Statistics Canada
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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

SPOTLIGHT: Chinese Canadians

Better educated, highly skilled

THE NATION'S Chinese community has undergone a tremendous transformation since the first settlers struggled for a foothold in the country more than a century ago, according to a new profile.

The first Chinese community in Canada was founded in Barkerville, B.C. By 1860, Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia combined had an estimated population of 7,000 Chinese.

Today, the Chinese comprise the nation's largest visible minority group, surpassing one million for the first time, following successive waves of immigration. In 2001, the Chinese population of 1,029,400 accounted for 3.5% of Canada's total population.

Earlier Chinese immigrants came as manual labourers. Recent arrivals tend to come with education and human capital, entering Canada either as skilled workers or to join their family.

The first settlers worked the gold fields. But when the gold began to run out, they moved on to other occupations in domestic service and agriculture, and then as railway builders.

Work gangs on the CPR

A major wave of Chinese immigration to Canada occurred when thousands of young Chinese were brought in to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. The hardships that the Chinese work gangs endured in helping to link Canada coast-to-coast are well-documented.

For decades following the railway's completion, Chinese immigration was discouraged through restrictive policies, such as the Chinese Immigration Act. This act was repealed in the late 1940s, but it wasn't until the mid-1980s that Chinese immigration to Canada took off.

Chinese immigrants came mainly from three areas: the People's Republic of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. During the two-decade period from 1981 to 2001, an average of 35,400 immigrants arrived from these three sources each year.

Chinese today are better educated than their predecessors. Nearly one-third of Chinese, whether they were foreign-born or Canadian-born, had a university education, almost double the rate among the general population.

Chinese work in a wide variety of occupations. In 2001, about one-fifth of Chinese in the prime working-age group of 25 to 54 were in sales and service occupations. Another fifth were in business, finance and administrative jobs.

Employment rate

However, some have experienced difficulties entering the labour market. Prime working-age Chinese who immigrated in the 1990s had an employment rate of 61%, lower than the level of 80% for the total population. Many Chinese report that they have had their foreign qualifications challenged.

Today's Chinese also have a strong family presence. In 2001, the vast majority (93%) resided in a family household, compared with 87% of the general population. It is not uncommon for Chinese households to consist of several generations living together under one roof.

The Chinese have a strong presence especially in major cities and play a key role in Canada's cultural mosaic.

While some historic Chinatowns have been abandoned, new neighbourhoods such as the Chinese community in Markham, Ontario, or Richmond, B.C., have sprouted in major cities across the country.

You can read the entire article "Chinese Canadians: Enriching the cultural mosaic" on our website in the Spring 2005 edition of Canadian social trends.

For more information, contact Tina Chui (613-951-8108), Housing, Family and Social Statistics Division.

See also  
Most live in Toronto, Vancouver
THE DAILY – Canadian Social Trends