Funding to improve immigrants' economic mobility - New Canadian Media
The WES Mariam Assefa Fund is donating upwards of $2 million to help immigrants' economic mobility.
The WES Mariam Assefa Fund is donating upwards of $2 million to several immigrant-focused organizations and employers to help them tap into the immigrant talent pool. (Kanjana Jorruang/canva).

Funding to improve immigrants’ economic mobility

Upwards of $2 million are going to several immigrant-focused organizations and employers to help them tap into the immigrant talent pool.

A non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants and refugees invest in their career success, has awarded about $2.3 million in grants to 12 U.S. and Canadian organizations.

The grants from the WES Mariam Assefa Fund aim to improve the economic mobility of immigrants and refugees.

“Through each of these grants, the WES Mariam Assefa Fund will enable more employers to tap into the diverse range of perspectives and talents that immigrants and refugees bring to the workforce,” said Esther Benjamin, CEO and executive director at WES. 

“This work uplifts immigrant workers across multiple industries, drives systems change tailored to a range of diverse sectors, and supports WES’ broader vision of a future in which everyone is able to put their education, experience and skills to work anywhere in the world.”

The organizations selected for funding in Canada are Alberta International Medical Graduate Association, Better Way Alliance, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration at Ryerson University, Centre for Civic Religious Literacy and partners, and Peel Halton Workforce Development Group.

“Across the U.S. and Canada, workers are demanding better jobs…that pay a living wage, offer good benefits, and provide career and wealth-building opportunities,” said Monica Munn, managing director of philanthropy at WES. 

“With a tight labour market and millions of unfilled roles in fast-growing sectors, employers must find ways to create more equitable workplaces and recruit, retain and upskill immigrant and refugee workers.” 

One of the grant recipients, Better Way Alliance, said it plans to expand its network of “decent work” employers, and work with current members — who employ over 30,000 Ontarians — to improve workplace conditions.

“We are thrilled to work with the WES Mariam Assefa Fund to raise the floor for immigrant workers through lasting policy change and to empower business leaders to make the business case for decent work,” said Gilleen Pearce, coordinator at Better Way Alliance.

Immigrants’ wages

The grants come in the wake of a Statistics Canada analysis  on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of Canadian immigrants and where they stood economically prior to the outbreak.

The study released this week found that “(i)mmigrants admitted to Canada in 2018 had a median wage of $31,900 in 2019. This was 4.2% higher than the median entry wage of immigrants admitted in 2017 ($30,600).” 

“In fact, immigrants admitted in 2018 had the highest median entry wage, reported one year after admission, among all immigrants admitted since 1981. Despite that, their median wage was still 17.8 per cent lower than the 2019 median wage of the total Canadian population ($38,800),” the report stated.

The report concluded that “while the median wage of economic principal applicants surpassed that of the Canadian population one year after admission, those of all other immigrants were still less than the Canadian median wage.”

Breaking down Statistics Canada’s analysis,, an independent housing news website, reported that the highest-paid regions for immigrants to Canada also happen to be more affordable ones. 

“Rural and small towns in Alberta had the highest median wage ($46,700) for 2019. Looking at major Canadian cities, Quebec City ($44,500), St. John’s, N.L. ($44,100), and Saguenay, QC ($44,000) took the top spots,” the website states.

Here are some of the other findings reported by

Southern Ontario And New Brunswick Are Home To The Lowest Paid Immigrants 

Ontario and New Brunswick landed at the bottom of the list for immigrant pay. The bottom three for median wages were Windsor ($26,300), London ($28,600), and Saint John, NB ($29,100). Generally speaking, Southern Ontario is one of the worst paying regions for immigrants in Canada. Emphasis on the Southern part, since the province’s Northern regions, ranked significantly higher. 

Toronto Immigrants Are Some Of The Worst Paid In Canada

Toronto is the top spot for immigrants in Canada but one of the worst places to earn a living. With a median wage of just $29,600 in 2019, they earned 12.2 per cent less than the median across the country. That drops Toronto to the 42nd spot for wages, the 5th worst in the country. 

Cities surrounding Toronto, also in the same economic region, round out the list for worst paid. Barrie ($30,000) is the 6th worst, St. Catharines-Niagara ($30,800) is the 8th worst, and Hamilton ($31,000) is the 9th worst. Ironically these regions are amongst the most expensive in the country. 

Vancouver Has Low Immigrant Pay, But It’s An Exception For B.C.

Vancouver is close to the bottom of the list for immigrant earnings, but not quite as bad as Toronto. The median income was $31,000, tied for the 37th spot with Hamilton — making it the 10th worst. It appears to be a bit of an anomaly for B.C., with other regions doing significantly better. Victoria, the province’s capital, even ranks in the top 10.  

Montreal Lands In The Middle Of The List For Immigrant Pay

Montreal might be notorious for low wages, but it’s right in the middle regarding immigrant pay. The median income for the immigrant cohort is $35,900 in 2019, landing the city in the 21st spot.

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A multiple-award winning journalist, Fabian Dawson is an internationally acclaimed author, filmmaker and media expert. His work over the last four decades spans the globe and he also serves as a consultant/strategic advisor to a variety of international companies. As deputy editor-in-chief of The Province, part of the Postmedia chain, Dawson led initiatives within a special publications group to provide directed content for a variety of organisations. He was named the 2019 recipient of the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award at Jack Webster Awards. Dawson has been invited by the governments of India, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and the United States to act as a media observer/advisor on a variety of Asian-Canada issues. Dawson, now operates FD Media, which specializes in harnessing editorial assets to revenue generating opportunities.

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