
Liu, E. N. (2006). Access to employment or access to employers: A descriptive study of employers' attitudes and practices in hiring newcomer job seekers. (Master of Arts dissertation). Theses and dissertations. Paper 75. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.ryerson.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1076&context=dissertations
Mahtani, M. (2004). Mapping race and gender in the academy: The experiences of women of colour faculty and graduate students in Britain, the U.S. and Canada. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 28(1), 91- 99.
Man, G. (2004). Gender, work and migration: Deskilling Chinese immigrant women in Canada. Women’s Studies International Forum, 2, 135-148.
Martins, V. & Reid, D. (2007). New-immigrant women in urban Canada: insights into occupation and sociocultural context. Occupational Therapy International. 14(4), 203–220.
Moras, A. (2010). Colour-blind discourses in paid domestic work: Foreignness and the delineation of alternative racial markers. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 33(2), 233-252.
Oreopoulos, P. (2009). Why do skilled immigrants struggle in the labor market? A field experiment with six thousand résumés. Metropolis British Colombia Working Paper Series No. No. 09 –03. Retrieved from http://riim.metropolis.net/
Oxman-Martinez, J., Hanley, J., Lach, L., Khanlou, N., Weerasinghe, S., & Agnew, V. (2005). Intersection of Canadian policy parameters affecting women with precarious immigration status: A baseline for understanding barriers to health. Journal of Immigrant Health, 7(4), 247-259.
Pendakur, K., & Pendakur, R. (1998). Glass ceilings for ethnic minorities. Research on Immigration and Integration in the Metropolis. Working Paper Series, No. 05-27. Retrieved, August, 2011 from http://www.sfu.ca/~pendakur/pendakur_ and_pendakur_glass_ceiling.pdf
Pendakur, K., & Pendakur, R. (2002). Colour my world: Have earnings gaps for Canadian-born ethnic minorities changed overtime? Canadian Public Policy, 28(4), 489-512.
Picot, G., Hou, F., & Coulombe, S. (2007). Chronic low income and low income dynamics among recent immigrants. Catalogue no. 11F0019MIE2007294. Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series, no. 294. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11f0019m/11f0019m2007294-eng.pdf
Picot, G., & Sweetman, A. (2011) Why the Differences in Outcomes between Sweden and Canada? IZA Policy Paper No. 25. Retrieved from http://ftp.iza.org/pp25.pdf
Pio, E. (2005). Knotted strands: Working lives of Indian women migrants in New Zealand. Human Relations, 58, 1277-1299.
Raghuram, P., & Kofman, E. (2004). Out of Asia: Skilling, re-skilling and deskilling of female migrants. Women’s Studies International Forum, 27(2), 95-100.
Ralston, H. (1996). Canadian Immigration Policy in the Twentieth Century: Its Impact on South Asian Women. Canadian Woman Studies, 19 (3), 33-37.
Reitz, J. G. (2001). Immigrant skill utilization in the Canadian labour market: Implications of human capital research. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 2(3), 347-378.
Reitz, J. G. (2007a). Immigrant employment success in Canada, part I: Individual and contextual causes. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 8(1), 11-36.
Reitz, J. G. (2007b). Immigrant employment success in Canada, part II: Understanding the decline. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 8(1), 37-62.
Reitz, J. G., & Banerjee, R. (2007). Racial inequality, social cohesion, and policy issues in Canada. In T.J. Courchene, K. Banting, & W. Wuttunee (Eds), Belonging? Diversity, recognition and shared citizenship in Canada. (pp. 489-545). Montreal, QC: Institute for Research on Public Policy. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/ download?doi=
Saraswati, J. (2000). Poverty and visible minority women in Canada. Canadian Woman Studies. 20(3), 49-53.
Schmidt, C. (2010). Systemic discrimination as a barrier for immigrant teachers. Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education, 4(4), 235-252.
Sethi, B. (2009). Exploring newcomer settlement and integration supports in Brantford, and Brant-Haldimand-Norfolk Counties: Community-based participatory research. Theses and Dissertations (Master of Social Work Thesis, Wilfred Laurier University, Canada). Paper 921. Retrieved from http://scholars.wlu.ca/etd/921
Shahrzad, M. (1999). De-skilling immigrant women. Canadian Woman Studies, 19(3), 123-128.
Statistics Canada. (2006). Women in Canada: A gender-based statistical report. (Catalogue no. 91-003-X). Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division. Retrieved from http://www. statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-503-x/89-503-x2005001-eng.pdf
Stelener, M. (2000). Earnings differentials among ethnic groups in Canada: A review of the research. Review of Social Economy, 58(3), 295-317.
Syed, J., & Pio, E. (2010). Veiled diversity? Workplace experiences of Muslim women in Australia. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 27(1), 115-137.
Turrittin, J., Hagey, R., Guruge, S., Collins, E., & Mitchell, M. (2002). The experiences of professional nurses who have migrated to Canada: Cosmopolitan citizenship or democratic racism? International Journal of Nursing Studies, 39(6), 655-667.
Wald, S., & Fang, T. (2008). Overeducated immigrants in the Canadian labour market: Evidence from the workplace and employee survey. Canadian Public Policy/Analyse De Politiques, 34(4), 457-479.
Walton-Roberts, M. (2006). Regional immigration and dispersal: Lessons from small and medium-sized urban centres in British Columbia. Our Diverse Cities, 2, 158-161. Retrieved from canada.metropolis.net/publications/.../our_diverse_ cities_vol2_en.pdf
Westhues, A., Ochocka, J., Jacobson, N., Simich, L., Maiter, S., Janzen, R., et al. (2008) Developing Theory From Complexity: Reflections on a Collaborative Mixed Method Participatory Action Research Study. Qualitative Health Research. 2008 18(5), 701-717.
Zaman (2010). Pakistani skilled/educated immigrant women in Canada: An exploratory study. Pakistan Journal of Women’s Studies: Alam-e-Niswan, (17)2, 1-23.